High Sierra Flight with Alpine of the Americas and Peter Croft

Sierra Overflight
Sierra Overflight

It is not often that one flight could so easily accomplish two completely different goals but this one did, and it was a lot of fun putting it together.

The main goal was a volunteer flight with the Alpine of the Americas project flown via LightHawk.  In other words, LightHawk arranged the flight for the AAP project (Photographer Jonathan Byers) and enlisted me as the pilot.  The goal would be to attempt to recreate photos taken on overflights of the high Sierra in the 60s and 70s from small planes to compare the glaciation.  My T210 would be a great platform for this, with plenty of power  to get us up to 16 to 17,000 feet required and a high wing allowing good downward visibility.

I also knew that legendary climber Peter Croft was working on a new version of his classic guidebook, “The Good, The Great and The Awesome“.  The Sierra overflight might allow him a unique perspective on some good photos for the guidebook and he readily accepted the offer to go along.

Early morning is critical for both good photography light and calm air and both Jonathan and Peter were good to go in the morning.  I flew the night before to Lee Vining to camp so I wouldn’t have to fly over the Sierras at night in order to meet at dawn the next day.

Right away climbing out of Lee Vining at around 9,000 feet we looked right across at the classic climb Third Pillar of Mt. Dana  and I was seriously stoked, but then had a start when Peter said innocently from the back seat, “by the way, do you know how to focus this thing?” He had borrowed a camera for the flight and luckily Jonathan was able to get it straightened out.

We then proceeded to set up a shot of Mt. Conness from the air, with Jonathan examining an old photo and guiding me for both altitude and heading.  Mt. Conness also has numerous classic climbs on it (I would go on to climb the North Ridge the very next day) so Peter was busy getting some good shots.

A popular climbing route is to do a “link-up” of two routes – in this case the north ridge of North Peak, then over to the North Ridge of Mt. Conness and I was able to get a good shot of both routes in one photo.  I’ll just have to see what makes it into Peter’s new book in 2015.

We then preceded to fly over the high Sierra, getting shots of glaciers and climbing routes from Mt. Conness all the way down to Mt. Whitney.  A spectacular flight all the way around.

Jonathan, Peter and I. (Photo by Jonathan)
Jonathan, Peter and I. (Photo by Jonathan)
Conness glaciation comparison.  By Jonathan.
Conness glaciation comparison. By Jonathan.
Lyell comparison.  By Jonathan.
Lyell comparison. By Jonathan.




5 thoughts on “High Sierra Flight with Alpine of the Americas and Peter Croft

  1. What a great mission the way you combined an act of service with your passion for flying and scoping out new climbs.

    Great work Bro


  2. I climbed Conness from North Peak in August 1970 and have a photo similar to the 1961 photo of the glacier. Also climbed Lyell Peak via Simmons and Maclure, August 15, 1974 and have photos of the glaciers from Mt. Simmons similar to the 1965 photo.

    1. Wow, you might want to contact Jonathan through the Alpine of the Americas Project site and see if he would be interested in those. You don’t have aerials do you?

      1. No, no aerials except the height of Simmons and North Peak, my vantage points. I misspelled my name. It’s Pagni, the father of Lee Pagni whom you know from Lighthawk. I’ll contact Jonathan on his blog site.

      2. Hi David,

        Thanks for the note. I’ve been busy with my book but I need to call Lee about a flight over the coast to test some camera stuff.


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