Intro by Peter Grubb’s Sister, Elizabeth Grubb Lampen (2004)

Galileo HighAs the only remaining member of my family and the sister of Peter Grubb I was the recipient of these letters. This collection was written by Peter Grubb, whose name is memorialized by a ski hut built in his memory by the Sierra Club out of Clair Tappan Lodge at Norden, California near Donner Lake. The Sierra Club also named one of the mountains in the Sierra Nevada mountain range for him. Peter was born in 1919 and died, at the age of 18, in 1937.

These letter were written by Peter to his grandfather, Matthew Hall McAllister. They date from 1935 to 1937. In 1948 they were packed by his grandfather and stored in the attic of the house in Redlands, California where our grandparents lived and died. They were discovered unopened, with a quantity of other family letters and financial records, in May of this year (2004).

To read these letters you would think that this exuberant 18 year old did nothing but climb mountains and dream of the next mountain, but that is far from true.

During the same period Peter was attending Galileo High School, at the top of his class. He played the flute in the school orchestra, trained in the required ROTC, was very studious and worked hard toward his final exams, was very active in his Scout Troop and loved to tinker under his own model T Ford. I remember being told not to touch his home made skis, taking over the bathroom while the shellac was drying and the tips were being curled (slightly). He always had classical music playing by his desk while he studied. Thanks to our mother he also had a busy social life as she was forever having dinner parties, treasure hunts, boys and girls. Lots of fun and games for all ages.

His letters said almost nothing about his home life. But he was part of a small but very secure family. There were 5 of us in the immediate family. My father and mother, Peter, Ted (his brother 2 years younger) and me Betty (5 years younger) and 3 of our 4 grandparents, all very interested in their three grandchildren.

Grubb FamilyWe lived in a comfortable San Francisco house on one of its many steep hills. We had a permanent live-in servant. Three meals were served every day. Except for lunch, the family ate meals together in the dining room every day. Our father was starting a very successful business called “The Pacific Scientific Company.” Our mother was a very busy homemaker from a prominent San Francisco background that went back to before the days of the Gold Rush.

During the Depression she taught sewing at Hamlin’s Private School for Girls, so that I could attend. Ted, was Peter’s shadow. Peter’s letters do not name “the boys” he traveled with, but most of the time they did not include Ted. Ted is only mentioned once. Peter’s letter of August 30, 1935, the trip to Crater Lake (and included Yellowstone and Glacier National Park) was a family outing, the “we” were the 5 members of our family.

There is a lot of detail left out in his letters, but I know that at the same time my mother was writing to her parents, the same people he was writing to, but she was writing every week, so they usually got the full picture (as far as she knew it!) though it is true, occasionally, my Grandfather would write and ask Peter “who were you with?”

I regret that all the maps, lists and clippings were not found with the letters.

Our grandfather was 72/73 years old at that time and I am sure he wrote inspiring letters to both his grandsons. He loved the mountains and all the wild life that was there and couldn’t get enough of it. He even took his bride on their honeymoon to Yosemite in 1888, which must have been a very rugged adventure for my proper very civilized dainty grandmother. We all called her Nannie.

Peter seemed to glide over places, often mentioning Fallen Leaf Lake, which is next to Lake Tahoe and the place where we, as a family, went almost every year of my mother’s life. But Peter seem to flit by, even in and out of Sierra Club High Trips. Those trips became the absolute delight of my later teen age and adult life, as well as my parents and my brother Ted, who later became a leader of many of those outings.

Peter and Ted did have lots of wonderful times together, but as I was a bit younger I was never part of that. I do remember once when they and “some of the boys” decided to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge on its opening day. I was crushed that they didn’t take me, but my two sons made up for it later, but taking me on the Bridge for its 50th anniversary.

