Information for Researchers
Scope and Content of Collection
Appendix: Partial List of Correspondence and Articles
Collection Title: Norman Clyde papers
Date (inclusive): 1912-circa 2002,
Date (bulk): bulk 1923-1972
Collection Number: BANC MSS 79/33 c
Clyde, Norman, 1885-1972.
Number of containers: 5 cartons, 1 box
Linear feet: 5.42
The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California, 94720-6000
Phone: (510) 642-6481
Fax: (510) 642-7589
Abstract: The Norman Clyde Papers document the climbing adventures of, and offer insights into
the life of, one of California's greatest mountaineers, and one of the foremost chroniclers of the Sierra Nevada
range. They also help to preserve the history of mountaineering in the High Sierra. The bulk of the papers
consist of various drafts of Clyde's narratives about the Sierra Nevada range, as well as mountains in Arizona,
the Canadian Rockies, Idaho, Montana, Southern California, Washington, Wyoming, and numerous national parks.
Clyde's writings include stories and articles about entire ranges, specific peaks, climbs, first ascents,
rescues, wildlife, fishing, skiing, and mountaincraft. Many of his stories have been published, but most of
those in this collection have not. Clyde's contemporaries in the climbing world recognized the contributions he
made to mountaineering and his place in the history of the exploration of the High Sierra. Other significant
materials in the collection reflect this recognition. There is a draft manuscript of, and correspondence and
notes related to, a Sierra Club book project dedicated to Clyde's life and writings. Though Clyde spent much of
his time alone, he had a great many friends and admirers. His personal and professional correspondence records
his communications with them, as well as with editors, environmental organizations, and climbing clubs. Some of
these friends and colleagues, including Hervey Vogé, Bruce Kilgore, Jules Eichorn, and Fred Fertig,
interviewed Clyde in December, 1967 and January, 1968. Transcripts of these interviews, in which Clyde recounts
his 50-plus years of climbing history, are also in the collection. Materials dated after Clyde's death in 1972
were compiled by others.
Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice
may be required for use. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the
Library's online catalog.
Information for Researchers
Collection is open for research.
All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in
writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94270-6000.
Consent is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to
include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright
Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is
restricted to research and educational purposes.
[Identification of item], Norman Clyde Papers, BANC MSS 79/33 c, The Bancroft Library, University of
Alternate Forms Available
There are no alternate forms of this collection.
Sierra Club Reminiscences III, 1910s-1970s: oral history transcript (BANC MSS 88/189 cz)
Mountaineering [sound recording] : interviews with Norman Clyde, 1967 Dec. 20-1968 Jan. 7 (Phonotape 1182:1-6
[Portrait of mountaineer Norman Clyde] (BANC PIC 19xx.363-B)
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public
Clyde, Norman, 1885-1972--Archives
Mountaineering--Sierra Nevada (Calif. and Nev.)
Mountaineering--Sierra Nevada (Calif. and Nev.)--Photographs
National parks and reserves--California
Canadian Rockies (B.C. and Alta.)
Glacier National Park (Mont.)
Sierra Nevada (Calif. and Nev.)
Sierra Nevada (Calif. and Nev.)--Pictorial works
Sequoia National Park (Calif.)
Yosemite National Park (Calif.)
Manuscripts for publication
The Norman Clyde Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by Mary Millman and Dave Bohn in 1978. Additions
were made in June 2003.
No additions are expected.
System of Arrangement
Arranged to the folder level.
Preliminary processing by Ria Sachs under the supervision of Mary Millman, 1977. Additions processed by
Marjorie Bryer in 2007.
Norman Asa Clyde was born on April 8, 1885, in Philadelphia, the son of Charles and Isabel "Belle" Clyde. He
was the oldest of their nine children. The family moved to Ohio when he was three. His father, an itinerant
Presbyterian clergyman, rarely stayed at one parsonage for more than a year. In 1897, when Clyde was 12, the
family moved to Canada, near Ottawa. There Clyde became an expert hunter and fisherman. His father educated him
at home, schooling him in Greek and Latin. After his father's death in 1901, his mother moved the family back to
Western Pennsylvania. There Clyde attended Geneva College, graduating with a degree in classics in 1909.
