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Charles and Marion Hessey - Mountain Films
Preservation of these films was made possible by a grant from The Mountaineers Foundation with cooperation from Marion Hessey and Phil Dahl. All of these films were produced in 16mm color with sound. (For an inventory of the Hesseys' 16mm films, click here.)
Tape 1 (about 1-1/2 hours)
"Skiing Cascade Wilderness", 1956, 33 minutesThis film illustrates skiing in the Lyman Lake area above Holden near Lake Chelan. Chuck Hessey and friends visited this area many times in the 1940s and 1950s, staying for weeks at a time in a snow survey cabin that stood near the lake in those days.
The film opens with scenes of Lake Chelan. An advance party of Tom Lyon, Bruce Gilbert and Chuck Hessey take a boat from Twenty-five Mile Creek to Lucerne. From there they ride a bus to the mining community of Holden. They ski two miles up-valley from the town and make camp. Tom and Bruce prepare a bough bed on which to pitch their tent and build a cooking fire on a platform of green wood. The next day they continue to the Lyman Lake cabin, buried deep in snow. Marion Hessey and nephew Phil Dahl arrive later after a stormy ski in. During a break in the weather, an airplane drops supplies for them on the lake. Stormy weather returns and both Tom and Phil soon leave to return to school.
On a cold, clear morning, Chuck, Marion and Bruce tour to North Star Park, where they film scenes of Chiwawa Mountain, Hanging Glacier Peak, Plummer Mountain, Fortress Mountain, North Star and Bonanza Peak. Marion takes the camera and films Chuck skiing fine April powder on a south facing slope. After more sightseeing, they observe a cloudcap growing on Glacier Peak, so return to the cabin as storm clouds gather. In poor weather they stockpile wood and gather water near the cabin.
Warmer weather arrives, so they climb to the summit of North Star Mountain. Bruce snoozes on the ridge while Chuck makes a long run on excellent corn snow back to timberline. The following day they leave the cabin early to climb Chiwawa Mountain. They cross Lyman Lake and climb on foot past the Lyman Glacier icefall. They climb higher on skis, then rope up to complete the final 500 feet to the summit on foot. The views extend from Mt Baker to Mt Rainier, including the Napeequa and Honeycomb Glaciers, "magnificent ski runs, still untested." They descend the mountain, skiing the lower corn snow slopes in wide, lazy turns. Finally, their time having run out, they pack up at the cabin and ski down Railroad Creek to Holden, their faces marked by the sun and their memories filled with the high country.
"Glacier Peak Holiday", 1957, 30 minutesThis film, produced before the Glacier Peak Wilderness was established, opens by describing the region as a battleground between those who would develop the area and those who would preserve it in its natural state. Marion Hessey and nephew Phil Dahl hike near Indian Head Mountain as Chuck Hessey describes the setting. At the time of this film, conservationists were undecided as to whether the region should be designated a wilderness area or a national park.
Yvonne Prater joins the Hesseys for a five-day trip into the Napeequa Valley via Boulder Creek. While strolling around Boulder Pass, Marion describes the importance of wilderness forests for providing pure water and moderating stream runoff. They descend to the Napeequa Valley, cross the river, and hike upstream to the headwaters. There are fine scenes of the Napeequa Glaciers, the Honeycomb Glacier and mountain goats. They scramble up Louis Creek valley for views of pumice slopes and the glaciers of Clark Mountain.
Later the Hesseys visit White Pass via the White River. There are also scenes from the top of Pyramid Mountain to tiny boats on Lake Chelan, 7200 feet below. From Stehekin, they travel to Cascade Pass, the northern boundary of the proposed Glacier Peak Wilderness. They traverse from the pass over Cache Col to Koolaid Lake. Here they encounter Rowland Tabor, doing geological research, and Dale Cole, a member of the second Ptarmigan Traverse party, hiking with his family. A group of Mountaineers arrive, swelling the population at the lake to almost twenty. Chuck notes that more people visited the lake that evening than in all the years since it emerged from the Ice Age.
The following day, the Hesseys hike to the crest near Art's Knoll for views of the Spider and Middle Cascade Glaciers. They watch the Mountaineer party make the first ascent of the north ridge of Mt Formidable (on Labor Day weekend, 1957). Returning to the Cache Glacier and Cascade Pass, they encounter a group of young children roped together on a snowfield, led by Duke Watson and Warren Spickard. Chuck Hessey observes that children such as these--and their children--are the people for whom wilderness in the Glacier Peak region should be preserved.
"Cascade Crest Trail", 1958, 24 minutesThis film shows highlights of the Cascade Crest Trail from the Columbia River to the Canadian border along with the birds and animals "that make the trail a living experience." Mt Adams is illustrated by a ski descent in early summer. The Goat Rocks are home to the southernmost substantial herd of mountain goats in America. At Hogback Mountain near White Pass, there are fine scenes of winter ski touring, including views of Mt St Helens before the 1980 eruption. Near Chinook Pass and Fifes Peaks, the Hesseys film herds of mountain goats and other wildlife. Chuck Hessey offers commentary on their behavior that reflects a lifetime of sensitive observation. There are also scenes of glaciers and goats in Mt Rainier National Park.
Back on the trail, Marion hikes from Chinook Pass to Sheep Lake, where she is reminded of winter ski trips in the area. In a flight of fancy, she opens her daypack and changes from summer shorts to ski pants, jacket and goggles. Succumbing to the call of winter, she withdraws boots, poles and skis from her tiny pack and glides away to winter scenes filmed at the head of Morse Creek.