Peter often spoke about the Shasta Lodge to his grandfather, because it was one of his grandfather’s interests. Names Peter mentioned out of context were Mr. Balderston, who was my father’s business partner and my godfather. Bert, who was my grandparents chauffeur. Harry, I have no idea who he was. Aunt Marion was our mothers’ sister, our grandparents third child and youngest daughter who never married and lived in Redlands with them most of the time. My mother also had a brother, Otis McAllister, who founded the equivalent of the Sierra Club in Mexico and was a great mountaineer. Our grandfather had dogs “Beanie” was one, “Jerry” another and there were others.

SF Examiner Article DeathPeter’s death was a terrible shock for my whole family. He had always been so bright and healthy and robust, the eldest son and the star of the family. After high school graduation he and his friend, Bill Burd, decided it would be “fun” to go and explore Europe on their bicycles. Looking back I am amazed that anyone would consider such a trip in 1937, but the world did not realize the imminence of war, at least way off in California. Peter wanted to have one year of college in Munich.

All I know is that he went. He met his father’s mother, Mrs. I. R. D. Grubb, (our other grandmother) at the Brussels Worlds Fair. Bill and Peter also explored the Alps. They went to Pompeii (where, we were told, he “got too much sun”). They then took a boat to Capri and there he died on October 2, 1937. This was back in 1937, before drugs. The doctors gave it several names, but we will never really know how or why he died. Poor Bill Burd continued on the trip alone and Peter’s body was brought home. The funeral was held in November of 1937. He is buried in the family plot out in Colma, at Cypress Lawn Cemetery.

For Peter “Life was Grand.” His time on this earth was very short, but he seemed to pack a long life time of living in those 18 years. His loss was terrible. Not until I read those letters and saw those dried tear drops on that last letter did I realize how terrible it was for our whole family. I believe the Sierra Club did a wonderful thing in building the Peter Grubb Ski Hut out in Round Valley under Castle Peak. It has been a joy to generations of summer and winter visitors for over 50 years. And I am proud to know that there is a Mt. Peter Grubb in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

— Elizabeth Grubb Lampen, June 2004

 

Letters of Peter Grubb

March 4, 1935

Dear Grandpa,

I just got back from my second trip to Norden at the Sierra Club Ski Lodge. We had a grand time skiing. I made two one mile runs on a 30 degrees grade in five minutes with only one fall. As you probably have heard from Mama, on the first day I broke my skis which I used over New Years, the ones which I made at school, luckily though they broke exactly in the center so I sawed them off to about 3 feet each and used those successfully the rest of the trip, the only disadvantage being that they sank further then ordinary skis in the soft powder snow of which we found very little this trip. As you have probably heard, this is the heaviest winter in California since 1906-1907 (300) inches then 146 inches so far snow.

I am saving up now to buy a new pair of skis for two trips which I expect to make later this year. I am including a diagram of the lodge which is just about completed. I do not know if you have heard yet about the group of small ski huts which they plan to start this year, thus making a John Muir trail of the winter, starting at five lakes near Tahoe and ending up in the grand country into which the High Trip goes this year. (The Kings River Country). I do not know if you have heard of the unsuccessful attempt of Lewis Clark, Bester Robinson, Bob Rotaliff and others to scale Mt. Lyell in mid winter.

One of the most exciting events to date of the Sierra Club is going to be the attempted assault on Mt. Wellington situated in the Selkirks of Western Canada. You probably remember the grand pictures of it in the London Illustrated News lately. The party is going to consist of: Dick Leonard and Jules Eichorn. In charge of the rock climbing Bester Robinson and Don Woods. In charge of the ice climbing plus Jack Reiguthuth, Ken May and two more so as to make a climbing party of six while two remain at the base camp. I have been talking to Dick quite often about the plans of the trip which are quite detailed and interesting.

I have not missed a rock climbing meeting now in six months. A couple of days ago I received a new schedule. It is one of the best ones we have had, as there are five over night trips; Pine Canyon, Mt. Diablo Mar.16-17 Pinnacles National Monument April 12-13 Clair Tappan Lodge April 12-21 Mt. Hamilton May 4-5 Yosemite May 30 – June 2 The Yosemite trip which you see mentioned here is going to be grand as I expect to climb up Tenaya Canyon (bivouc – without beds) which has only been done about 3 times. We are all fine and I hope you are too.