After graduation, Clyde moved west, working as a teacher in rural areas, including small schools in North
Dakota and Utah. In 1911, in order to advance his career as a teacher, he enrolled in the University of
California, Berkeley. Clyde spent two years at Berkeley, but frustrated at the thought of writing a thesis no
one would ever read, he left school without completing his master's degree.
Details of the next dozen years of Clyde's life are sketchy. He taught at small schools in Northern and Central
California, in Mt. Shasta, Weaverville, and near Stockton, and spent his summers and weekends climbing in the
mountains. In 1914, Clyde joined the Sierra Club, led their annual outing, and made his first of 50 ascents of
Mt. Whitney. Clyde married Winifred "Winnie" May Bolster, a registered nurse who worked in Oakland, in 1915. She
died of tuberculosis in 1919. Her death appears to have affected Clyde greatly, and he did not like to talk
about it. Indeed, few people knew he was married, as Clyde did not often speak about this period of his life.
Shortly after Winnie's death, Clyde moved to the Eastern Sierra and became absorbed in mountain climbing.
In 1924, Clyde became principal of the Valley High School in Independence, California, in the Owens Valley, at
the foot of Mt. Williamson. He spent every weekend making first ascents of new peaks and discovering new routes
up others. Residents of the valley were not impressed by Clyde's climbing feats; they wanted their principal to
act like a respectable teacher and spend more time in the community. In 1928, after Clyde fired warning shots to
deter local youths from vandalizing school property on Halloween, enraged parents demanded that charges be
brought against him. Instead, Clyde resigned and, unencumbered by a regular job, devoted himself fully to
exploring and writing about the High Sierra. He spent his summers hiking in the backcountry and guiding parties
to the summits of challenging peaks; he spent his winters as the caretaker of lodges in such places as Yosemite
and Sequoia National Parks. Clyde began writing prolifically, and published the first version of his famous
Close Ups of the High Sierra in 1928. He supplemented his meager income by
lecturing and selling stories and photographs to various publications.
Clyde made first ascents of 100 peaks in the High Sierra and Montana between the years 1914 and 1939. In fact,
he managed more first ascents in the Sierra than Clarence King, John Muir, and William Brewer combined. Clyde
set a world's record for climbing 36 peaks in as many days in Glacier National Park in August and September of
1923; 11 of the peaks were considered first ascents. He gained a reputation for rescuing or recovering the
bodies of lost climbers, and finding missing airplanes, and stories about his exploits appeared in numerous
publications. In 1939, Geneva College, awarded him an honorary doctorate in recognition of his writings about
the mountains. Clyde was known for carrying such huge backpacks that some people called him "the pack that
walked like a man."
In his later years, Clyde lived in a ranch house, without electricity or plumbing, on Baker Creek, near Big
Pine, California. He continued to lead private climbing parties into the High Sierra and act as a guide on
Sierra Base Camp trips well into his 70s. He was still leading nature walks at 83. Clyde died on December 23,
1972. Several friends, including mountaineers Smoke Blanchard and his son, Bob, Jules Eichorn, and Nort Benner,
scattered Clyde's ashes on a peak that he could see from his house, one that eventually bore his name--the
Norman Clyde Peak on the Palisade Crest.
Published works by Norman Clyde:
Close Ups of the High Sierra. Bishop, Calif.: Spotted Dog Press,
Norman Clyde of the Sierra Nevada: Rambles Through the Range of Light: 29
Essays on the Mountains
. [San Francisco]: Scrimshaw Press, 1971.
Twenty-five Letters from Norman Clyde, 1923-1964. Los Angeles:
Dawson's Book Shop, 1998.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Norman Clyde Papers document the climbing adventures of, and offer insights into the life of one of
California's greatest mountaineers, and one of the foremost chroniclers of the Sierra Nevada Range. They also
help to preserve the history of mountaineering in the High Sierra. The bulk of the papers consists of various
drafts of Clyde's narratives about the Sierra Nevada Range, as well as mountains in Arizona, the Canadian
Rockies, Idaho, Montana, Southern California, Washington, Wyoming, and numerous national parks. Clyde's writings
include stories and articles about entire ranges, specific peaks, climbs, first ascents, rescues, wildlife,
fishing, skiing, and mountaincraft.
