Letter from Marlene Merrill

Reviews and comments for Jackson Hole Backcountry Skier's Guide, Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone, Teton Skiing, Jackson Hole Ski Guide, and Teton Pass Backcountry Guide

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Letter from Marlene Merrill

Post by TomTuriano »

I received the following letter from Marlene Merrill, author of Yellowstone and the Great West, in December of 2003:

December 18, 2003

Dear Tom:

Your book is absolutely magnificent! It arrived yesterday and Dan and I spent most of the day looking through it and reading a number of sections in it.

First, I don't believe we've ever seen a book filled with such diverse and fascinating information. For those of us who are not climbers, you provide the closest thing to feeling we're actually climbing and eventually reaching peaks we can only admire from the ground.

This is terribly exciting. But then, the marvelous history that you provide (and provide so superbly) creates a rich feast for historians and mountain climbers, alike, or just for lovers of the Greater Yellowstone. Your photographs are stunning and your maps as handsome as they are accessible. I think for the first time we are able to get a real sense for
certain mountain systems whose boundaries have previously been unclear to us.

Well, I don't know how you did this. It's just an amazing book and one we will turn to again and again. It will undoubtedly remain THE classic guide and history to Greater Yellowstone and continue to attract a wide readership of historians, climbers, naturalists, park visitors, environmentalists, geologists, etc., etc.

While we were exchanging letters about various issues, I had no idea what you were in the midst of producing. Little did I know what a momentous project you were in the midst of. I'm thrilled to have been a small part of your work and greatly appreciate your gracious acknowledgements, to say nothing of your kind inscription.

I believe I mentioned that Dan and I are working on a small book on William Raynolds' foray into Jackson Hole, using his handwritten journal as the basis for the narrative (and NOT his later official published report). We've already found several very helpful pieces of information from your book about the Raynolds party in the Gros Ventres, and your maps have
also proven helpful in tracing the party's route. At some point, we'll undoubtedly call on you for some additional help/advice as we proceed on this project.

But, for now, we want to simply thank you – not only for sending us an inscribed copy of Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone, but for undertaking this vast project in the first place and then producing something so extraordinary. I simply can't say enough about it – all of it positive, of course.

One other accolade must go to you not only as a climber, historian, researcher, and photographer – but also as a writer. This books is superbly written. I could feel your joy and excitement but also your concerns. I think, for instance, that the issues you grappled with in your prologue were so well expressed and so thoughtfully resolved that they set a perfect tone for the rest of the book.

Toward the end of his life, we became friends with Leigh Ortenburger who enriched our appreciation of the Tetons immeasurably. He was at our house for dinner just a day after initiating a new route to the Grand (with some help from accompanying rangers – perhaps you were accompanying him). He spent a lot of time pointing to this route from our deck and even drawing in on a piece of paper. Throughout his description, one could feel his absolute elation. It wasn't just that he had established this new route, or that he was physically able to do it. It was that, of course, but we sensed that what gave him the greatest joy was learning more about that mountain – being on a part of it he'd never experienced before. It was almost as though he and the mountain had become one for awhile.

Observing his deep elation was a privilege and ever since then, I think we've understood why climbers climb. Certainly this comes through in your great book. I should say that a week after that dinner with Leigh, he went back to California and three days later he was killed in that tragic fire that swept through so many homes. We feel extraordinarily blessed that we were able to share that very special evening with him.

Well, enough! For your beautiful book we thank you many times. We'll be ordering more for friends and family, but will treasure the one you sent us forever!


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