Garrett Fisher’s book chronicles the Rocky Mountain West’s diminishing glaciers, before they’re gone
June 28, 2018
VAIL — Garrett Fisher flies his antique plane around the world, photographing glaciers and mountains, because topography is photogenic and flying is fun.
Fisher, a pilot, economist, entrepreneur, author and adventurer, has a new book: "Glaciers of the Rockies."
It's not complicated. It's also not alarmist. It's big on facts, science and stunning photography.
Fisher loves glaciers and wanted to see them before they disappear. So he climbed into his 1948 Piper Super Cub PA-11 and flew across the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, photographing remaining glaciers in the American Rockies. From Rocky Mountain National Park to the Wind River Range, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone and Glacier National Park, the Rockies contain a surprising number of glaciers tucked away in wilderness areas.
"That is, until they are gone," Fisher said.
Scientists predict that many of these treasures will disappear not only in our lifetimes, but in the near future, possibly in as little as 15 years.
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Triumph of aviation and photography
"Glaciers of the Rockies" is a triumph of aviation and photography. Fisher flies above wilderness areas, while being buffeted by winds and extreme cold.
His plane does not have heat, weighs less than 800 pounds and produces 100 horsepower on a good day. Like most pilots, Fisher tends to be romantic about flying, something he portrays in his books.
The book contains 177 aerial images and is organized by mountain range, with detailed maps identifying the location of each photograph.
Fisher is a big guy flying a small plane. The Piper Super Cub is still the preferred plane of many Alaskan bush pilots, he said.
The Piper weighs 766 pounds empty. Put him and a passenger in it, and the 100 horsepower has to lift around 450 pounds of human beings, plus whatever gear they're hauling.
It's a tandem seat aircraft, one seat in the front and one in back — no heater and no electronics. There's an on/off switch for fuel, a couple gages, pedals and a stick. It's so old school he has to hand crank it to start it. The choke is manual, of course. He added a radio.
It's slightly faster than a car, but Fisher doesn't seem to be in any particular hurry.
To get the shots he wants, Fisher basically opens the door and hangs over the edge.
His grandfather counseled against this sort of behavior, Fisher said, but exhibited a bunch of it. His grandfather was 76 when he got his helicopter license. Fisher was a teenager when his grandfather taught him to fly that Piper.
It may seem a little nuts, and maybe it is, but a touch of insanity isn't the only thing Fisher got from his grandfather and father. He also inherited that plane. His grandfather restored it years ago. Fisher's father got it from his father, and Fisher inherited it from him.
When he got his helicopter license, he bought a Bell chopper — like one of those helicopters in the "M*A*S*H" TV show and movie.
Fisher's grandfather flew that helicopter all over his native upstate New York and landed at gas stations and coffee shops to have a cup of coffee with his buddies. People were so awed that they'd stop while he was there to ask him about it all and then buy stuff from the station. Gas station owners started carrying aviation fuel so he'd land there and create a tourist attraction.
Fisher took his first flight in a Piper J-3 Cub when he was 2 years old. At age 8, his grandfather started giving him flying lessons, and he earned his pilot's license at age 17.
He's enthusiastically thrifty and often finds himself in a tent sleeping next to the airplane at small-town airports all over America.
When he's not doing this sort of thing, he's an entrepreneur and economic innovator, founder of the Institute for Economic Innovation, based in Frisco. He has been featured in Wired magazine and Ted Talks.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.