1974 TV Series "Sierra" Filmed in Yosemite Valley

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bhilden

Trad climber
Mountain View, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 21, 2009 - 02:03am PT
In 1973/1974, Universal Studios, whose parent company MCA also owned the Curry Company, filmed a TV series called "Sierra" on location in Yosemite Valley. The premier episode featured a climber falling and having to be rescued by tyrolean traverse off of the Lost Arrow Spire. If memory serves, Roger Breedlove did the stunt work for the fall and that is a story in it's own.

I heard lots of stories, all second or third hand, from the Valley climbers pertaining to working on the film crew and/or messing with the shooting locations to cause a bit of grief for the production crew. I would love to hear any stories from those who were involved in this little slice of Yosemite Valley history. Post up!

Bruce
ß Î Ř T Ç H

Boulder climber
the ground up
Aug 21, 2009 - 03:33am PT
I remember it was pretty scandalous that they had painted rocks etc in production . Anything climbing related (tho) was not yet on my radar .
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Aug 21, 2009 - 11:38am PT
Hi Bruce,

The TV pilot movie to the shortlived weekly show included me and Dave Bircheff as climbers who had to be rescued by Wayne Merry whose character was a ranger. Wayne was responsible for getting climbers to play the climbing parts. We had an 'audition' in the lounge at the Awahnee Hotel.

Rock climbing was still pretty new to everyone in the movie business, and, obviously, the movie business was new to the folks in the Valley, so the filming had its own jolting charms. Universal Studios asked Dave and me what we would charge for our 'services.' We thought that we just had the stunt fall so we said something like $1000 for the contract (a number that we thought we would split). I think that they realized that we were completely clueless and gave us more; $2,000 apiece sets in my mind. We ended up with several acting scenes and a few climbing scenes in addition to the stunt fall. Although the people were very nice and helpful, Dave and I ended up having to hang out on the set more than we initially thought; we didn't like the 'job' part of the work.

I remember one funny moment when Wayne came running into the parkeing lot asking if any of us had a blue Edelrid rope. He explained that they had filmed a scene of his character cutting up a rope to signify the end of his climbing (I think the back story was his wife died in a climbing accident. I think we made jokes about Cindy being his second wife.) In any case they had to shoot some scene with Wayne that occurred before the rope cutting scene but couldn't find another blue rope.

Bev Johnson had a romantic relationship with one of the stars, who did a little climbing and spent some time in Tuolumne. The movie people were very curious about the strange world of climbers and worked to understand it.

I sort of remember the story that Universal Studios painting rocks, but I vaguely remember that it was related to a script where kids wrote graffiti on some boulders and "Rangers" make the kids wash it off. In any case, anything Universal did was supervised by the NPS.

For the pilot movie, I don't remember any other climbers working as porters or riggers, but there may have been. However, when Universal started filming the weekly series, there were lots of jobs for climbers to help. I only did a little of that work since it otherwise came out of climbing or guiding time.

On the first day of shooting that included Dave and me, the scene was set in the Tunnel View turn out on Highway 41. We had scripts but had not really spent a much time learning our lines. We were lulled into complacency by all the assurances that we just had to show up and everything would work out fine. When we got the set, one of the assistance directors asked us if we had our lines memorized. I don’t know what we told him, but we scurried off and desperately worked to memorized them.

Universal had set up a ‘park entrance’ kiosk in the turn out and the scene was Dave and me entering the park in our little pickup with gear in the back. The ranger—one of the stars—questioned us about our gear and experience. The lines were natural enough so we could more or less respond the same way we would if a no-nothing ranger had sharply questioned us in real life. Everyone on the set was watching closely, and nervously, to see if we could pull it off. I suppose thinking back on it, it was a huge risk to rely on Wayne’s word that they could count on us.

I don’t know if we actually did the job well or not, but the director didn’t call for any retakes and the entire crew burst into applause. Dave and I were a little stunned. The star actor complimented us on our acting and said it was very believable. Of course, we were just responding to the real ranger's uniform he was wearing and acted like ourselves. In the break after the first scene, the cameramen and lighting crews were setting up the next scene and needed someone to stand in for Dave and me to get the settings right. I automatically stepped back into position only to be politely told that that wasn’t my job and someone whose job it was soon stood in.

Unbeknownst to Dave and me, we had ‘become’ talent. It made us and everyone else laugh at the whole notion of talent in the movie business’ wacky world.

The stunt fall was on the East side of the top of the Rostrum. The horizontal cracks that form the roof on the North face form a ledge on the East side, and there was a nice vertical crack that could be seen from the rim. A small group, including the director, a camera man, and a sound technician all got out on the top of the Rostrum to run the scene, while the main crew shot the scene from the rim. Dave and I did a Tyrolean traverse out to the top and then dropped down to the ledge at the base of the crack.

