Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project Home
Erick Larson - Personal Communication
Interview, 13 October 2001I met Erick Larson, his wife Britt, and daughter Anita Larson Friedenberg at Anita's home on Whidbey Island. Erick was 91 at the time of our meeting. He was born in Sweden in 1910. He learned to ski as a child. It was common for Swedish kids to ski to school in winter. When Erick was 12-13 years old he came to Everett, Washington.
by Lowell Skoog
We watched Dwight Watson's 16mm movies on a videotape. Erick said that Dwight switched from 16mm to 8mm film (around 1940) because it was cheaper. Erick had seen Dwight's 8mm Glory of Water film and suggested he set it to Handel's "Water Music."
Erick said that Dwight worked for an oven manufacturer as an electrical engineer. Dwight was known to call at midnight when he had a trip in mind and the conditions were right.
George Freed was an excellent photographer, with images taken all over the Cascades. Unfortunately, the Larsons didn't know what happened to Freed's photographs after he died.
Erick climbed Mt Shuksan the same day that Dwight Watson made his movie on the peak in 1939. (This explains the summit scene, which shows more climbers than were in Watson's party.)
Erick met Dr. Otto Trott through Dwight Watson. When Dr. Trott was held by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in Seattle at the start of World War II, Erick and Dwight would go to visit him. Erick thought some of Otto's other friends were afraid to go see him during this time.
Dwight Watson was very independent and was not a member of the Mountaineers during many of his most active years. He did a lot of mountain rambles on his own, which Erick thought was questionable from a safety standpoint.
Otto Trott and Erick tried to climb Mt Index twice. They succeeded on the second try and found a stick on the summit placed by the earlier Lionel Chute party. At the time Otto and Erick made their climb, nobody in the Mountaineers knew of the earlier ascent.
Dwight Watson planned the 1939 Mt Baker ski traverse for a long time. When Erick did it with him, it came off just as planned. That was the only time Erick climbed Mt Baker, even though he tried several other times.
Erick, Andy Hennig and Dwight Watson tried to ski up Mt Rainier a few weeks after the Mt Baker ski traverse. They were turned back by clouds and fog. Erick lost the others for a time during the descent in the fog. He remembered it as a risky business.
Dwight Watson used to say that Ome Daiber could smell a lost person miles away. He had a natural ability as a rescuer.
Erick skied in the Patrol Race with members of the Everett Mountaineers, but never did very well. He remembered the rules about having to carry a 12-lb pack and so on. He also recalled that you weren't supposed to use "ski socks" (strap-on climbers) during the race--you were supposed to use wax. I suspect that this was not a rule, but a practical consideration if you wanted to ski fast. "The skis were heavy," Erick recalled. "The bindings were heavy. None of them really had the cross-country skis they have now."
Erick said that Sigurd Hall was much older than most people thought, although he didn't look it. He thought Hall was older than Dwight Watson. (I don't think that's true.) He recalled that Dwight gathered Sig's stuff and sent it to his sister in Norway after WWII. Sig was a cross-country skier in Norway before he came to America and he was really strong. While watching Watson's movie of Sig skiing Glacier Peak in 1938, I commented on the boldness of skiing so fast in remote backcountry back then. Eric interjected: "Well it caught up with him, didn't it?" He was referring to Hall's death in the 1940 Silver Skis race.
Erick mentioned going with Fred and Helmy Beckey to climb Mt Waddington. He said it was a disaster. "They left me behind, no food or anything," he said. When I asked him for details, Erick paused before replying. "I'm not going to... Let's put it this way, he was a kid." Erick said that he had been having appendicitis trouble before the trip and he should not have gone in the first place. He knew about this problem. He had an appendicitis attack on the approach to Waddington and could not continue. The Beckeys left Erick to return to civilization on his own. At some point, the Beckeys took all the party's food, but it wasn't clear whether this was after Erick had made an initial attempt to head out. (It wasn't clear whether they thought he was already on his way.) Erick made his own way back to Everett while the Beckeys continued to Waddington. Erick enlisted in the military soon thereafter and had his appendix removed in while in the army. He didn't talk to Fred Beckey after that, but they exchanged a few letters. Fred wrote that Erick owed him some money from the trip, but Erick ignored him.
Return to the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project home page