Love from Peter

 

July 22, 1935

Dear Nannie and Grandpa,

I am having a grand time climbing. So far we have climbed 8 peaks, 6 of which were first assents – I took a side trip of 50 miles in 3 days with two other boys knapsacking. We went to scout out the cross country trip from Horseshoe lakes to Marion lake. Yesterday we climbed the first 13,000 ft peak, Mt. Pinchot. We went up in 1 hour 30 min. from Pinchot pass and came down in 33 minutes. For the last four days we have been caught in heavy hail storms on the tops of Ruskin, two unnamed peaks and Pinchot. Hope you are all well.

Love from Peter

 

August 4, 1935

Dear Grandpa,

Thank you very much for your very nice letter which I have received both on the trip and at home. I had quite forgotten about the dollar which is given for each sheep seen. It certainly will come in handy for mountaineering equipment. In answer to your letter regarding the other boy. His name is Neil Ruge, 1054 Cragmont Ave., Berkeley.

The trip was grand and I wish that it was not over. In all I climbed 24 peaks. Today I went rock-climbing in Berkeley and had a long time talk with Dick Leonard about his trip to Mt. Wellington. I suppose you have seen the grand article in the papers on the trip. I saw Dicks album of about 75 pictures of the climb the whole way from Knights Inlet up the three attempts and back to the inlet.

I hope you are all feeling fine.

Love Peter

 

August 13, 1935

Dear Grandpa,

I want to thank you and the committee very much for both the membership and the money. It seems an awful lot, just for seeing 6 sheep, even though they are very rare.

I just happened to hear that Morgan Harris has taken one Oberman’s place at the Shasta Lodge for a few months during the summer. I know Morgan very well as I have climbed with him both on the local climbs and also in the Yosemite Valley. He is very competent and I don’t think that a better person could possibly have been picked.

I suppose that you have seen the articles in the papers about the climbing expedition to Mt Waddington which was unsuccessful. The other night I went to Jules Eichorn’s house for dinner and heard all their experiences and saw all the pictures. It certainly was a grand trip. Hope you are all feeling well.

Love Peter

 

September 11, 1935

Dear Grandpa and Nannie,

I just received the six dollars; it certainly is a grand prize to get for just seeing mountain sheep. Tuesday morning at 3 o’clock I got back from Yosemite after a grand weekend of climbing.

I went up Friday night and got in the valley at 11 o’clock Saturday a bunch of us went up past Nevada falls to the top of Starr King. It was quite a climb. From it we saw Mt. Clark and that range, the peaks around Twolume Meadows, the Sawtooth range and Matterhorn Peak where we were with the Sierra Club in 1934.

On Sunday we watched 3 boys climb the highest spire (a 4th ascent).

On Monday two boys and myself climbed half way up the Washington Column, the 2nd most difficult climb next to the Spires in the valley, and we left 6 o’clock that night.

Hope you are all well.

Love from Peter

 

November 21, 1935

Dear Grandpa,

Thank you very much for the snow glasses which you sent up with Mama, they certainly will come in handy this winter. I have been up skiing once this winter already and am going again tomorrow to Norden. Last time I was there (Armistice Day) we came home via Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf. It certainly is beautiful country in the winter. I would like very much to come down and see you all sometime soon. Hope you are well.

Love from Peter

 

March 1, 1936

Dear Grandpa and Nannie,

I just thought you might be interested in the things which I have been doing with the Sierra Club lately. I just returned from the Lodge at Norden where we had a grand experience in the blizzard which has been raging around there for over a week. We went up Friday night arriving in a roaring blizzard, but we found the lodge quite warm and comfortable.