Wayne’s handiwork setting up the shot may have been a first of sorts in the Valley.

Rap bolted.
Led on sight for film purposes only.
One fall for effect.
Not seconded.
Not repeated.

Very modern.

Credits for the movie include 'Dave Birkoff and Carl Roger Breedlove.' Neither Dave nor I know how he became Dave Birkoff or I acquired the first name of Carl. (Maybe they were preparing us for stardom and thought that Birkoff was more American than Bircheff and that my middle name of Myron should never be revealed. I always appreciated the ancient Greek origins of my middle name—not that I can throw a discus very far.)

Wayne and I have tried to find a way to get a copy of this movie. It was aired a couple of times in the US and South America--we got royalty checks for a few years. But Sony’s Beta VCR tapes were not introduced in the US until late 1975, and I have never been able to find a copy. I wrote and asked Universal and Jack Webb studios about it but didn’t get very far. I have suggested that Ken Yager try to get a copy for the climbing museum. They got some good climbing footage including shots of Dave and me climbing the South Face of Rixons.

This is my account of the stunt fall taken from an old ST post

“Why I started wearing a harness,” or "Macho is Painful."
By Carl Roger Breedlove (aka Buzz)

As for swami belts, it took a long time before I wanted to wear a harness--the early ones did not fit very well and would get out of position. Also you couldn't move the rope off to the side while working in cracks.

However, I had a self inflected awakening when I did a stunt fall for a movie filmed in the Valley.

Dave Bircheff and I were picked to play two smart mouthed climbers who had a problem with the authority of the park rangers (we were naturals). We get our comeuppance when I take a fall, injury myself, and the rangers have to rescue us.

Anyway, we are wearing really nice knickers, long socks, and rib sweaters as costumes for the "big day." I still climbed with a swami, so I carefully tied it on over the top of my sweater using one inch tubular webbing in a nice purple shade to go with the blue ribbed sweater. I also tied it tightly at my waist.

Dave and I both had mikes pointed to us. Everyone can hear what we are saying. So, we don't say much.

Wayne Merry had worked out that we would climb a crack on the east side of the Rostrum that could be seen from the rim. He had rapped down and placed a bolt halfway up this off-width that I was supposed to fall out of.

The director is at the top of this splitter and looking down at me though the crack. He is giving me instructions and asking me questions. I am trying to get up this off-width, on-sight, without grunting, cursing, or falling onto Dave before I clip the bolt.

I get about six feet above the bolt and the director says "Okay, fall!"

Every cell in my body; every DNA strand; every impulse; every logical thought is resisting.

A silent, visceral cacophony: no, no, no, no…

This has to be spontaneous, I remind myself.

I start with the "Watch me's" with increasing panic in my voice.

They thought I was acting.

I ordered my body to let go.

Nothing.

‘Hey, I'm in charge here. I said let go,' my cash hungry mind orders my body.

Body responds with a whiney 'we get you the damn part and now you want us to follow orders?'

Damn it. 'Let go.' I order.

I was off.

A steep fall on a short rope. I jerk violently to a stop.

The crowd on the rim gasps in unison--there are a lot of people on movie sets. The director gasps, after which his crew, confident of the correct response, gasps.

I am passing out.

Director: "That's good. Now, try to move."

Climber: "..."

Director: "That's good. Really good. Now your lines are "I think I am hurt."

Climber: ".............."

Director: "Okay, now that's good. That's good, good. Now try saying it a little louder.”

Pause.

With just a hint of ‘are you listening to me,’ he repeats, "I think I am hurt."

Climber: Coming back into the world. "I think I am hurt."

Director: Getting excited, “Great. Great. Really well done. Now try saying it a little louder.”

Climber: Barely audible. "I think I'm hurt."

Director: "That's really super, really great. Fabulous. Just fabulous. Now, if I could just get you say it louder. With some intensity. Intensity.”

Climber: With intensity and a true projection of pain. "It feels like my back is broken."

Director: Pause. “Okay, okay. That might work. Can you try the ‘I think I am hurt’ with the same intensity." Turns to aide, “This is really good. Just fabulous. It looks so real.”

Climber: "No, no. It feels like my back is broken.”

Director: Looks confused. "Hey, Roger, you okay?" said with genuine concern.

Climber: "I need to go down."

Director, with alarmed look: “Yeah, yeah, go down, go down."

So Dave lowers me the ledge. Once I have the weight off my swami, I realize the pain is in my ribs. The adrenalin kicks in, and the pain subsides.

