Pacific Northwest climbers know John Scurlock for his stunning mountain images. His aerial photos have contributed to countless adventures, providing inspiration and aid to climbers looking to hone-in on details of remote peaks. John is a paramedic by trade, and a photographer and pilot by obsession (he’s working on a coffee table photo book, to be published by Wolverine Publishing in November). While his images usually lead to climbers daydreaming about future ascents, the other day, when John flew over Slate Peak on the southern edge of Washington’s Pasayten Wilderness, it brought him back 38 years. - Ed
Imagine The Pasayten
Thirty-seven years ago, at the age of 19, I was a backpacker northbound on the Pacific Crest Trail. In late August of 1973, atop Slate Peak, I finally reached the edge of the great and mysterious Pasayten Wilderness. Five weeks of solo travel seemed trivial now that I was about to step into this incredibly lonely, windswept jumble of peaks that lay in front of me. I was in awe, and felt as if I were the first, although of course I wasn't. Looking back on that day, I wonder what it takes to sustain those feelings as the years pass by, as life wears away at us, as we come to realize that there are always distant boundaries, as our romantic views of wild places fade with the responsibilities of adulthood.
Yet, for some reason that I can't explain, I still get that same sensation whenever I journey back up to Slate. I never guessed back then that I would someday have the enormous privilege of photographing some of the greatest peaks and ranges of the western US and Canada from the air. But through all those travels and adventures, that wonderful corner of the North Cascades is a constant pull. To stand at Slate, to climb Mt. Lago, to dip my hand in the sublime Dot Lake, to endure lightning at Horseshoe Basin, to be tent-bound in the Ashnola highland with a late fall storm whistling through the larches, the jingle of hobbled mules nearby in the snowy dark: these are my visions of the Pasayten and the North Cascades, and the sustaining heart of my own wilderness imagination.
--John Scurlock, originally written for The Wilderness Society
[Top - Pasayten Sunset: Slate Peak & Gold Ridge. Above, right - The fire lookout tower on Slate Peak. Photos: Scurlock Photo]