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Memories
Michael Olwyler
 

MY LUCK & MY TEACHER

 

Good luck is my powerful companion.  Mead Hargis was what luck turned up for me, a wannabe Ranger newly in love with a lady called Beauty that can be found in alpine meadows, salt & pepper granite, and booming thunderclouds throughout the Sierra Nevada.  Mead smoothed out some of the challenges I faced as a kid trying to chase down world-class climbers in Camp 4 in order to get their 25¢ per night fees.  He explained to me what “aid” climbing was so I didn’t seem quite as naïve to the men and women I wanted to emulate on the walls of Yosemite National Park.  He explained what a “sling” was in climbing jargon, and why the use of climbing chalk was an “impact”.  He also, patiently, explained who Dr. Carl Sharsmith was, why we needed to get everyone in the Park to use the “bear boxes”, and which flower was the whorled penstemon.

 

I filled in for Mead at Camp 4 for a couple of months in 1973, and learned a lot about Beauty from him.  While I rounded out his beginnings in me through an entire career managing trail systems, wilderness areas, and working in protected areas around the globe, I was a lot further along for having known and learned from him at the start.  I was fortunate that luck had brought me a powerful teacher.  I was as lucky as the many people who crossed paths with him.

Keep climbing, Mead.  Keep skiing.  Beauty is right there along with you!

Michael Olwyler

notracetravel1@hotmail.com

Walt Dabney
 
Tina,

Just looked at the website you put together and the memories flooded
back. A number of us will be back in Yosemite for the reunion this
October. Losing old ranger friends is a compelling opportunity to not
put off getting another visit with people who at a special place in a
time fairly long ago came together to do a lot of incredible things and
share some amazing adventures.

I remember Mead not only as an incredible climber and outdoorsman, but
as a good ranger. He was excellent with park visitors and extremely
cool and competent in any type of emergency. Mead had an easy way about
him. He could put folks at ease even in tense situations. The Hargis
tent at Camp 4 was sort of like the "mayor's office" with people coming
and going and business getting done.

Mead worked with other rangers like me to share the skills needed to be
a complete Yosemite Ranger able at least at a reasonable level to do all
aspects of what a ranger should be able to do. All of us had our skill
strengths and it was pretty amazing to me that there seemed to be a
common interest to share those skills with others and for the Yosemite
ranger to get as good as he or she could be in any way they were willing
to learn. He was an excellent and patient instructor.

I do not know your children, but I would tell them that I
very much enjoyed working in Yosemite with Mead and that he was
respected by all who had a chance to work with him and certainly if they
had the opportunity to get with him out of the frontcountry . I am very
sad for the loss of your dad, partner and our friend. I wish you the
best for the future. We have a slogan here in the department that "Life
is Better Outside". I hope you are out there often. I know Mead is and
I intend to be.

Walt Dabney (Yosemite Ranger 1971-1975)
Director
Texas State Parks
Mino Anderson (Kirstien)
 
My first memory of Mead was in my job as the Chief Ranger's Secretary, my first job out of college.  The Valley District was offering a climbing course courtesy of Mead Hargis.  Climbing was never something I felt I could do but I figured it would be a good experience.  We practiced on a small wall outside of Camp 4 and then went up towards the base of El Cap.  Somewhere only 20 feet up, I realized I was definitely NOT cut out for climbing.  Even so, Mead very patiently talked me through my move and got me up.  I'll never forget realizing that I could have hiked up to the very same place!
I had a lot of contact with Mead, George, Tim, John and many others involved with search and rescues because of my job.  I would eventually leave the NPS and went to Lee Vining with the Forest Service where Tina and I were pregnant with our first children during the same time frame.  I can still see Tina outside the Ranger Station as I left for the hospital in Bishop.
I was able to attend the Yosemite Reunion in 2003.  I loved every minute and seeing my co-workers from the 1970's.  It was a special time in Yosemite history and Mead was a large part of that.  Thanks to him.  I was unaware of his illness.  He is in a better place, free of pain.  God BLess him and his entire family.
Anne-Marie Rizzi
 

I've been trying to sort through all my memories of Mead.  He was just THERE for so many of my formative years, in Yosemite during the early 70s.

 

The people in Yosemite then (and I assume now) fell into a bunch of classic Venn diagram sets.  Climbers.  NPS.  Concession employees.  Clinic employees.  And there were subsets within each group.  And then the transiency of going to different seasonal jobs or off to school.  Mead and I fell into and across several of the lines.  The resulting diagram would probably make a great abstract painting.