I look back at the rim. There are one hundred people staring in shock. I look up at the director and his crew, who are looking down at me. We both realize that neither of us wants to come back here. I do a quick calculation that once the adrenalin rubs off I am going to be one hurting, slow dog, with no swagger.

The prospect of failing swagger steels my resolve.

I stand up, drop my knickers and step into a figure eight sling. Dave hands me a pocket knife, and I cut two small holes, one in the knickers and one in the sweater (boy was it a nice sweater).

I run a smaller sling from the figure eight up through the hole in the knickers and out the hole in the sweater. I run the rope through the hidden sling and tie into the swami. Now my weight is on my legs and off my waist and ribs.

Climber, swagger intact: "I am okay. I'll climb back up to the place where I fell. Let's finish the scene."

(Hey, Valley climbers have a long history of public swagger to uphold, especially when there are lots of people watching and our pay checks are on the line.)

Director: "That's really super great. Fabulous. Just fabulous."

Limited vocabulary.

We finish the scene.

The producer has driven up. He and Wayne meet us on the rim. We ride down to the hospital. The producer tells Dr. Wally Laborde to send any bills directly to him.

After checking me out, Wally says that I have ripped the lower ribs off my sternum. They push out against my chest. It hurts like hell.

He puts a wide elastic bandage around my chest to increase the pain to searing white hot.

Wally asks, “How does that feel?”

No need to put on any airs with Wally.

"It feels fine," I tell him.

When I get out of eye sight of Lewis Memorial, I loosen the bandage to the point that it is only for show ensuring that the tear will not heal properly.

It hurt for about four more years. My ribs still stick out.

The producer gave Dave and me each a $500.00 bonus.

I never made another movie.

I started wearing a harness.
rmuir

Social climber
the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
Aug 21, 2009 - 11:45am PT
Two pretty-clear memories:

Many of us climbers hanging around Swan Slab watching them film a scene were two guys were supposedly trapped on a ledge hundreds of feet in the air. The only problem was they were about five feet above the ground on a flattish boulder next to the slab nestled among some trees. Much hilarity from the peanut gallery that day...

Down near El Cap, sorting gear for something, we witness a tiny pickup truck carrying three or four GIGANTIC boulders tied down with some thin cord. Twice the size of the truck; improbably lashed together. Crossing El Cap Bridge, a most incongruous sight.
Brian Hench

Trad climber
Laguna Beach, CA
Aug 21, 2009 - 12:21pm PT
Bravo, Roger, that's a great tale!
Michael Golden

climber
Mountain View, CA
Aug 21, 2009 - 12:42pm PT
Wow. Best-told story ever on SuperTopo.
Radish

Trad climber
Seki, California
Aug 21, 2009 - 12:59pm PT
Nice story. I remember the show, my old girlfriend who worked in Yosemite hung out with the film crews and went to lots of "snow" parties in yosemite village housing. It was that time ......the 70's
Carolyn C

Trad climber
the long, long trailer
Aug 21, 2009 - 02:07pm PT
There's no business like show business. Hilarious!
the Fet

Supercaliyosemistic climber
Tu-Tok-A-Nu-La
Aug 21, 2009 - 02:12pm PT
I read about this show a few months ago. Great story Roger.



This page has the theme song
http://www.tv-nostalgie.de/sierra.htm

"Sierra majesty, beneath the skies.
Sierra wilderness, where eagles fly.
She is my Life to me, she is my Home.
Her Children comfort me, when I'm alone.


Sierra come with me, to meet my Friend,
Sierra learn with me, where Life began.
There is so much to Know, so much to See.
Come share my Mountain home.
Come share my Life with me."
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Aug 21, 2009 - 03:06pm PT
The IMDB page on Sierra lists 4 episodes
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071053/
although the ones listed are numbered 3, 10, 13, 14.

and that it was followed by The Rangers (90 minute TV movie), where Carl Roger Breedlove and Dave Birkoff are credited as actors:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072065/

Although The Rangers is also listed as episode 14 of Sierra with the same air date.

Roger - you could probably edit your profile there!

More on the series, with many screen captures:
http://www.emergencyfans.com/episodes/sierra.htm

Some things haven't changed much...

and the theme song:
http://themes.wavethemes.net/themt-s3.htm
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Aug 21, 2009 - 03:26pm PT
What would I say? "I spoke, I fell, I hurt." Very few people have seen the movie. It was shown in the US on Christmas eve, 1974. It is not a Christmas story. Wayne told me that he has never seen the movie, just bits of the series. I only saw it becuase I was at my parents house visiting and they had a TV.

Walleye, I cannot come to the 40th reunion. If Wayne is there, get him to tell you stories about the filming.

The movie, The Rangers was made before the series, but it may have been shown after the series started. I don't remember.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Aug 21, 2009 - 03:49pm PT
Thanks, Roger - great story!

