North Cascades Crest

Photographer James Martin gives a sneak peak at his images from his classic book, North Cascades Crest
By James Martin - November 12th, 2012

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Editor's Note: 

The Mountaineers Books is reprinting North Cascades Crest,  James Martin's stunning work of images and words that describes his extensive experience in Washington State’s reclusive mountain range. presents this sneak peak at the images that made the book a classic.

The North Cascades are the wildest mountains in the lower 48 states. Few trails penetrate the high country, territory guarded by temperate jungles iconic mountaineer Fred Beckey once called “green hells.” The Impenetrable Forest of Uganda has nothing on North Cascade river valleys.

Once beyond these defenses, the country opens up. Spires, ridges, and hulking volcanoes gleam with snow and ice. You can walk for days without seeing the works of man. By traversing glaciers, running ridges, sneaking through unlikely cols, and strolling on high benches, one can walk from Highway 2 to Canada, a wilderness jaunt marred by only one road crossing and a few miles of trail, sampling some of the grandest scenery in the west.
While still in school I encountered Tom Miller’s North Cascades. The black and white images set my imagination racing. After an apprenticeship in the Sierra and Canadian Rockies, I dove into the Cascades, joining a remarkably small coterie of of back country devotees. The names that excited me in school- forbidden, Despair, Inspiration-  became places I loved.  Eventually, I resolved to create a color photography companion to Miller’s original book. The Mountaineers are publishing a new edition of North Cascades Crest this year.
The wildest corners of the Cascades remain my favorite mountain landscape, places where all mountaineering skills come into play. The solitude and effort cleanse the mind. On some remote peak, where the wind carries the clean fragrance of ice, there is still a place where one can sit on his own island in the sky, surrounded by beauty and free of words, alone in the Universe for a precious moment.


© 2011