Gary Hemming - The Beatnik of the Alpsby Mirella Tenderini


When I started up the mountain as a twenty year old college student, I had no idea what dangers, toils, ("adventure" definition: to arrive, I am still arriving), and fantastic trips I would grasp hold of. I have a huge imagination, even back then in the 1970's I was prone to both level headed logic and ideas of grandeur that went half way up Nanda Devi, or in my case El Capitan. This sense of awe and wanting to be in these awesome environs propelled me up.

As I ventured up my inner mountain, it both helped me and hindered me that as an avid reader I perused the works of Gary Snyder (Buddhist and Beatnik poet), Heinrich Harrer (Seven Years in Tibet, about his relationship with the Dalai Lama before and after the Chinese invasion), Ed Abbey (Desert Solitaire), and Dick Dorworth (all around great guy and superb guide to mountains, religion, and Kerouac / the Dharma Bums) — Dick wrote a seminal PhD quality work in Mountain Gazette called Night Driving that took me, well, into another dimension of thinking this son of conservative mid west parents had never considered. Through Dick I was introduced to Gary Hemming (1934 — 1969), that expatriate to France, that bohemian alpinist who when not out on some Grand Jorasses arete above Chamonix could be found bumming it under a Paris Bridge. Who like John Yablonski, another far out individual (I got the chance to climb with) left our planet on their terms and their time.

In my ascent while living for short periods in Yosemite at Camp Four and up in Tuolumne, on the road, I got used to being out there, eating hardly or a lot, having all too often very small money and no coffee or tea or beer, scrounging from friends for a big wall rack for our long journey on the high lonesome. Terrence, Tony, Joel, and Susan were soul mates. We got by on not much. This phrase has been my credo first introduced by Snyder, Harrier, Dorworth, and Hemming.

Being the academic, curious rogue who always sought out "gurus" to guide me along the way, I was often surrounded by PhD climber— skier— friends who had the doctorate credentials but also another kind of degree only earned by those of us who were / are journeymen and women of a different sort: poor, hungry, and desperate to travel the bums highway.

"The whole road is strange and wonderful." (Dick Dorworth - Night Driving)