A climbing friend, who got into movie rigging, on seeing for the first time big name actors doing their bit: "Even I could do that!"

The inevitable comeback: "Yeah, but would anyone pay to see you do it?"
Anguish

Mountain climber
Jackson Hole Wyo.
Aug 21, 2009 - 04:56pm PT
Saw them film a car crash sequence. They babied the car up to the tree with the front wheels on some blocks. They opened the hood and wired it to the tree.
Action!
They zoomed the car backwards so it dropped off the blocks and the hood slammed shut. Then they played the film/video backwards and had a respectable looking crash.

I walked into the motel room where the Big Cheese was in the fall of 74 (I think), wearing knickers and a T-shirt, hair near my shoulders and a beard, looking for a job.
Little Cheese: Do you think he looks like a Tuesday Night Climber?
Big Cheese: Yea.
Little Cheese: Show up tomorrow at 9 a.m.
Next morning they were gone - the show had been cancelled.
the Fet

Supercaliyosemistic climber
Tu-Tok-A-Nu-La
Aug 21, 2009 - 06:46pm PT
Seperated at birth?

Bear 46
and Cruncher
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Aug 30, 2009 - 10:01pm PT
Tyrolean traverse out to the top of the Rostrum. Polaroid shot of me taken by someone on the movie crew.


Fuzzywuzzy

climber
Aug 30, 2009 - 10:32pm PT
Roger - great tale. I remember it all. Falkenstein and I auditioned for a part. Reading the lines in the same room we were rolling around crying we were laughing so hard. They did not understand how canned it all seemed. Thanks to Wayne and Jan Herbert I got a weeklongrole and was the guy "stranded" atop Swan Slab (3-6" off the deck)!

Charlie had soaped up the cracks hoping to make it impossible to climb. The crew had to bring in a fire-engine to hose it off (suds everywhere) and shooting commenced!

Remember Porter hucking off huge chunks of MUNGE going out the roofs to Horse Chute when we were filming on Little John? - the shoot got canceled that very day. Good thing too - it was pathetic!!

I remember after the week of shooting one of the photographers asked me what I was going to do with all the $$$. The MOST $$$$ I had ever made. I said, " I don't know maybe climb in Kashmir". He goes, "Cashmere, oh I'll bet that would be cozy".!!!! Hilarious.
The Wolf

Trad climber
East SF Bay Area
Aug 30, 2009 - 10:36pm PT
IMDB cast list


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072065/fullcredits#cast


Opening title sequence from German TV
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1J7PKP72hc&feature=related
WBraun

climber
Aug 30, 2009 - 10:41pm PT
I was there that day too Tom at the base of Little John when the show got canceled. Me and Kauk had been working as riggers for the whole summer on that show.

The producer even fired us at one point in time thinking we were the ones stealing all the climbing gear. It was grips that took it all we found out later at Olmsted point during one day filming up there.

I called the producer every name in the book and then some more. I threatened to kick his ass too. I was so fuking pissed off at the that stupid retard I threw him a total verbal flogging.

I told him why in hell would we steal the rigging equipment when we need it to rig?

Fuking retard!!!!!!

Two days later he calls me and Kauk back in and rehires us.
Fuzzywuzzy

climber
Aug 31, 2009 - 12:47am PT
It was an interesting time in the Valley eh Werner?

They pulled the plug - super quick.

All that spring it was a circus.

But that show is what allowed Wayne to leave and head up North.

martygarrison

Trad climber
The Great North these days......
Aug 31, 2009 - 04:39am PT
of course we all remember this. A bunch of were pissed because the nps allowed them to use their units for the show, as well if I remember right they closed Ranger Rock down for a few days. I for one was not happy.......
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Aug 31, 2009 - 12:23pm PT
This was one of the more fun threads I've read!

I was out of the country when all this went down so this is the first tim I've heard yhis piece of Valley history.

Meanwhile I think the tv show would have had better success with a livelier theme song in the beginning!
Bullwinkle

Boulder climber
Aug 31, 2009 - 01:06pm PT
hey werner, remember when you, me and yabo worked up at the rostrum cleaning all the paint off? hauled down 5gallon cans of paint thinner and scrub brush's. . .
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Aug 31, 2009 - 01:53pm PT
Hi Dean,

Tell us more about the paint clean up, please?

