Beech 18 AT-7 Navigator Copyright Museum of Flight - all rights reserved

latest blog entries updated on December 18, 2009


a blog by Peter Stekel

FINAL FLIGHT is the story of four aviators lost in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks on November 18, 1942

FINAL FLIGHT, coming from Wilderness Press in 2010

Read more about FINAL FLIGHT here.

July-August-September, 2009
Many people have written to me lately, asking why I haven't been updating the Final Flight blog. My apologies for not keeping in touch but I have not been home this summer.

In mid-July I traveled to England to visit friends and we then drove to France for two weeks of hiking in the Pyrenees. These granitic and glaciated mountains rise over 3000 meters in height and resemble many parts of the Sierra Nevada except for the large huts [more like an alpine Motel 6] that cater to hikers plus the high degree of vegetated alpine slopes and the large herds of cattle and sheep grazing thereon.

You can't hike in France without a baguette!

Our trip included a visit to the American Cemetery at Normandy where I was able to pay my respects to 2nd Lt. William Bechter.


A few days before leaving for Europe I finally received an edited copy of Final Flight from Wilderness Press. I took the manuscript along with me and I had time and opportunity to work on making changes and doing re-writes. I'm still not finished with that but hope to be by the end of October. This delay will result in the book not being released until after summer, 2010. Another factor that comes into play to delay publication is the state of our economy. Due to the recession, nationwide book sales are down between 40-60% - depending upon the genre and the publisher. My publisher, like all the others, has elected to slow down the pace of releasing new books until the economy picks up.
While in England I was interviewed by Jeremy Jeffs, a film producer with ITN Factual. Working under contract with BBC4 and the National Geographic Society, Jeremy is producing a documentary on the affects of bad weather in the Sierra Nevada and the prevalence of airplane wrecks. The focus of the story is on Steve Fossett's crash in 2007 but the TV special will also cover other notable crashes including the AT-7 lost November, 18, 1942.

The show will air April or June, 2010 on the National Geographic channel.


After returning from Europe I drove south to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks for three hiking trips, including two extended backpacking trips. The first brought me back to Mendel Glacier where I was joined by Dixon Davis, an engineering professor at Cal Poly Pomona.

Dixon high on the glacier. It's steeper than it looks!

We were not successful in finding any further wreckage of the AT-7 or any signs of the remains Lt. Gamber or Cadet Mortenson. This is a section of wing I discovered last year.


I also made another early morning flight over the crash site with Steve Ivey. Steve took me flying last year as well.

Here is Mendel Glacier from 15,000 feet

This is the view of Lamarck Col, with Mt. Mendel and Mendel Glacier beyond... the view perhaps seen by Lt. Gamber on November 18, 1942 before his crash.

Here is a view of the Col from the ground with the same ice field and tarn at its base.


Finally, I had an opportunity to speak with meteorologist, Hal Klieforth in Bishop. Klieforth was one of the first researchers to study lee waves [aka mountain waves]. These important weather phenomena are a likely source for the bad weather that may have caused Lt. Gamber to crash.

You can read about the history of how mountain waves were first studied during the 1950s in Robert Whelan's excellent book, Exploring the Monster.


Before leaving the east side I made an early evening trip up Baker Creek in Big Pine to visit the site of a winter cabin used for many years by Sierra legend, Norman Clyde. Among his many achievements, Clyde found Walter "Pete" Starr in 1933 after the author of Starr's Guide to the John Muir Trail was killed in a climbing accident in the Minarets.

Site of Clyde's cabin

View to the Sierra crest from Clyde's cabin site

Cabin relict


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