Many of his stories have been published, but most of those in this collection have not. Clyde's contemporaries
in the climbing world recognized the contributions he made to mountaineering and his place in the history of the
exploration of the High Sierra. Other significant materials in the collection reflect this recognition. There is
a draft manuscript of, and correspondence and notes related to, a Sierra Club book project dedicated to Clyde's
life and writings. Though Clyde spent much of his time alone, he had a great many friends and admirers. His
personal and professional correspondence records his communications with them, as well as with editors,
environmental organizations, and climbing clubs. Some of these friends and colleagues, including Hervey
Vogé, Bruce Kilgore, Jules Eichorn, and Fred Fertig, interviewed Clyde in December 1967 and January
1968. Transcripts of these interviews, in which Clyde recounts his 50-plus years of climbing history, are also
in the collection. Materials dated after Clyde's death in 1972 were compiled by others.
Series 1, Correspondence, includes incoming and outgoing correspondence of both a professional and personal
nature. The date range spans nearly 50 years of Clyde's life, from 1923, when he climbed a record-breaking 36
peaks in 36 days in Glacier National Park in Montana, to his death in 1972. Topics include climbing, rescues,
publishing, and personal news. Handwritten annotations provided by the collections' donors, David Bohn and Mary
Millman, help researchers identify correspondents, dates, and subject matter. Researchers may also consult the
Appendix (available in the Bancroft Reading Room), which provides a detailed description of some of Clyde's
correspondence and some of the articles about him.
Series 2, Manuscripts, forms the bulk of the collection. Clyde often wrote numerous drafts of stories and
articles. Typically he wrote them by hand, had them typed, and then made additional changes to the typescripts.
Unannotated exact duplicates have been discarded, but the drafts that have been retained offer researchers
important insight into Clyde's writing process. Ria Sachs, working under the supervision of one of the donors,
Mary Millman, divided Clyde's writings into a number of subject sub-series. These existing subdivisions were
retained, along with their folder titles. Researchers may need to consult more than one sub-series, as there is
substantial geographical overlap between them. They can review the container list--which lists all manuscripts
by title--for topics of interest. The archivist added new subdivisions to accommodate additions to the
collection, including notebooks and materials relating to a proposed Sierra Club book project about Clyde.
Series 3, Interviews, includes the transcripts of six reel-to-reel tapes recorded with Clyde between December
20, 1967 and January 7, 1968. Topics covered include climbing experiences on Mt. Whitney and other peaks,
wildlife, search and rescue expeditions on Mt. Banner and elsewhere, and camping. Researchers interested in
listening to the original recordings should consult the Related Collections section of this finding aid for the
Bancroft Library call numbers.
Series 4, Biographical Materials, includes newsclippings from the 20s and 30s, and biographical research on
Clyde collected in 1992 and 1993 by Michael R. Slater, a member of the Friends of the Bancroft Library. The bulk
of the clippings are contained in a scrapbook that Clyde compiled himself. It documents his record-setting
"Mountain a Day" feat in Glacier National Park in 1923. The materials compiled by Slater include copies of
records and newsclippings that date from 1915 to 1974. These include an interview with Omie Mairs, one of the
students involved in the 1928 Halloween incident, and minutes of the Owens Valley Union High School Board
meeting regarding the episode.
The donors found some folding files among Clyde's possessions at his Baker Creek Ranch house. These files were
the remains of Clyde's own idiosyncratic system for organizing his stories and correspondence. According to
Millman, these files date from approximately 1927-1945. These files contained correspondence, new narratives,
and different versions of stories that existed in other places. Their contents were integrated into the
Correspondence and Manuscripts series.
The vast majority of Clyde's manuscripts were not dated. He kept lists of his submissions and his publications,
and these were used to help determine dates. Clyde probably wrote his stories while he was experiencing his
adventures. Though he often rewrote them specifically for publication, researchers should note that virtually
all of the manuscript dates are approximate.
Ria Sachs listed each manuscript Clyde wrote individually in the container list. Stories found in the additions
to the collection were added to the list. When additions are clearly drafts of existing articles, the
formats--manuscript, typescript, or published article--are noted in parentheses. Researchers should note that
these distinctions were only made for stories that were added to the original collection. Some of these stories
have the same title (in which case both are listed on one line, with the document types in parentheses); others
have different titles (in which case each gets its own line). Clyde sometimes used the same title for stories
narrating different trips in the same place. Roman numerals were used to distinguish these different narratives
from each other.
