History of the Desert Peaks Section

Camouflaged Fire Hydrant (honest!)

Chester Versteeg had spent 30 summers of climbing vacations in the Sierra Nevada. During that time he made many first ascent climbs of Sierra peaks, second only in number to the famous Norman Clyde. He named more than 250 Sierra Nevada peaks, passes, lakes and meadows. Then in June of 1941 he turned his attention to the desert mountains, the Inyos, which parallel the Sierra across Owens Valley. On June 1, 1941 Chester, together with Angeles Chapter climbers Virgil Sisson & Larry Jeffries, made an exploratory trip into the Inyos. They scouted a route and climbed New York Butte, a 10,668 foot peak across the Owens Valley from Mt Whitney. Versteeg was enthralled. He wrote, "New York Butte presents one of the grandest alpine views on the entire continent, the Sierra Crest from Olancha clear to Mt Tom! You may also see the vast salt deposits in Saline Valley, over 9,000 feet below to the east"

Louise Werner, who knew Chester in 1941 and who still is a member of the DPS (1991), states: "If there was any one quality that especially characterized Chester, it was enthusiasm. Chester's flame all but died under the soggy indifference he encountered every time he brought up desert climbing. It took a great deal of fanning before it caught a few individuals, mainly because Chester was such a persistent salesman. We can see him yet, before a crowd of Friday-nighters at Boos Brothers Cafeteria, trying to warm us up to the idea."

Shortly afterwards, Chester proposed the formation of the Desert Peaks Section of the Southern California Chapter, as the Angeles Chapter was then known, of the Sierra Club. Thus the DPS, as it is familiarly called, was born and it is now the oldest hiking and climbing section in our Chapter. Its first outing, on November 15-16, 1941, was the above scheduled trip to officially climb New York Butte. Ten Chapter members made this initial climb successfully: Niles Werner, Braeme Gigas, Harry Paley, Pat Carmical, Katherine Smith, Freda Walbrecht, Bill Crookston, Carl Durrell, James Tow and Harry Greenhood.

Today the Desert Peaks Section is the oldest peak climbing section in the largest Chapter of the Sierra Club. The Section was informally organized in 1941 and was formally organized in October 1945.

Desert Peaks Section Chairs

1946 James Tow 1964 Bob Greenawalt 1982 Mary Sue Miller
1947 Fred Walbrecht 1965 Gene Gail 1983 Art Blauvelt
1948 Parker Severson 1966 Bud Bingham 1984 Chuck Stein
1949 Henry Greenhood 1967 Abe Siemens 1985 Maris Valkass
1950 Bill Henderson 1968 Gordon MacLeod 1986 Sherry Harsh
1951 Bob Bear 1969 Art De Goede 1987 Randy Bernard
1952 John Delmonte 1970 John Vitz 1988 Karen Leonard
1953 Lloyd Balsam 1971 Fran Smith 1989 Dale Van Dalsem
1954 Willard Dean 1972 Les Stockton 1990 Terry Turner
1955 Parker Severson 1973 Paul Lipsohn 1991 Bill T. Russell
1956 Bill Henderson 1974 George Hubbard 1992 John McCully
1957 Bob Bear 1975 Betty Dessert 1993 Patty Kline
1958 Dick Kenyon 1976 Joe McCosker 1994 Dan Richter
1959 Ralph Merten 1977 Mike Manchester 1995 Linda McDermott
1960 Walt Wheelock 1978 Ron Jones 1996 Barbara Reber
1961 Harry Melts 1979 Duane McRuer 1997 Bill Bradley
1962 John Robinson 1980 Barbara Reber 1998 Edna Erspamer
1963 Trudie Hunt 1981 Vi Grasso 1999