Alta Live: Surviving the Sierra

Members of Alta Journal's first ever expedition share stories from their Sierra Nevada adventures.

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Rushing rivers, deep snow, and bear tracks, oh my! Five explorers set off on the very first Alta Journal expedition in April, braving harsh conditions to retrace the steps of Joseph R. Walker, the first man to lead a group of non-Native people on an east to west trek through the Sierra Nevada. Alta contributor Robert Roper detailed the arduous, unexpected, and beautiful journey in our print issue and a six-part Alta serial, with photos and video by Tod Seelie and Spencer Harding. This week on Alta Live, three of the expeditionaries—scribe Roper, lead guide SP Parker, and lead photographer Seelie—join Alta managing editor Blaise Zerega to relive the adventures on the trail and share some of the stories that didn’t make it into the serial.

About the guests:

Robert Roper writes novels and biographies and is the author recently of The Savage Professor and Nabokov in America. Roper's Fatal Mountaineer won the Boardman-Tasker Prize. He lives in the East Bay.

Tod Seelie has photographed in 25 countries on five different continents and is currently loosely based in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in many publications, including the New York Times, Time, Wired, New York magazine, Rolling Stone, the Guardian, BBC Travel, Stern magazine, Der Spiegel, Juxtapoz, Thrasher, Vice, and Alta Journal. He has exhibited work in many solo and group shows around the world, including at Mass MoCA and the Philadelphia Art Alliance. He has presented his work at the Aperture Foundation and Feature Shoot’s the Blow Up. His work has also appeared in photography and art books, such as The Vice Photo Book, Hijacked, Art & Agenda: Political Art & Activism, The Sense of Movement: When Artists Travel, Rock the Boat, Street World, and Backyard Shakedown. In 2013, Seelie published his first book of photography, Bright Nights: Photographs of Another New York, with Prestel Publishing. The book chronicles 15 years of living and shooting in New York City, with 10 essays by fellow collaborators and cultural observers.

Robert “SP” Parker was born in New Zealand in the 1950s. While attending the University of Auckland, he discovered climbing with the university tramping (that’s “backpacking” to Americans) club. He immediately forgot about everything else. After years of battling the rain in the Southern Alps and the Darran Mountains, he and a flock of fellow New Zealanders relocated to Yosemite Valley in 1979. Once in the United States, it was clear that California was “it.” He traveled the continent, climbing in all the great places: Yosemite, Tuolumne, Colorado, Joshua Tree, Devils Tower, Canada. He then explored regions of greater latitude such as Baffin Island and Bellingham, Washington (where he worked for the American Alpine Institute), only to later return “home” to the eastern Sierra. Parker was a partner in Sierra Mountain Guides before he partnered with Todd Vogel to found Sierra Mountain Center in 1996.•

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