CLIFF CREGO | FIELDWORK, July at Pop Creek Pass, High Wallowas

FIELDWORK, July the 21st at Pop Creek Pass, High Wallowas

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As far as altitude is concerned, in round metric numbers
the rule of thumb for the High Wallowas—an area in Northeast
Oregon of hutless, roadless wilderness of some 6,000 square
kilometers about a sixth the size of Switzerland or the
Netherlands—is that the highest peaks top out at just
under 3,000 m., the passes are at about 2,400 m., and
the famous, extraordinarily beautiful alpine lakes, of
which there are many dozens of different sizes, character,
and situation, are at about 2,200 m. These are the simple
commonalities in an otherwise hugely diverse and wonderfully
complex labyrinthian landscape. Much of this is the legacy
of periods of glaciations in the past, going back sometimes
to 15,000 years ago. but also and more importantly I believe
for the current era, as recently as 1850 with the end
of the circumpolar LITTLE ICE AGE.

The question is: What does Climate Chaos mean for the
Northwest and the Wallowas? With currently 392 ppm CO2 and
rising steadily, we are already committed to a 2 degree c.
temperature over the coming decades. But high mountains,
like the higher latitudes, amplify the effects of warming
by an additional factor of two or more, largely because of
the loss of snow surface reflectivity. Reason for grave
concern. And yet, now in the middle of fourth season of
fieldwork here, never once have I encountered anyone doing
research in the backcountry. This is not the Alps, with its
great 5000-year-old tradition of high mountain culture,
with its indigenous languages, historical sensibility,
and rich in situ knowledge of the environment. So we at
best have only questions, with few answers at hand.

What is very much worse is the degenerately chaotic state
present cultural environment. I go out writing and making
photographs normally two or three weeks at a time. I move
slow, because I refuse to use trucks or cars. So as I pack
out, I now find I enter a remarkable tangle—a kind of
illusional reality, really—of mutually sustaining self-
righteous opinion, ignorance and arrogance. I just say to
myself, "It will pass." What is vastly more important, it
seems to me, is the work borne of necessity of creating
an intelligent, renewable energy revolution which parallels
and supports the great information revolution which has
already swept the planet. They really are a necessary

On the road in the Northwest of America.


Do not mistake—density for intensity,

randomness for the unexpected,

complicatedness for complexity,

sentimentality for simplicity,

intellectual virtuosity for subtlety,

length for depth, or merely

a loud voice for vitality.

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All Photographs & texts by Cliff Crego © 2011
(created: VIII.9.2011