I have always discounted stories about the film crew painting the rocks with permanent paint.
10b4me

Ice climber
the reticient boulder at the Happies
Aug 31, 2009 - 02:26pm PT
I don't remember the movie, but do remember the show. I think it was on for a year or two.
if I am not mistaken, I think it was a CHIPS knockoff.
The Wolf

Trad climber
East SF Bay Area
Aug 31, 2009 - 03:25pm PT
TV shows are a direct result of the taste and experiences of the "creative" minds behind them. Sierra's brain trust also brought us CHIPS, EMERGENCY, and later on DIAGNOSIS MURDER and the one of the directors came to Sierra following a stint on the Brady Bunch and he later directed the nighttime soap Dynasty. I'm not discounting anyone's career accomplishments, but style and substance across a career are many times obvious in television
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Aug 31, 2009 - 03:46pm PT
The producer told me that the bears and their antics rated the highest of any characters or story in the audience tests. I asked where in the rankings the climbers came in. He dryly said, "low" then added that we were probably included because some guy in NY had the hots for climbers trim bodies.

The names and plot summaries of the series in order, sums it up:

Cruncher A bear threatens the park.

Panic at Cathedral Creek A doctor has contracted a deadly virus.

Taking Cody Williams Rangers Cassidy and Harper save little boy they're babysitting.

The Poachers The rangers search for poachers.

The Urban Rangers Two firefighters from 'Emergency' learn about mountain rescue.

Holiday A politician puts the lives of his two young sons in jeopardy by having them attempt a dangerous climb.

Tails, You Lose Rangers rescue a diver trapped underwater.

The Trek A forest fire threatens the lives of the rangers and campers.

Time Off Rangers Harper and Cassidy find a lost child.

The Giant The rangers fight a fire located near the redwood trees.

The Faun The rangers find an orphaned fawn and a blind child.

After which, the show was cancelled.

I was tempted to try to fake the plot summaries.

You know to make it funnier and less probable.

I couldn’t get close to the real thing.
antosarmy

Trad climber
Carlow, Ireland
Jan 24, 2016 - 10:07am PT
Hi everyone. Does anybody know where I could locate those episodes of Sierra from way back when? My mother would be so happy if I could get them for her. I have tried Amazon.com, no luck.

Thanks in advance folks.
Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
Jan 24, 2016 - 01:27pm PT
Those episodes are impossible to find.

I'm pretty sure the NPS. has copies, as did the concessioner at the time. I've only seen one, a tape, terrible quality. It was the episode where a guy and a gal go up the Arrow tip and one is hurt at bottom of the last pitch.

I took a 20' leader fall there for the camera, TM Herbert belaying, then we hauled Bev Johnson to the top, a ranger shot a line to us with a bow and arrow, and we rigged a tyrolean traverse and sent the stretcher (without Bev!) across on it.

Maybe the tensest part of the whole operation was standing in a group on thr tip and waiting for that arrow. Not a lot of room to dodge up there.

We did some impressive stuff the stunt men refused - most notably Roger's fall - but it was really lost on the small TV. screens of the time.
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jan 24, 2016 - 02:52pm PT
Hi Wayne,

I didn't know that you took a leader fall for the series. Twenty feet is a long way to ride for cash.

I am not so sure that I would have agreed to stand on the top of the Lost Arrow with you, TM and Bev and let an NPS ranger shoot an arrow at us. First, I am not sure I would trust the aim (it does have to go right over the top), and secondly, I am not sure that an NPS ranger would not try to take me out. ("The shot was good. We got the scene done with only one mishap, and we have a good story line for another episode. Who will play Breedlove--may he rest in peace?")

I didn't think anything bad would happen on the stunt fall Dave and I staged on the Rostrum. I trusted your bolt, certainly trusted Dave, and no one was shooting at us. What could go wrong?

On the other hand, you stood on a tiny spot, hoping an arrow would pass between you. Yicks.

That said, the thought of standing with Bev in a small place could make one lose all sensibilities, even with TM close at hand.

It is too bad that we have not been able to get any copies of the pilot or any of the episodes. I have a good friend whose son is now an up-and-coming-Hollywood-producer; I will ask him to see if he can make any headway with Universal Studios. I would pay for a copy.

For those of you reading along, there was no way to copy a film playing on a TV in 1974. Sony's BetaMax was released in the US just about the time that The Rangers pilot was shown on TV.
rmuir

Social climber
From the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
Jan 24, 2016 - 06:24pm PT
I remember seeing a tiny, Toyota-styled pickup truck crossing the bridge down by El Cap Meadow. Strapped on the back were three gigantic paper mache boulders probably destined for some bogus rockfall scene. The boulders were each larger than the truck, and it looked so perfectly incongruous…

And wasn't there a stranded-on-a-ledge scene that they shot across from the Lodge, about ten feet off the ground? All us dirtbag climbers were hanging around watching the farce and trying not to snicker.
Evel

Trad climber
Nedsterdam CO
Jan 24, 2016 - 06:57pm PT
Jonny and Roy Forever!!
Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
Jan 24, 2016 - 07:57pm PT
There are a lot of funny stories about the making of that short-lived series. I believe it was a Mark 7 production - the ones who did cop shows. They apparently used the same writers, who didn't know climbers from aardvarks. Consequently, when they had done shows about rock rescues, water rescues and bears they were getting short on imagination.

