When considering the history of the current DPS Road & Peak Guides, the first question that comes to mind is: Why does the DPS need it's own guide when so many guide books are available? An entry from the original DPS scrapbook gives us a good clue:

(circa 1946)
"A small group began accompanying Versteeg on trips to desert ranges. That led to pouring over maps, magazines, books and making first-hand inquiries. It became evident that here was a real frontier; information from outside sources was practically non-existent in most cases. A few of the ranges had bits of written history, mostly about mining operations; official geological studies had been made of some of the ranges; people living at the foot of these ranges, had, in most cases 'never set foot in them'; some were not even mapped. Occasionally an existing map proved incorrect. The Desert Peakers came naturally to the conclusion that gathering, recording and organizing data about the desert range was their job. And that was the beginning of the GUIDE to the DESERT PEAKS of the SOUTHWEST."

So, in 1947, less than two full years after the cessation of hostilities in the Pacific, Henry Greenhood, the Mountains Committee Chair of the DPS, began a major project for the Section. The project is what he referred to as a "Climbers Guide to the Desert Peaks of Southwestern United States".

There were four main parts to this project. Henry directed the first two of these parts. First seven or eight members of the section who were quite familiar with map reading were each assigned a state, or part of a state and asked to make a survey of existing maps to determine all the ranges and peaks that were in their assigned areas.

Next, a questionnaire form was composed and mimeographed. Persons climbing new peaks were then to fill out their questionnaires and return them to the chairman of the Mountains Committee. From these questionnaires was to come the information eventually to be used in the climbers guide. Also Henry wisely asked Randall Henderson and Weldon Heald to serve as advisors. They acted as such for several years, and made a number of excellent suggestions.

In 1950, after three years of work, Bob Bear took over the reigns of the project and began the actual writing of the guide from the information accumulated in the various questionnaires that were filled out by both members of the section, and others. His committee members at that time were Freida Walbrecht, Willard Dean, and Tony Gamero.

In 1951. during Bob's term as DPS Chair, The forth and final step, the distribution of the guide began. The following announcement appeared in the DPS Newsletter dated February 9, 1951.

"The DISTRIBUTION OF THE INITIAL ISSUE OF THE GUIDE material was agreed to be the rightful chore of the Mountaineering Committee which produced it. As out-going Chairman of the Committee, I am therefore using this letter as a vehicle to ask all members who have not yet obtained a copy of the Limited First Edition to send in their order to me by return mail. If you wish it mailed to you, send in 75¢ with your order. The added quarter over the basic rate is to cover mailing costs. Otherwise, specify some scheduled Club event in town where you can take personal delivery, and I'll endeavor to get it to you there. Distributions of the Guide for the time being will still be restricted to members of the Section and the Club Directors. However, we are very interested in developing as wide a demand for the Guide as possible so as to reduce costs per Guide - and incidentally to spread the gospel of our desert peaks. Therefore we shall supply orders for all sources after March 1st, charging $1.00 to non-DPS-members, regardless of mode of delivery. The mimeograph stencils have been carefully preserved, so that supplemental editions can be run if the demand justifies it. In the meantime, of course, our new Mountaineering Committee is going ahead with its program for new material for the next issue of the Guide."

Bob Bear

The guide was a hit as can be seen by Bob's follow-up article in the next issue of the newsletter:

"In handling the initial issuance of the DESERT PEAKS GUIDE, I have received a great deal of satisfaction observing this wide-spread interest and constructive reaction to our project. We have supplied copies to people as far away as Washington, D.C., and Winston-Salem, N.C., to Art Lembock of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and to our old time member, Hugh Lowe, respectively. Two of the Club Directors (all Directors are sent copies of all of our publications) have lent encouragement and helpful comment. Our two long-time consultants on the Guide, Randall Henderson and Weldon Heald, have both written cordial acknowledgements for the complimentary copies we sent them. From such polite comments as various correspondents cared to make, the following general public reaction to our Guide is evident:
(1) People are not going to send in a deluge of orders for a project which is just scratching the surface of its subject; (2) Readers expect and appreciate that the Guide will be presented in a finished manner following a consistent form and carefully edited; (3) Our Guide is good enough to cause many purchasers to request that they be notified when we issue future editions.