In summer again, the journey continues northeast of Mt Rainier to Snoqualmie Pass and Dutch Miller Gap. There are scenes of Lake Ivanhoe, Robin Lakes, Stevens Pass, Glasses Lake, Lake Sally Ann, and the Glacier Peak area. Passing east of Dome Peak, the trail reaches Harts Pass and the Pasayten River. The journey ends at Monument 83 Lookout along the U.S.-Canada border.
Tape 2 (about 1-1/2 hours)
"From East to West in the North Cascades Wilderness", 1958, 30 minutesThis film originally included winter footage at Spanish Camp and summer footage in the Pasayten Wilderness and at Whatcom Pass. The Spanish Camp segment was removed for some reason and is now separate. See "Pasayten Wilderness Skiing," below. (These films should be put back together when the digital master is renewed.)
The film opens near Windy Peak at the east boundary of the North Cascades Wilderness. There is a distant view of Cathedral Peak and Marion wishes that she could see the area in winter. The Spanish Camp ski sequence was removed from this point in the film. The film abruptly jumps to spring and the break-up of ice on the Naches River near the Hesseys' home. In summer they return to the Pasayten with their friend John Young. They visit Ashnola Ridge, hoping to observe game animals, but instead find the area overrun by cattle. At Crow Lake the shoreline has been trampled by cows and fouled by their waste.
The Hesseys visit Quartz Lake for fishing, view the Carru-Lago group, and continue to Bunker Hill lookout and Tatoosh Buttes. They sample fish from Hidden Lake and hike to Eightmile Pass, Pleasant Valley, Osceola Peak, and the emergency airfield on the Pasayten River. From here they climb to the Crest Trail for views of Jack Mountain, the Picket Range, Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan.
The re-enter the wilderness from the west, near Mt Baker, hiking from Ruth Creek over Hannegan Pass to Whatcom Pass. At Whatcom Pass, with the Challenger Glacier as a backdrop, Marion prepares a breakfast of pancakes smothered in blueberry sauce over a campfire. They hike to Tapto Lakes for views of Whatcom Peak and the glaciers above the pass. They are joined by a group of Mountaineers and hike up Red Face Mountain for more scenery. In closing, Chuck Hessey expresses hope that the glory of wilderness can be preserved for future generations. "If we save enough for them, we can go on, not without honor."
"Pasayten Wilderness Skiing", 1958, 16 minutesThis segment was removed from "East to West," above. (These films should be put back together when the digital master is renewed.) The film begins abruptly, "Her wish is our command." This is Chuck's response to Marion's wish to see the Cathedral Peak area in winter. The Hesseys are joined by Bruce Gilbert at the Chewack road. (There is a short bit of poor sound here.) They ski up the Andrews Creek trail 15 miles to Spanish Camp. At the cabin, an airplane arrives to drop supplies for a two-week stay. Bruce leaves after the first week just as the weather begins to improve. Marion is shown performing chores around the cabin after Chuck "sharpened his finger with an axe" while cutting wood, freeing him from housekeeping duties.
The Hesseys ski to Amphitheatre Mountain where they observe goat tracks in the snow. Later they tour to Bald Mountain for views of Silver Star and other Pasayten summits and for skiing on the gentle slopes of that peak. On another day they ski to Cathedral Pass, where they encounter mountain goats and Chuck describes the tracks made by other wildlife. Warmer days signal the arrival of spring and they leave the cabin for home. The film ends abruptly. The original, complete version of "East to West" moved to scenes of spring along the Naches River at this point.
"Have You Seen the North Cascades National Park?", circa 1968, 20 minutesAccording to Marion Hessey, this film was produced in hope of selling it the National Park Service, but it was never sold. It contains a remarkable variety of scenes from all around the North Cascades. There are scenes of avalanches, clouds pouring over the crest, rivers, flowers, wildlife, horse packers, rock and glacier climbers, and skiers. Together with their other films, this film proves that Chuck and Marion Hessey were the most widely traveled Cascade filmmakers of their day--and perhaps of all time. There are a few scenes duplicated from other Hessey films, but not many. The soundtrack varies in quality but it is audible throughout and includes fine narration by Chuck Hessey. It begins:"What is a national park? To a person who thinks in musical terms, it might seem to be a visual symphony, composed of innumerable individual notes, stuck in harmonic balance. Scenes unfold in short bursts of perception, seasons change and patterns are repeated. In a national park, the endless rhythms of nature are ours to experience. Here man is not challenged to interfere but simply to appreciate processes that are as old as time and as new as yesterday. The North Cascades National Park takes its rightful place in our roster of national parks, tardily but without apology, the equal of all."
"A North Cascade National Park? Affirmatives, Edition One", 1961, 16 minutesThis film was made in the high country between the head of Downey Creek (South Cascade Glacier) and White Rock Lakes. This country was included in the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area in 1960. As the film opens, a bear, a grouse, a goat, a marmot, some ducks, and a deer cast their vote for a national park in the North Cascades. The Hesseys are joined by friends Bob and Betsy Swenson in Downey Creek, where they ford the river and climb to a camp at the pass leading to the South Cascade Glacier. After a few days, the group moves camp across the glacier to White Rock Lakes. At both locations, there are scenes of high country rambling and the surrounding mountains. On their return home, they stop at the glacier research station above the South Cascade Glacier. There are views of the glacier from its head to its toe at South Cascade Lake. The film ends with a notice from the North Cascades Conservation Council encouraging viewers to join the organization and support creation of a park. The film is badly faded in places, suggesting that it was screened many times during the struggle to create the North Cascades National Park.
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