The actors were nice folks, but I don't think any of them caught the public. One of them thought climbing was pretty cool and started doing it later, took a grounder and was very badly injured.

Loyd Price worked like a dog for that film crew and was so indispensable that one of the Asst. Directors said, "Whatever they are paying that guy isn't nearly enough!

If I remember right, the crew "painted" the top of a boulder near Rixon's Pinnacle with chalk to lighten it up and make it look more like the tip of the Arrow for closeups. Pissed a lot of locals off, but it was just chalk dust and was gone shortly.

Jack Morehead - fine early climber - was Supt. at the time and wasn't about to let any serious defacement occur.

Charlie Porter was involved too. He and Bev Johnson acted a scene off the edge of Sierra Point in which Charlie supposedly fell, rope cut over a sharp edge and he was gone. They tossed a very realistic dummy over the edge and filmed it all the way down and it damn near made me sick.

There's another funny story about smoke and mirrors filming in Happygrrrls thread about modeling for fim companies.

I love Roger's reminiscences - so fun and well written! Give us some more, Breedlove!!
kief

Trad climber
east side
Jan 24, 2016 - 09:01pm PT
Wayne, actually Les Arnberger was Supt. when they were filming "Sierra" in 1974. Jack Morehead was Chief Ranger. He didn't become Supt. till after the NPS canned Binnewies ten or so years later.

I was friends with Debbie Price and yeah, I remember how much time Loyd was MIA working his tail off on "Sierra.".
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
Jan 25, 2016 - 05:25am PT
hey there say, roger... wow, say, thanks for sharing all this...

and say, fossil climber, thanks for adding more neat stuff, here, too...

very glad the original poster, asked the question that set all this up, for us to learn about ... bhilden, thanks so very much!
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jan 25, 2016 - 10:18am PT
No. That movie was first shown, I think, on 23 April 1970, which means it was probably filmed the year before. I spent a lot of time in Yosemite in the summer, in 67-69, but did not move there until the spring of 1970.

You can see the film on a website for the music composer for the film Warner Jepson.

Warner Jepson (composer) with clips of KQED Ascent movie The first film is included in the second film.



The climbers shown are Gary Colliver and Lloyd Price plus someone I don't recognize, with a short shot of Wayne Merry (Fossil climber), I think, on the rim above the Lost Arrow tip. The first film shows Gary climbing a long chimney shot from the inside. The second film shows Lloyd and someone I don't recognize on Bishop's Balcony and the third shows Lloyd and Gary climbing the Arrow Tip, then tyroleaning across to the rim. (I shutter when I see the unbelayed traverses.) There are a couple of short voiceovers by Lloyd and Wayne (I can't place the the voice on the first clip.)

Final scenes show Lloyd rappelling with very engaging music by Jepson. These scenes and the music have been used in other circumstances. Around 1970 was probably the last time that filming aid climbing, tyrolean traverses and rappelling would be considered appropriate. In 1974, when Wayne and I worked on The Rangers, the climbing shown was free-climbing (with plenty of rescues to make it more interesting.)

So, Wayne, can you weigh in here on the particulars?

On a related note, in 1968, Glen Denny and Fred Padula started planning what became their El Capitan film. Glen’s ambition was to make a film documenting El Cap. He assembled Gary Colliver, Richard McCracken and Lito Tejada-Flores, the first two El Cap veterans and started filming in May of 1968, before the weather got too hot. This film was not released until 1977.

Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jan 25, 2016 - 10:58am PT
I found an article about this series:

Sierra

This hour-long adventure series ran for just 11 episodes on NBC during the 1974-1975 season. Produced by Jack Webb’s Mark VIII Limited, it was cancelled after just four episodes had aired.

Going into the 1973-1974 season, Jack Webb’s television universe was in great shape. His production company, Mark VII Limited, would have four shows on the air, all on NBC and all produced in association with Universal : Adam-12 (entering its sixth season), Emergency! (entering its third season), Hec Ramsey (entering its second season as part of The NBC Mystery Movie) and Chase (a new series).

Fast forward to the spring of 1974, when the networks were busy developing their schedules for the 1974-1975 season. Mark VII Limited’s television output was halved, with both Hec Ramsey and Chase cancelled. But it had five pilots in contention for the 1974-1975 season, four for NBC (Fraud, The Black Pearl, Vector and Park Ranger) and one for ABC (Mobile Two) [1].