Weldon Heald has sent in several comments both about the Guide and about showing desert lovers around the Arizona mountains this summer which you would all be interested in: (1) He has promised to help in our Guide Project by contributing write-ups of several notable ranges in S.E. Arizona where he lives. (2) He believes that in time we might find outside assistance in publishing the Guide. (3) He would like to show as many of us Desert Peakers as can make it around the beautiful mountain areas in S.E. Arizona on a summer vacation trip, preferably in June or September. He has outlined some very alluring trips of widely varying length and difficulty to places like the Graham Mts., Chiricahua National Monument and the Gila Wilderness area. Anyone interested should contact me to read the details in his letters and/or drop Weldon a line direct."

The history of our Peak Guides began here with this initial release. It covered a small part of what we consider the DPS climbing area. It covered mostly Section I of today's DPS List. At that time there were only a few peaks on the DPS's list of qualifying peaks. This first issue of the guide covered all the peaks that the DPS members were able to scout in the area of coverage. The plan was to cover a larger area in subsequent releases. This concept of including non-listed peaks as well as listed peaks began a trend that was to continue until 1989, almost forty years later, when a group of DPS members would create the first of what we now call as the DPS Road & Peak Guides.

It wasn't until Parker Severson became Mountaineering Chair that progress was made on the second release of the guide. Parker worked on it through 1953, adding a number of pages to the document. Then in October 1954, Parker reported that a just few write-ups were still needed to bring the Desert Peaks Guide up to date.

It about this time period when it was discovered that all publications were to be reviewed by the Publications Committee of the Club, which was to consume some time. The possibility of editing the material for approval by the Sierra Club Editorial Board was investigated and to that end 3 or 4 persons were asked to assist Parker editing all the material now in hand.

This evidently took some time as no new release occurred in the ensuing years. In a management committee minutes report on December 7, 1956, Irene Charnock reported little progress on the Section's cherished Guide to the Desert Peaks of the Southwest during l956. It was decided that a revised edition was very worthwhile and that a committee should be set up to accomplish the purpose in 1957. The original 1950 edition of the Guide was exhausted. 1957 - 1958 - 1959 - still no release.

On October 29, 1959, the following newsletter article appeared:

"The hoped-for publication date of the Desert Peaks Guide has been postponed until January 1st. The scouting of the peaks have taken more time than we had hoped as only a few were able to assist in this part of the work. Bob Bear and Jim Bray turned in reports on numerous peaks, and Bob Greenawalt covered the Cerro Gordo area.
All publications are to be reviewed by the Publications Committee of the Club, which has consumed some time. The publication of the "Mountain Rescue Services" booklet also used up some time that our editor has planned to assign to the Guide.
In view of all this progress, I am sorry to report that the DPS Guide is moving forward, as someone has said, "with all the speed, but not the majesty of a glacier." If you are one of the select few who promised to help scout and did so, then you are entitled to toss a small rock in my direction."

Walt Wheelock

Things began to get a little confusing around this time. This may be due to continuous changes in management committee membership. In February 1961, Dorothy Cutler reported in the newsletter that the first section of the Desert Peaks Guide was about ready to submit to San Francisco. It was agreed that it should first be presented to the club, but that, if there is too much difficulty in getting it approved, La Siesta Press should publish it.

Then an apparently conflicting article appeared in the same issue stating "We are now scouting for Part II of the DPS Guide, which we hope to print in 1963. Over half of the peaks have been scouted, but we would like dope on the following peaks. If you have climbed these, would like to climb any, or know of anybody who has, please drop a line to Walt Wheelock, 1129 E. Palmer, Glendale, California."

Apparently Walt was looking ahead to the possibility that he would be publishing the guide via his La Siesta Press. He evidently planned to call his publication Part 1. After all, commercial publishers very seldom start with Part 2. This led to some confusion in the newsletter articles as to which version was which.

Meanwhile the guide was still in the hands of the Club Publications Committee. In June 1961, they finally approved the guide but felt it should be checked on routes and safety matters. Then in February 1962, Walt announced that the Desert Peak Guide has been officially approved by the editorial board of the Sierra Club. Despite this, the DPS had it published by La Siesta Press anyway.

"Part 1 covered the Argus, Coso, Inyo and White Mtns. Dorothy Cutler, relieved from the task of publishing the Southern Sierran, was now busily beating out the master copy of the Guide. Niles Werner had contributed a most excellent photograph of Mt. Montgomery to use as a frontispiece, and Ruth Daly was touching up the four maps that will make the guide more useful. Editor Walt Wheelock was busy with scissors and rubber cement, so it is hoped that we will have the copies would be for sale at the DPS Banquet. Price: $1.00 CASH."