We skied all the next day in quite a snow storm. Sunday we skied all morning and then at 12:30 we went down and during a 40 mile an hour blizzard dug the car out of a six foot drift of snow. It took almost four hours. Luckily it did not go below 15 degrees F. It did though snow nearly two feet every two hours all Sunday.

We got home at one o’clock A. M. I suppose you heard about my Yosemite ski trip. We had a grand time and had a magnificent sunset view, of the Main Crest, covered with snow, from Glacier Point. I have been quite lucky and was appointed to the Rock Climbing Schedule. I have also been going rock climbing every Sunday, except when I go to Norden.

Some day soon I want to go down there and climb those peaks which are quite near you, I understand. I have been planning ever since last Christmas to go to Mt. Shasta early next July to do some climbing. Two of us are planning, if possible to camp on the summit. Later on in July I am planning to go to the Grand Tetons National Park to climb the Tetons. I hope you are all well and I hope to see you all soon.

Love from Peter

 

June 4, 1936

Dear Grandpa,

I am so glad to hear that you are better. I got back from a trip to Yosemite on Sunday might. Three of us tried to climb Mt. Clark in two days from the valley, but because of a heavy snow fall and snow storm, we only got up about 10,000 ft. Saturday night we had a grand little camp at about 9,200 ft on a small frozen timber line lake just north west of the summit by about 1/2 a mile. We had a grand fire even though there was about four feet of snow on the ground and it snowed all night. In the party were Lewis Clark, Dick Johnson and myself.

I had quite a talk with Lewis about the Shasta Lodge and was very glad to hear that due to your donation, the Lodge will be kept under Sierra Club auspices all summer, and that Morgan Harris will again be custodian. He is very well liked and very efficient. Dick Leonard asked me to go on the Waddington trip this coming summer, but later due to a changing in plans I was not able to go. As yet I do not know just what to do. Probably I will go first with the family to Fallen Leaf Lake then on the Sierra Club High Trip.

This year however, because there will be no rock climbing, therefore I may end up on a private back pack trip with another boy. I am having lots of fun with the club now. I am on two committees: the Rock Climbing Schedules Committee and the Mountains Records Committee. I just finished a lot of climbing data for the Rock Climbing Section and found it very interesting.

My skis are now away in the closet waiting for next winter. Oliver Kehrlein asked me to go with him next September to Shasta to measure the Glaciers for five days which I of course accepted. We will probably also climb the mountain. It is getting late now so I must close. I hope very much to come down and see you next summer.

Lots of Love, Peter

 

June 12, 1936

Dear Grandpa,

I want to thank you very, very much for that check you included in your last letter. It was a wonderful surprise. It is going into the fund to buy me a new little camera.

Just yesterday I got an invitation to go on a small pack trip (just 3 of us) instead of the High Trip. On this trip we will either buy a donkey as a pack animal or pack our own stuff. We are planning to leave about the 4th of July for our starting point (Huntington Lake). From there we will probably head for the Main Crest and (I hope) the Palisaldes).

The other night while the family was out Harry dropped in and I had a nice little chat with him. I hope you are all well and I hope to see you all very soon.

Love from, Peter

Thanks again so much for the check.

 

June 21, 1936

Dear Grandpa,

I am very sorry that I did not answer your letter sooner, but I have been so busy packing for both trips, Fallen Leaf; and Huntington Lake.

The answer to your letter. My other two companions are Dick Johnson (rock climber) and Arthur Blake. Since there are three of us we probably see a good many wild animals, birds and flowers.

I am going home early from Fallen Leaf (about the 28th). On the 3rd of July we are going into Huntington Lake, then Florence from there we pick up our supplies and are gone about one month.

I hope you are well all of you.

Love from, Peter

 

July 30, 1936

Dear Grandpa,

Art Blake and myself are just about at the end of the trail as we go out over Kearsage Pass to Independence and S. F., tomorrow and the next day.

