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Sierra Club 1928 High Trip Photo Album

Sierra Club's William E. Colby Memorial Library brings you this virtual exhibit of a rare photo album in our collection. The album includes original Ansel Adams prints of photos taken on the Sierra Club "high trip" of 1928. That year, the Club's annual summer outing took members to the Canadian Rockies. They brought back memories and photographs, fifty of which were collected in this unique album and presented to trip leader, William E. Colby, as a special gift. All fifty images were printed in 1928 by Ansel Adams from negatives; 34 are his own images, and 16 images are from negatives made by three other photographers.

Ansel Adams began his photographic career using a Brownie camera on a visit to Yosemite in 1916 when he was just fourteen years old. Not many years later, in 1919, he joined the Sierra Club and became summer custodian for its LeConte Memorial Lodge in Yosemite Valley. His first "high trip" with the Sierra Club was the annual outing of 1927 to Sequoia National Park.

Then, in early 1928, William Colby asked Adams to participate in the next summer outing, this one going farther afield than any before, to the Canadian Rockies. He was asked to be the official photographer; his expenses were to be paid, but there would be no fee.

The group went by a special train out of Oakland, California, to Jasper and Robson parks in Alberta, Canada. The party visited Jasper's Tonquin Valley, where several peaks were climbed. Their train then took them to Mt. Robson Provincial Park, where Mts. Resplendent and Mumm were climbed. Throughout it all, Adams:

"uncomplainingly carried his equipment, weighing unspeakable pounds. His only regret was that the pace required to keep up with the climbing parties did not afford opportunities to photograph all the wonders about him. He was with us one moment and then far away seeking a vantage-point - only photographers were permitted to leave the rope. On one occasion, although he had neither ice-axe nor alpenstock, he tried a direct return from the midst of a series of crevasses. Sensing danger, he tried the ice with his tripod. This precaution resulted in the tumbling of a great mass of ice down into a previously hidden cavern. The guides noted his predicament, and one of them went quickly to his rescue."

Adams himself later wrote in his autobiography, "I would unload exposed film and load fresh film with my film holders in a changing bag at dusk, while a friend kept the mosquitoes at bay."

Four of his prints from the expedition were printed in the Sierra Club Bulletin's report on the expedition, along with a photo by Cedric Wright. In addition, "To commemorate the outing, I made a portfolio of photographs that I sold at cost, thirty dollars, to other members of the trip." As far as we've been able to discover, the bound and dedicated album in the Club's possession is the only one known.

Adams photos © 2010 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust


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