Later that day, Brower met Clyde and had dinner with California's most famous mountaineer.
Barbara Brower recalls her father's affinity for North Palisade. As a professor of geography at Portland State University in Oregon, Brower, 58, brings a nuanced perspective to the name-change controversy.
"Place names have a reality that extend beyond themselves," she said. They get ensconced in collective memory and are not easily dislodged. Grove Street in her native Berkeley was changed to Martin Luther King Boulevard, but "I still think of it as Grove Street," she said.
Brower's daughter was initially skeptical of changing North Palisade. "I had a hard time with it at first," she said. "I do think it's presumptuous to take a peak that's been known for years by one name and slap somebody else's name on it."
But she has since concluded the switch would draw attention to environmental issues, including the continued shrinkage of Palisade Glacier, the Sierra's largest, because of climate change. Besides, she adds, replacing the word "North" with the word "Brower" maintains the historic name "Palisade."
"He needs a cool peak," Barbara Brower said. "He was a cool guy."
Glen Dawson agrees about Brower the man. But Brower the mountain leaves him conflicted for reasons that dwarf any peak.
Dawson, 96, is the patriarch of Sierra mountaineering, perhaps the last living link to a time when climbers were as rare as astronauts are today. He was in the first party to scale the east face of Mt. Whitney in 1931. He still has his lifetime Sierra Club membership -- No. 14, dated Oct. 31, 1921. A photo of him at age 16 hangs in his Pasadena apartment. It was taken by his friend Ansel Adams. Each has a Sierra mountain named after him.
Dawson is hard of hearing but the retired rare book dealer's mind is sharp as an ice ax. He is 5 feet, 4 inches tall with hunched shoulders, wizened eyes and large ears. He could stand in for Yoda.
He and Brower climbed together, then fought in World War II as members of the famed 10th Mountain Division. Brower was his superior and blocked Dawson's transfer to an Army depot from which soldiers were plucked to replace heavy casualties in the fiercest battlefronts -- a sure death sentence.
So although Dawson believes North Palisade should remain as is, he chooses his words carefully. He knows his opinion carries weight among climbers who revere him as a legend. He also firmly believes Brower saved his life.
"I feel a certain personal debt to David Brower. I'm not going to take a [public] position," he said. "But I am puzzled: Of all the peaks out there, why did they choose North Palisade?"
Anton is a Times staff writer.
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