 

I think I met Tina in 1973.  We had many great climbing adventures and maintained our friendship both with and without the climbing.  And, of course, with Tina came Mead.  Mead did not always approve of our adventures.  I remember meeting him on the trail back to Little Yosemite Valley after Tina and I were coming back from an ascent of Mount Starr King.  He was on a potential rescue mission because we were running late!

 

So, I got to know him---but in a peripheral way.  Mead and I never climbed together, but I think we were on several rescues together.  I remember skiing to Tuolumne when he and Tina were the winter rangers there.  Mead and Tina skied out and met me at Tenaya Lake and we skied into the Meadows together.

 

One of my strongest memories of Mead is seeing him at one of George Durkee's and Paige Meier's annual May gatherings.  This would've been in the mid-80s.  Mead and George were discussing computers, heavily into computer geekness, bonding like a caricature of football fans!

 

I last saw Mead five years ago at the Great Yosemite Reunion.  There were several hundred people there.  It was exhilarating to see so many old cohorts, but I was also exhausted by the brevity of all the interactions.  One of those brief encounters was with Durkee and Mead, when George (of course) and Mead (surprisingly) hugged me!  This from the team who once named a bear after me (which I always considered flattery)…

 

 

Anne-Marie Rizzi

 

 

 

Butch Farabee
 
To Connie, Heather, Laurel and Tina, as well. From an old friend of Mead's, Butch Farabee

I have had the honor of knowing Mead since about 1971 (maybe 1972) when he was a campground foot patrolman / fee collector in Camp 4 or the climber's camp. Mead was an early climbing legend, having done the likes of El Cap several times in the late 1960s. He was among the climbing giants of that era.

Mead was a mentor to us "want-to-be" rock climbers who disguised as park rangers. A number of us owe a great deal to Mead for his patience, caring, and skill and proably helped us keep from getting killed.

There are a great many people out there who Mead was instrumental in saving while on rescues and then later as a Paramedic. You should be very, very proud of Mead and his Yosemite legacy.

Here are a couple of quick stories about Mead that I would like to share, among a great many that I can relate.  Mead and I did a bunch of climbs together, here are two.

In Oct of 1977 Mead and I climbed Lost Arrow--well actually Mead babysat me up. Tim Setnicka, who had already climbed the arrow and was a much better climber, went along and was going to take photos, which he did. Thank heaven for his good camera and being able to stop the "sewing-machine legs" that I had on most of this climb.

After rappelling down about 250 feet into the notch between the Headwall and the Arrow Tip you have to go out on the face. There is absolutely nothing below you. (Did I mention that there is nothing below you?) The first three short pitches are relatively easy, Mead said that I could even lead them. So off I slowly go onto the first pitch. You edge out onto the face with absolutely nothing below you for 1800 feet. Nothing. Terrified comes to mind. As I am concentrating on making the first couple of moves I keep looking forward as I am way too petrified to look down. I do look back, however, to check on my belay. There was Mead, READING A BOOK while belaying me.  Now screaming, I said "Mead,quit F----ing around and give me tension!!!!"  Of course he had that great smile and started laughing; he had been joking around with me and had always been paying attention. He just wanted to see if I was. On the third pitch, a little harder one, Mead encouraged me to try and lead it as well. OK, so I am putzing around trying to get the rope straightened up and the climbing rack sorted out and in anyway I could to stall leaving the relative security of that tiny ledge. In the meantime and in probably less than a minute, Mead had climbed the next pitch by a different but more difficult route and without a belay and was now above me and was able to belay me from above. No fuss, no muss and as easy as a piece of cake, as climbers are prone to say.  Somehow I lived through all of that.

Mead and I also climbed a relatively easy 5.4 route on Half Dome called the Snake Dike. Bomb proof holds and maybe 5 pitches long. Mead wanted me to lead all the pitches which I thought was fine as long as Mead was behind me. The delight in the Snake Dike is that you are not suppose to put in any protection and only use the bolts that were already there. So about the third pitch I am moving along slowly and steadily. About 15 minutes into this pitch and while really trying to keep from falling. Remember this would mean a 150 foot fall as the protection bolts were 75 feet apart. Anyway, I get to a certain point and yell down to Mead, "Where the hell is the bolt?"  Mead very calmly yells up that I had passed it 5 minutes ago and to keep going as it was too dangerous to come down. So now I am on a 150-foot long lead without any protection whatsoever. A fall at this point would make me hamburger and my kids one parent less. Somehow, again mostly through Mead's encouragement and steady reassurnace I made it and lived to tell this story.

Butch Farabee  
Total Memories: 17
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