Only one of the pilots — Park Ranger — would be picked up for the 1974-1975 season and it would go through several name changes and switch from a half-hour series to an hour-long series before it hit the air. Broadcasting listed it as a half-hour adventure series about the United States Forest Service in March 1974 [2]. In April, The New York Times referred to it as The Rangers, an hour-long series that would “deal with the preservation of the environment” [3].

The name of the series was changed once more to Sierra, reflecting its setting at the fictional Sierra National Park (it would actually be filmed at Yosemite National Park). The characters would be park rangers with the United States National Park Service rather than the Forest Service. There were also some changes made to the cast after the pilot was filmed. The series would star James G. Richardson and Ernest Thompson as Ranger Tim Cassidy and Ranger Matt Harper, respectively. The two worked for Chief Ranger Jack Moore, played by Jack Hogan.

Rounding out the cast were Susan Foster and Michael Warren as Ranger Julie Beck and Ranger P.J. Lewis.


Ernest Thompson and James G. Richardson as Ranger Tim Cassidy and Ranger Matt Harper

(Jim Richardson and Bev had a romantic relationship, and I think that Jim is the actor Wayne told us took up climbing and took a ground fall.)

According to Richardson, the series would downplay the role of park rangers in policing national parks, because “the Park Service is very sensitive about its law enforcement job” [4]. Shortly before the series premiered, Broadcasting reported that the Sierra Club had accused MCA, Inc. (the parent company of Universal Television) of “seeking to develop Yosemite at the expense of its natural preservation.” Among the charges were painting rocks and using the Park Service’s rescue helicopter during production of Sierra [5].

Yosemite Superintendent Leslie Arnberger explained that “some rocks had been coated with a water-based paint to make them stand out better on film but there was a guarantee it would be removed. He also said that the use of the helicopter was with the strict understanding that it would be released immediately in an emergency.” More broadly, the Sierra Club claimed that MCA was trying to alter the way hotel and concession facilities were operated; a subsidiary of MCA was in charge of concessions at Yosemite [6].

NBC gave Sierra the Thursday 8-9PM time slot, where it would compete with returning Top Ten hit The Waltons on CBS and a pair of sitcoms on ABC, returning The Odd Couple and new series Paper Moon. The series premiered on September 12th with an episode in which Rangers Cassidy and Harper staged a daring rescue of a couple stranded while mountain climbing, dealt with a number of squabbling tourists, and handled a bear named Cruncher.

Critics, while mostly appreciative of the majestic setting, were not otherwise impressed. In his review, John J. O’Connor of The New York Times compared the series to The Mod Squad or The Rookies, only set outside. Sierra, he wrote, “combines spectacular scenery with some of the dumbest storylines to clutter prime-time TV” [7].

“The scenery is breathtaking,” wrote Jay Sharbutt of the Associated Press, “but the generally laggard script may cause you to exhale and change channels before the rescue commences. The show could be a passable 30 minutes, but it seems too long at an hour” [8]. The Chicago Tribune‘s Gary Deeb was even more critical: “Jack Webb, whose brain has been stuck in neutral for the past 25 years, brings us another in his unending series of cartoon shows without the animation” [9].

One positive review came from Cecil Smith of The Los Angeles Times, who like other critics noted the fact that Sierra was similar to Jack Webb’s earlier shows, only to argue “it seems to me to work better here. Maybe it’s the scenery, which is glorious–the show is shot entirely in Yosemite” [10].

The negative reviews translated into disastrous ratings. The premiere ranked 50th for the week out of 56 programs [11]. In its September 30th issue, published shortly after the third episode of of the series aired, Broadcasting reported that on the basis of the ratings for its first two episodes, Sierra was already in danger of being cancelled [12]. Just over a week later, on October 8th, NBC officially pulled the plug, making Sierra the first casualty of the 1974-1975 season [13].
Episodes of the series often saw the rangers heading into the park to rescue someone. In one episode, they had to rescue a pair of swimmers caught in rapids and a blind child lost in the woods. In another, the rangers tracked a bear, rescued a diver trapped underwater and helped a camper stuck in his sleeping bag. Other episodes involved the rangers fighting a fire high atop a redwood tree; leading campers out of a dangerous forest fire; babysitting the young son of a fellow ranger; saving two teenagers pushed into attempting a record-breaking climb; and searching for Chief Ranger Moore who goes missing while fishing.
The October 10th episode was pre-empted for a documentary on a deadly tornado that struck Xenia, Ohio in April 1973. The following week the series was pre-empted again for baseball. The episode that was supposed to air on October 10th finally aired on October 24th. It was a crossover with Emergency! in which paramedics John Gage (played by Randolph Mantooth) and Roy DeSoto (played by Kevin Tighe) traveled to Sierra to learn about mountain rescue techniques.

