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Orland Bartholomew's 1929 High Odyssey

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Orland Bartholomew's 1929 High Odyssey

Postby Hobbes » Tue Mar 03, 2015 9:34 am

The subject of this book came up on the PCT winter thread, where a link was provided to the HST library with a complete description of the book:

http://highsierratopix.com/wp_test/item ... gene-rose/

Surprisingly, there are only two other brief references to this book in the HST archives:

http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... artholomew

So, I figured since I just finished blowing through it in two sittings, I would post up an anchor thread if any others would like to read & discuss. Other than the astounding accomplishment in its own right - which anyone reading will quickly tune in - here are a few general observations that I find interesting:

The traditional California north-south divide is evidenced in the book, with Tahoe & Yosemite influenced both by SF preservationists, including Muir, Adams & the Sierra club, but also SFW (Hetch Hetchy). South of Yosemite, LA exerts its influence not only on the east side with Mammoth and the headwaters of the DWP aqueduct, but also on the west side in the guise of the Big Creek project staged out of Fresno and driven by SoCal Edison and Huntington.

It is from Big Creek that Orland Bartholomew hails - working in various back country capacities like snow surveying - that incorporated his experience of the entire San Joaquin watershed. This last point is important, because back in the 20s, just like today, people tend to become very familiar with certain parts of the range, leaving other sections as practically mysteries.

Not to giveaway or spoil any parts of the book, but 'Bart' had never been south of Muir pass - the Kings watershed, nor had he been south of the King-Kern divide, the Kern watershed. So, other than laying down some caches along his proposed route during the preceding summer of 1928 - and almost always from the west side, Bart had never crossed the notorious high passes in this region, much less in winter!

Well, suffice it to say a lesser man (or women) would have probably turned around or hiked out. Problem was, once he was committed, there wasn't any way out, except forward. On a handful of occasions, he was very close to experiencing a high velocity life terminating event - including the first ever winter ascents of Whitney & Langley that even Norman Clyde had declined . Perhaps the most hairball situation, and the one that really made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, was this description of going over Harrison. Enjoy:

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Re: Orland Bartholomew's 1929 High Odyssey

Postby ERIC » Tue Mar 03, 2015 10:09 am

Hobbes wrote:
Surprisingly, there are only two other brief references to this book in the HST archives:

search.php?keywords=+Orland+Bartholomew



There are I think one or two more older threads. Search "Gene Rose" or "High Odyssey".
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Re: Orland Bartholomew's 1929 High Odyssey

Postby Bluewater » Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:22 pm

After reading those six pages I'm hooked. Heavy on dramatics but it would be hard not to be with the subject matter. Thanks Hobbes!


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Re: Orland Bartholomew's 1929 High Odyssey

Postby Hobbes » Wed Mar 04, 2015 4:41 pm

=D> :thumbsup: Besides the dramatic elements, the book really presents an excellent perspective on many issues that are still experienced today.

For instance, Bart & his friend placed eleven 33 gallon garbage cans filled with supplies at key strategic areas along the route during the summer of 1928. Throughout the entire adventure, not one single cache was disturbed by bears, marmots or other wild animals. Was this because the population levels were lower?

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Secondly, like today, there are parts of the Sierra that are still very remote - below the Kings-Kern divide - and others that were busy even in winter: Mammoth. (Due to mining activity before the post-WWII ski boom.) So, while none of the caches were broken into by wild animals, guess which one was consumed, even though there was a note inside explaining its purpose & necessity? Due to that circumstance, Bart had to rush the final part of the trip through Yosemite.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.
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Re: Orland Bartholomew's 1929 High Odyssey

Postby paul » Wed Mar 04, 2015 10:29 pm

It's a fun read, not only for the journey itself but also for the backstory with his earlier life and stories of stream surveys and other trips into the backcountry in the twenties.
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Re: Orland Bartholomew's 1929 High Odyssey

Postby Bluewater » Wed Mar 04, 2015 10:37 pm

Those b/w photos are amazing considering they were taken with a Kodak of the day. The scenes both look familiar. The human influence (or lack of) in the backcountry back then is interesting; the bears hadn't learned about processed food yet, but leave it to the humans to pilfer his resupply.

The blue and white cover looks like it's from the 1987 or 1994 edition. The prices online seem to be all over the place. There is a 1994 3rd edition for $385 on Amazon (what?!) and a signed 1974 1st edition for only $40. I just ordered it on eBay:)


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Re: Orland Bartholomew's 1929 High Odyssey

Postby freestone » Thu Mar 05, 2015 6:46 am

There is a 1994 3rd edition for $385 on Amazon


Check your public Library. Santa Barbara PL has one copy available.
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Re: Orland Bartholomew's 1929 High Odyssey

Postby Hobbes » Thu Mar 05, 2015 8:26 am

paul wrote:but also for the backstory with his earlier life

Here's another observation from the book that still resonates today: while Yosemite & SEKI were off-limits, the San Joaquin watershed was the red-headed step-child of the Sierra Nevada. No organized movement against building a dam like @ Hetch Hetchy for them. What, build an incredible
labyrinth of dams, spillways and powerhouse installations to generate hydro-electric power for the LA streetcar system? Why, go right ahead.

