Climbing Legend Fred Beckey Dies at 94

October 30th, 2017 by

Fred Beckey was one of the greatest climbers of all time, he’s died at age 94 in Seattle. A friend close to Beckey announced the news on social media.

Known for his remote and bold first ascents, visionary lines and for being one of the toughest partners a climber could have, Beckey touched the hearts of many and inspired generations of climbers.


In Canada, he climbed many new routes, including the North Face of Edith Cavell, The Beckey/Chouinard on South Howser Tower and the Northeast Buttress of Slesse. In Squamish he opened many of the now classic rock routes.

One of his earliest first ascent was in 1939 up Mount Despair in the North Cascades in Washington.

Beckey was born in Germany in 1923. His family emigrated to the U.S.A in 1925 and ended up in Seattle. He started climbing at around age 13.

He went to the University of Washington and had a degree in business administration. He wrote a number of books, many likely sit on your bookshelf. He was never married and never had children.

In 1942, Beckey and his brother Helmy made the second ascent of Mount Waddington on Canada’s West Coast. It was considered one of the finer alpine achievements of the time. It was the start of Beckey’s amazing climbing career.

A documentary on Beckey’s life, Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey, was released in 2017.

Top alpinist Conrad Anker once said of Beckey, “In the pantheon of climbing legends, he’s the man. He never got the big, famous peaks, he never did Everest. But just that unrelenting drive to do new routes—that’s what puts him on top in my book.”

Beckey was one of our heroes at Gripped and we’ll miss seeing him around.


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Fred Beckey, a fabled mountaineer and author who was the first to take hundreds of routes to the summits of North America’s tallest peaks in Alaska, the Canadian Rockies and the Pacific Northwest in an audacious seven-decade climbing career, died Monday afternoon in Seattle. He was 94.

Megan Bond, a close friend of Mr. Beckey’s, confirmed in a Facebook message that he died from congestive heart failure in her home. Ms. Bond said he had been in hospice care for four days.

Rawboned and tenacious, Mr. Beckey made as many as a thousand ascents that no one was known to have taken before, and wrote a dozen books on mountaineering, many of them considered definitive guides to the terrain of the continent’s best-known and least accessible peaks.

Mr. Beckey was virtually unknown to the general public, the exact opposite of Sir Edmund Hillary, the New Zealander who, with his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, won worldwide fame by conquering Earth’s tallest peak, the 29,029-foot Mount Everest, on the Nepal-Tibet border in 1953.

Indeed, Mr. Beckey shunned publicity and people. He lived like a hermit in Seattle, holing up to write or vanishing for months on expeditions. He looked like a scruffy hobo — a wiry, stooped nomad with a backpack, a shapeless jacket, dirty pants and sneakers. But he was all-purpose: the craggy face leathery from sun, wind and snow; powerful hands scarred with cuts; flyaway hair crushed under a woolen cap; keen eyes for the next toehold; and a toothy smile for the book signings. He never married or had children, never had a business or sought security. Friends said he just wanted to climb mountains.

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