There are some photographs in the collection. Most were attached to the particular manuscripts that they
illustrate; others were placed in manuscript folders with similar subject matter. This arrangement provides
context for the researcher.
Appendix: Partial List of Correspondence and Articles
Donor Mary Millman cataloged the items that were in Norman Clyde's folding files. These materials have been
integrated into the Correspondence and Manuscripts series, but this Appendix preserves Millman's detailed list
for the researcher. Please note that it is not a complete list of all Clyde's correspondence.
Partial List of Correspondence and Articles
- Letter from Horace Breed, (January 26, 1928) (invitation to climb Mt. Shasta)
- Last three pages of a letter from H.L. Branthaven
- A Reprint from The Auk, Vol. XLV, April 1928. ("A New Race of Screech Owl from California," by Joseph
Grinnell, with mention of Clyde as presenting a pair of owls to U.C. Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.)
- Letter, (October 22, 1927) and Letter, (Nov. 5, 1927) both from the author of Epic of Everest
- Letter, (February 19, 1927) C. K. Sanborn re: pistols order
- Letter from W. S. Shaw (10/9/27) (re: pictures Norman sent to him)
- Letter, (January 16, 1928), (Phil Townsend Hanna, editor, Touring Topics)
- Letter, (Nov. 14, 1927), (from Phil Townsend Hanna)
- Letter, (July 17, 1926), (Chester Versteeg)
- Letter, (September 21, 1927), (C. Wilson)
- Fragments of Diary (?) Entries from Ruby Mountains, (April 10 to May 14, 1912)
- Three Photographs: The Glacier; Deer at Hole in the Wall Camp; Deer at Hole in the Wall Camp from which
the Ascent of Kennedy Peak was Made
- Photographs: Mt. Shukson, Mt. Baker from Mt. Shukson
- Photographs: Mt. Shasta
- Letter from Beebe Co., (Oct. 28, 1931) re: rope strength
- Letter from Beebe Co., (Sept. 24, 1931) re: rope
- Letter from Beebe Co., (Dec. 29, 1931) re: equipment
- Letter from Bunnell Photo Shop re: photo payment (Aug. 21, 1931)
- Sheet Advertising Colt Automatic .22 Woodsman
- Rejection Note from Dept. of Church School Literature
- Letter from U.S. Employees' Compensation Commission, (Nov. 7, 1933), disallowing Norman's claim
- Note from Vindy (not to Norman Clyde)
- Letter from C. A. Hruby, Bureau of Fisheries, re: boar (Aug. 27, 1933)
- Pamphlet on 6-Quart Aluminum Health Cooker
- Sealed, unsent letter to Mr. W. R. Carpenter, Chief Claims Examiner, U.S. Employees Compensation
- Difficult Peaks of the Sierra Nevada, Reprint, American Alpine Journal
- Photo of Deer on Cabin Porch
- Letter of rejection of photos from San Francisco Examiner, (October 31, 1931)
- Letter from Bettie Bachman, (Aug. 23, 1933)
- Copy of Glacial Drift, newspaper of Glacier National Park, (April, 1933)
- Rejection slip from Boston Evening Transcript
- Advertisement sheet from George's Shoe Renewing Service (Xerox)
- Pages from National Sportsman articles, "More About Gun Cleaning"
- Letter from B. M. Coleman, (April 1, 1933)
- Letter from Ruth D. Johnson, (Sept. 21, 1933)
- Letter (re: climbing Mt. Langley) from O. Kehrlein
- Letter from J. R. Shelver (12/17/33)
- Letter from O. Kehrlein (6/16/33)
- Letter, (Aug. 2) Ray Linck
- Letter, (Feb. 2, 1934) from B. H. Mace
- Letter, (Sept. 2, 1933) C. I. D. Moore, Returning unused stories, submitted to Pacific Mutual News
- Letter, (Sept. 28, 1931) from "Mike" William Pearson, with photo
- Three clippings re: Winter Sports Carnival to be held (July 2, 3, 4 on Palisade Glacier)
- Letter, (February 7, 1934) on Palisade Glacier
- Letter, Lina B. Pierce
- Letter, Lina B. Pierce
- Los Angeles Times Article, Sunday Magazine, (January 28, 1934) on "These Strange Peak Grabbers"
- Parcher's Rainbow Camp (pamphlets)
- Letter, (June 18, 1933) Howard Palmer, American Alpine Journal
- 2 Letters from Julie de C. Martinez [Mortimer], (November 11, 1931) and (Oct. 28, 1931)
- Letter, (August 23, 1931) Howard Palmer
- Letter Julie de C. Martinez [Mortimer], (Sept. 21, 1933)
- Letter from A. W. Robinson asking Norman to search for Walter Starr, Jr.