In October 1962 it was finally completed. Included are chapters by Edmund Jaeger (What is a Desert Peak?) Randall Henderson (Why Desert Peaks?), and Walt Wheelock (Desert Climbing). Parker Severson had written an informative article on the history of the DPS. Maps and pictures rounded out this well-written volume. Copies were to be ordered from Walt Wheelock, La Siesta Press. Box 406, Glendale, California. Copies were also available at Angeles Chapter Headquarters.

The second release of part 1 had taken over ten years to complete.

In May 1963 Walt Wheelock reported on the progress of the Desert Peaks Guide, Part 2. He requested help from the membership in scouting mountains to be included in the guide. Those interested should please contact Walt.

Following this short blurb in the newsletter, there was a twelve year period with no apparent progress on the Peak Guide. Then in 1975 Walt completed Part 2 of his publication. A book review of the guide appeared in the March 1976 newsletter:


La Siesta Press, 1975, PO Box 406, Glendale, California

Once again our fellow Desert Peaker, Walt Wheelock, has published a guide, this time on Death Valley Country. This is a comprehensive and concise guide to peaks in Death Valley and nearby areas. This area can be delimited by its corner points, the towns of Mojave. Las Vegas, Tonopah and Coaldale. This valuable assistant to all desert climbers and explorers contains roadhead and climbing aides to most of the peaks in the area. To quote the author; "A guide is not a substitute for mountaineering skill, nor can it make climbing safe for those who do not practice the principles of safety. Inexperienced climbers are urged to avail themselves of the instruction given by various mountaineer clubs." For the Desert Peaker who is looking for new peaks to climb, there's at least a Bakers dozen in Walt's latest publication."

Another twelve years passed with no update of the guide. Then in the late 1980's, a number of DPS members, including Ron Jones & Maris Valkass began collecting information on peaks, routes and roads with the idea of creating a set of climbing guides similar to the HPS guides that covered just the officially listed peaks. While a number of people actively supported this project, Randy Bernard (then DPS Chair) eventually emerged as the prime mover and editor of the first completed set of guides. This occurred in 1989.

For reasons that are not made clear in any issue of the newsletter (now renamed The Desert Sage), this publication was referred to as The DPS Road and Peak Guide Volume I. It seems that since this new guide contained only listed peaks, the numbering system should begin again.

Randy immediately began collecting information for Volume Two. Then in Early 1990 he handed the project over to Dave Jurasavich who would begin with Volume Three. It is not explained well in the Sage, but apparently the management Committee decided to grant copyright of the guides to Dave for administrative reasons. The Section would still receive income on the sale of the guides. Indeed over three hundred copies sold before Dave finished part Three in 1991. The guide was becoming a major source of income for the Section. While newsletter subscriptions for many Sections increased with inflation costs, the DPS Sage remained a bargain at $10.00 per year mainly because of the guide income.

After Volume Three, Dave went on to produce Volume Four. This was undeniably the best of all the guide publications. Sales remained high. Then in 2003 Dave decided that he had lost interest in the Desert Peaks List and was ready to move on to other things. He granted the DPS a conditional release of his copyright of the guide and the job passed to Greg Roach where it is in good hands today. Shortly after that, an Electronic CD version of the guides was also made available.

From Henry Greenhood to Gregory Roach the guides have passed in and out of Section hands and the progression of issue numbering was a little vague but the guides are alive and well.

A few members were specifically mentioned in this article but many others were active in contributing to the compilation of the guides over a period of over sixty years. A complete list of these contributors will probably never be assembled.

Some members question at times whether the inclusion of only listed peaks in the guide was the correct decision. On one hand it made the list easier to do. Indeed the largest number of emblems earned in any year occurred shortly after Randy introduced his version of the guide. But about the same time, the emphasis of exploration of the peaks of the Southwest began to decline as a Section activity. Led trips are mostly to listed peaks. Exploratories now occur on private trips by a few members. Coincidence? Probably not.

In any event, the guides can no longer be treated as an ancillary issue in the Desert Peaks Section. Like the 'List of Qualifying Peaks', it has become one of the focal points around which the Section revolves.

-- Charlie Knapke
Angeles Chapter History Committee