Secondly,like today, both Kings and Kern watersheds were remote enough that no re-supply options were available unless you hiked out (which he did to Independence & Bishop via Kearsarge & Bishop passes). However, when Bart got lonely past Muir pass, he was able to hike down to Florence (MTR) & Edison (VVR) to visit friends, drop off film and enjoy some communal meals.

PCT/JMT re-supply options haven't changed in almost 100 years.
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Re: Orland Bartholomew's 1929 High Odyssey

Postby sekihiker » Thu Mar 05, 2015 3:58 pm

I had a chance to visit with Dario one of the years he was stationed at Crabtree Meadow. We got into a discussion of favorite experiences in SeKi and I mentioned that I had stayed overnight on the island in the lake at the east end of Kaweah Basin. He managed to one-up me. Years earlier, he had found one of Bartholomew's unopened caches and the cocoa powder in it was still good decades later. He always carried a little of it to use on special occasions and he enjoyed a cup of Bartholomew's cocoa on that island.

It's been ten or fifteen years since I've read the book. It's time to read it again.
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Re: Orland Bartholomew's 1929 High Odyssey

Postby ERIC » Thu Mar 05, 2015 8:02 pm

sekihiker wrote:I had a chance to visit with Dario one of the years he was stationed at Crabtree Meadow. We got into a discussion of favorite experiences in SeKi and I mentioned that I had stayed overnight on the island in the lake at the east end of Kaweah Basin. He managed to one-up me. Years earlier, he had found one of Bartholomew's unopened caches and the cocoa powder in it was still good decades later. He always carried a little of it to use on special occasions and he enjoyed a cup of Bartholomew's cocoa on that island.

It's been ten or fifteen years since I've read the book. It's time to read it again.


Now that. Is an awesome story. Thanks for sharing!

By the way, for those of you who don't already know this, Gene Rose is a member of this forum and is a pretty good friend of mine as well as at least one or two other members on here (former reporter for the Fresno BEE). I pinged him about the existence of this thread. Hopefully he'll weigh in. His research and stories about Bart go beyond what's in the book.
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Re: Orland Bartholomew's 1929 High Odyssey

Postby Hobbes » Fri Mar 06, 2015 9:37 am

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Eric, that would be cool if other members could get some copies from Gene. After reading the book, it almost seems like it should be a prerequisite for further mountain studies. There's a wealth of information contained & shared that many people never get a chance to experience first-hand. (And, if they did, they probably would be reduced to a quivering mass - myself included.)

There are so many photos of incredible panoramas of vast snow covered expanses, it makes you wonder how someone could willingly - and with complete confidence - just take off into those kinds of conditions. The key, as revealed, is he had years of experience further developing his craft of winter trekking, and was a recognized "stud" amongst his peers.

For instance, Bart designed a lot/most of his gear & equipment - including his specialty skis - and was an early proponent of the functional/multi-purpose UL ethic. Of course, his pack weighed 70lbs, mostly because of materials. There are numerous photos of his long, down overcoat that doubled as his sleeping bag, and his pyramid "tarp" that need only one tie off point to prop it open.

And he got though multiple sub-zero nights in the middle of winter usually above 10k.
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Re: Orland Bartholomew's 1929 High Odyssey

Postby Cross Country » Sat Mar 07, 2015 10:46 am

40 years ago in August 1975 and 46 years after the photo of the cabin, (St.) Diane, Iowa Joe and I spent a night in a cabin of this size on Tyndal Creek. It´s quite likely the same cabin but it didn´t that roof. It had a flat roof. Joe and I couldn´t stand upright but Diane could. I wonder if anyone knows anything about the roof and if there could be another cabin which I greatly doubt. I wonder if the cabin is still there.
That day we were hiking from the summit where we had camped by the small lake at the summit. We were being follow down the arroyo by a small storm which was gaining on us. It started to snow and shortly we encountered the cabin. We took refuse and after a short while cooked en early dinner. There was a hole in the córner of the roof for cooking. After it stopped snowing and around 6 in the afternoon I fished Tyndal creek and caught pure upper Kern River Trout. We were later to catch more of these in the Kern River but they weren´t so pure. They have since been obliterated by rainbow that probably someone trans planted from below Junction Meadow.
I returned on a solo trip about 12 years later to the upper Kern and caught no fish resembeling these trout.
If you have an old Sierra South book (pre 1976) you will read the reference to these fish.
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