We left the city on the 3rd of July (3 of us) Dick Johnson, Art Blake and myself. We drove down the east side across Sonora Pa
ss to Bishop. Just out of Bishop we rented 2 pack mules and a packer. We then crossed Piute Pass and started our trip (the 5th). Camps were at: Golden Trout Lake below Piute Pass, Hutchinson Meadow, Colby Meadow. At Colby the packer and stock turned back. (the 9th) For 3 days we climbed, hiked and explored around there.

Then we packed on our backs about 70lbs of food and equipment to Evolution Lake. Then on to Muir Pass for 2 nights. Then down Le Conte Canyon to little Pete Meadow where 2 weeks ended and Dick left, over Bishop Pass for S. F. The next day Art and myself knap sacked to Deer Meadow where we met his brother and his son and nephew. Art and I then took two, 3 day trips. One to the upper Basin below Middle Palisade and two, to the Palisade Basin, from there we went over Bishop Pass, picked up the car and drove to Independence.

We packed in from there over Shepards Pass and joined the Sierra Club for one day in Milestone Creek. Yesterday we knapsacked over Forester Pass, (a new and wonderfully built Pass connecting the Kern with the Kings). It crosses the divide west of Junction Peak and east of Stanford coming in at Center Basin. Last night we camped in Center Basin. And tomorrow cross Kersarge Pass and start for home.

Out of approximately 30 days we have been in the mtns about 15 of those days it rained, hailed or snowed. One afternoon at Colby meadows it snowed about 3 or 4 inches.

In answer to your report about wild life, we have all made notes on every bird and mammal we have seen and as soon as I return to the city I will collect and compare notes and send you full lists of all the wildlife noted.

Among the peaks I have climbed are:
Humphreys (13,972) with Dick
Hermit (12,352) with Dick
Two unclimbed Peaks near (12,514) with Dick
Magee (12,200) with Dick
Darwin (13,841) by myself
North Palisade (14,254) with Art

On all of these I carried and used a rope.

If you are wondering how we cooked 5 meals on Muir Pass (12,050 ft). We carried a little Primus Stove run by Benzine.

At present (about 11 O’Clock am) we are sitting under ponchoes in front of a fire in the pouring rain and hail while the thunder and lightening roars and flashes outside. I am writing this letter now because I realize that we will be rushed in Independence and will only have time to mail this letter.

I hope you are feeling much better and I hope to come down some time next fall to see you. I expect by that time to have a number of pictures taken on Shasta in September besides my 80 odd pictures taken this summer.

Again I hope you are all feeling well.

Love from, Peter

 

August 24, 1936

Dear Grandpa,

Here I am back from a long and thrilling summer after my high trek outing. I went to Norden to work on a new dormitory which should be finished by Christmas. I was there for two weeks and a lot was accomplished. I got your letter concerning Shasta, and I am very sorry to say that when I go there with Oliver Kehrlein and Lewis Clark the week after next, we are going to climb and descend by the east and north faces in order to study the progress of the Whitney glaciers and others. Therefore I will not be able to get around to Horse Camp this time, much as I would like to. While at Norden I met the new temporary custodian, Mr. Cook, who will be there a month.

You will notice I am enclosing the complete list of mammals seen or noted last summer (1936). I have also a list of birds which I would be glad to send you if you wish. Hope to see you all soon and I hope all is well.

Love from, Peter

 

September 15, 1936

Dear Grandpa,

Well here I am back at school after a grand and interesting trip on the north face of Shasta. I regret that I was unable to visit Horse Camp. The main reason being that the trip was sent to Shasta in order to study the Hotlum and Bolum Glaciers, which was successfully done. However we did make a first ascent of the north face up the Hotlum Glacier.

Rather steep, but exceedingly interesting. On the enclosed sketch map you will see our travels on and about the mountain. ‘In the party were: Oliver Kehrlein from S. F., Tom Hunt from McCloud, Tiler Van de Grift from L. A., Bill Murray from S. F., Torq Bedayaen from S. F., and myself. We were on the mountain for four full days.