- Letter, (December 16, 1933) from Walter A Starr
- Letter, (Sept. 24, 1931) Editor, Stanford University Press
- Draft of (Letter, Sept. 24, 1933) to Carmen Starr
- Letter, (Sept. 13, 1933) E. S. Erwin, Assistant Comptroller, re: inquest
- Letter from Sierra Club, (Sept. 28, 1933) Norman appointed to be on Committee on Mountain Records
- Letter, (Sept. 26, 1933) E.S. Erwin, Assistant Comp, re: Walter Starr, Jr.
- Letter, (Sept. 16) from Carmen Starr
- P. C. From B. Mason (Aug. 22, 1933)
- Rejection of the Art of Walking by Boy's Life, (May 31, 1933)
- Letter, Editor. Stanford University Press, (Sept. 11, 1933) re: Mountain Manual
- Articles, The Inyo Register, (August 31, 1933) re: Starr Ill. Daily News, photo of Starr, site of death
- Article: Alpinist Tells Perils of San Jacinto Climb, (Feb. 4, 1934), (by Walter Lier)
- Article, Oakland Tribune re: Starr, photos
- San Bernardino Daily Sun, re: Starr, San Francisco Chronicle (August 27, 1933) re: Starr
- Oakland Tribune, (August 27, 1933) re: Starr
- San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, (August 27, (with note from L. K. (Oliver Kehrlein) "Where this Man of
Mystery?" and "Good Stuff Norman, you might play it up"
- Page of the Inyo Register, (Sept. 7, 1933)
- Letter, (May 26, 1933) R. C. Straub of the National Underwriter
- Article, Inyo Independent, (Sept. 1, 1933) re: Starr
- Telegram H. C. Youngquist, giving information on Starr, Received 1:45 p.m. (August 18, 1933)
- Commemorative Booklet, Walter A. Starr Jr., (1903-1933)
- Letter, (April 17, 1927) F. W. Shaw
- The Salopian, (October 15, 1927) with Item marked on Norman's first climb of Mts. Mallory and Irvine
- Article, San Francisco Chronicle, (August 27, 1933)
- Article, "Queer Nest" by Tiny Bird
- Directions for attaching Olympic Ski bindings from Warren Belting Company
- Letter, (August 24, 1933) Lester Parent re: Starr
- Letter, Neill C. Wilson, (Feb. 21, 1934)
- Letter, (Sept. 6, 1933) E. S. Erwin Assistant Comptroller, re: Starr
- Telegram, Walter A. Starr
- Letter, Hoke Smith, (Oct. 14, 1931) re: St. Nicholas Mountain in Glacier National Park
- Insert from Southern California Banker (Nov. 1931), (Mountains of the South Fork of the San Joaquin by
Norman with photos)
- Letter, H. James, the Trailfinders, (March 24, 1933)
- Letter, J. M. Thorington, editor, American Alpine Club, (10-25-33)
- Letter, (March 12, 1933), Clara re: family's writing
- Letter, (Feb 20, 1933), Gardner Turrill
- Christmas card, Frank and Clara Tomkies (sister)
- Letter, June 2, 1933, Harry C. James
- Letter from Clara re: John
- R. Underhill, letter, (October 31, 1933)
- Letter, (August 31, 1933), R. Underhill .)
- Booklet, six-quart aluminum cooker
- Letter, Ted Wallis, (Feb. 4, 1934)
- Letter, Irma Weill, (Oct. 28, 1933)