NBC would keep Sierra on its schedule through mid-December, allowing all 11 episodes to air. The final episode was broadcast on December 12th. It was replaced the following week by The Mac Davis Show. A few weeks later, on Sunday, December 24th from 8:30-10PM NBC broadcast The Rangers, the pilot to Sierra. In it, Colby Chester played Ranger Matt Harper and Laurette Spang played Ranger Julie Beck. The Rangers was repeated on Monday, July 14th, 1975.

The theme song to the series was titled “Sierra” and was performed by Denny Brooks with lyrics by John Denver and music by Lee Holdrige. Included in the closing credits was an acknowledgement of the assistance of Secretary of the Interior Rogers C.B. Morton, director of the National Park Service Ronald H. Walker and “the dedicated men and women of the National Park Service.”
Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
Jan 25, 2016 - 12:29pm PT
Kief - you're right - Morehead was Chief Rgr., not Supt. Great guy - long retired in
Morro Bay CA.

Roger - I can't remember a lot more about the Ascent filming except that it was a lot of fun, and we didn't do any fraudulent shots. Crew was tiny, just Director Virginia Duncan - a lovely person - and 3 or 4 others. Also, re the Sierra series, I don't recall real paint being used on rocks. Don't know how I would have missed that.

I do recall the Sierra episode which re-created an actual event, an NPS forester - a descendant of the original first peoples there I was told - who managed to scale the Grizzly Giant sequoia to put out a lightning strike at the top that was spreading embers all over. Herbert and I copied him - climbed a white pine near the Giant, pedulumed into a closer sequoia, climbed that, and threw a line over a branch on the Giant, lowered it to the ground where Price secured it, and thus established a Tyrolean access to the Giant. you couldn't climb it from the ground - lowest branch is something like 100' up. I'd sure love to see some of that footage.

Memory is fallible on all that stuff - it was a few weeks ago.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Jan 25, 2016 - 12:37pm PT
I told him why in hell would we steal the rigging equipment when we need it to rig?

Fuking retard!!!!!!

Great question and a classic post. LOL
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jan 25, 2016 - 12:45pm PT
Wayne,

You had way more fun working on the Sierra series than I had on the pilot. Don't know what got into me: with my $2,500, I went climbing.

Do you know that the NPS has copies of The Rangers and the episodes of Sierra? If so, we might be able to get them with a Freedom of Information Act request. The public, all two of us, have a right to know!

Any lawyers in the house? My daughter is an attorney, but I cannot afford her billing rates.
Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
Jan 25, 2016 - 04:23pm PT
Roger - don't know for sure but I can't imagine they don't have it archived.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jan 25, 2016 - 06:16pm PT
I gotta admit that while I was in the Palo Alto hospital I watched Emergency! with Robert Fuller and the boys most every day.

I found these 'cross-over episodes' on Youtube by searching "1974 episode Sierra."

[Click to View YouTube Video]

Here is the page:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=1974+episodes+Sierra

scuffy b

climber
heading slowly NNW
Jan 25, 2016 - 06:19pm PT
Regarding Ascent, a page back, wasn't there also a sequence of Loyd Price leading the long pitch of Reed's Direct, as well as the Bishop's Balcony sequence?
Evel

Trad climber
Nedsterdam CO
Jan 25, 2016 - 06:32pm PT
Mouse! Thanks for that link!
Emergency! spurred me to become a SAR EMT-P later in life.
WBraun

climber
Jan 25, 2016 - 06:33pm PT
SIERRA with Johnny & Roy

It failed because the show was retarded .......
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jan 25, 2016 - 06:48pm PT
Here's some real hot-shot sh#t you should like, Duckburg's favorite uncle.

Bob Conrad, professional bad-ass with a heart of gold stars.
[Click to View YouTube Video]Style points for trick rappelling? Overall team descent times?

Could it become an Olympic event?

Werner's eyes cross...fade to ER.

:0)
BruceHildenbrand

Social climber
Mountain View/Boulder
Jan 25, 2016 - 08:04pm PT
Robert Conrad had a home in Arnold up on Highway 4. I used to run into him at the Big Trees Market. I think a lot of his 1995 series "High Sierra Search and Rescue" was filmed in the Highway 4 area.
bvb

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Jan 25, 2016 - 08:14pm PT
Ha! I wrote a blistering and totally inaccurate hatchet-job review of that show for Off Belay magazine when I was 16. Thankfully, no copies of that juvenilia have resurfaced, that I know of. It was titled -- drum roll, please -- "THE DEATH OF YOSEMITE."

Hark! I hear youth talking...
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