Climbing the mountain was most interesting to me because I had done nothing like it before. We roped up on the glacier at 9:30 a.m. after a long hike from Timberline Camp and were on the rope till lunch, cutting steps etc. We did not return to camp until midnight that night (18 hours of hard work). I took a number of pictures and I will bring them down if I go down this fall.

Enclosed is the list of birds (complete). Hope all is well and I hope to see you soon.

Love from, Peter

 

January 1, 1937

Dear Nannie and Grandpa,

I hope you had a very Merry Christmas and will have a very Happy New Year. Thank you very much Nannie for the money. It certainly seemed like a lot of money when all I got for Christmas was added (about $36); I won’t spend it this year. Thank you very much Grandpa for the Sierra Club membership. It certainly is a relief to think that I have no dues to worry about; also thank you very much for the handsome neckties. They are now the two best I have.

It certainly seems funny to think that I only have about one and a half more weeks of high school, even though I am gong back for the coming term.

Tomorrow we are all going to Norden to try some skiing etc., as you probably already know.

I hope all has been well down there and that it will continue so. See you soon.

Love from, Peter

 

April 18, 1937

Dear Grandpa,

I want to thank you very much for the grand presents that you sent, it was a big surprise. This trip to Europe seems like a wonderful adventure; it even now seems impossible, but I am afraid it is quite true. I expect to leave on the 15th of June. By the way Grandpa, I saw your articles and those of that other man on the number of Mountain Sheep in California. It does seem hardly possible that there really can be some 2,000 sheep still in the California mountains, but he discusses it is such a logical way that it sounds true. Again thank you very much of the presents, and I hope all is well down there.

Love from, Peter

 

May 18, 1937

Dear Nannie and Grandpa,

I want to tell you how much I enjoyed the short but busy weekend I spent with you in Redlands. I had a pleasant trip up arriving in the fog about 7:45, 10 minutes early. Mr. Balderston was evidently not at home since I was unable to reach him. Please thank Bert for taking me way up to Lake Arrowhead Sunday Morning, it certainly was a grand trip. I regret that I was unable to stay any longer. The coats are grand and certainly can be used. Please give my love to Aunt marion and “Jerry”.

Love from, Peter

 

June 10, 1937

Dear Nannie and Grandpa,

I hope all has been quite well since I left there a few weeks ago. Last week I was in Yosemite with another boy. We made a kind of a triangle through the high country. There was a great deal of snow, as a matter of fact there was too much for backpacking or hiking without skis or snowshoes. Never-the-less we had a grand trip. We saw lots of evidence of wild animals and also saw a great many deer, otter, bear, and a possible wolverine. One bear track in particular we f photographed measured about 10 to 11 inches across. It might interest you to know, Grandpa, that we stayed in the Parsons Lodge for two night in Tuolumne Meadows. The lodge is in very good condition. It is now equipped with food for emergencies, beds, firewood and a concrete floor etc.

Well it will only be about 11 days before I will be on the ocean. I will let you know later how long I will be at San Pedro. So I might even see you then, if I am there long enough. Again I hope all is well in Redlands. Give my love to Aunt Marion and good luck to Bert.

Love from, Peter

 

June 14, 1937

Dear Nannie and Grandpa,

Here is the final news. I leave S. F. on the Heranger from Alameda at 3 o’clock Thursday afternoon, arriving in L. A. about midnight Friday night. The ship spends most of Saturday in L. A. or rather San Pedro. Berth 145 Wilmington. Bill Burd, I think, and myself will take the streetcar into L. A. and I will phone the house and find where I may meet you, if you happen to be coming to town Saturday. I would like very much to have lunch with you and see Bert or anyone else since it will be the last time for about a year. I will probably phone the house about ten o’clock from somewhere in L. A..

Love to you and the whole family.

Peter

P. S. My address in Europe is: Deutsche Bank und Disconto Gesellschaft Munich, Germany

Ed. note: Peter Grubb sailed for Europe on June 21, 1937. He died in Capri, Italy, on October 2, 1937.