climbing

Remembering Fred Beckey

The above trailer is for a documentary: Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey.

Fred Beckey died on Monday, he was 94. Beckey was one of the greatest mountaineers of all time and he was also quite a character.

Robert McFadden at The New York Times does a great job of summarizing Beckey’s amazing life in climbing: Fred Beckey, Conqueror and Chronicler of North American Peaks, Dies at 94.

In the late 1970’s I went to a presentation/slide show that Beckey gave at REI in Seattle. It was amazing, less for the number of first ascents he’d done at that point (and since then he’s done a lot more), more for his lifestyle which was the epitome of the climbing bum, known among climbers as a “dirtbag” lifestyle.

At that point Yvon Chouinard and Royal Robbins, two other pioneers from Fred’s era had already moved away from climbing into business startups (Patagonia and Royal Robbins clothing). But, Fred was all about climbing. He wasn’t a people person either, he was rather gruff during the Q&A after the slide show I went to.

These days climbing is a totally different sport than the sport Fred Beckey took part in: he didn’t compete, he had no sponsors, and he didn’t really care if he was well known beyond the world of serious climbers. He definitely was well known in the world of serious climbers who know the history of their sport and he will be sorely missed.

Here’s Fred Beckey’s Wikipedia entry.

Update: I heard from my friend Chris Jones who shared a Beckey story:

I once got one of Beckey’s famous I-need-a-climbing-partner calls, while he was on his way from Seattle to Smith Rock. This was one of his things – he’d head off somewhere with a climb in mind and go through his call list on the way, and by the time he was there he’d have at least one (sometimes several, just in case) partners lined up. I somehow ended up on his call list for Smith Rock, and he wanted to climb Monkey Face by the Pioneer Route (he would have been 82, though at the time I thought he was closer to 70).

I met him at Smith, but it started to snow. As it started to snow, he asked “What do ya think about the weather?” This was exactly one of the lines he was famous for, heard by many climbing partners through the years. I had read about his penchant for this particular line, and recognized it as he said it. But oblivious that I might have this recognition, he was just asking (for real), what I thought about the weather. We decided the weather was too poor (I pretended this wasn’t completely obvious), so we didn’t do the climb. Right about then a second potential climbing partner showed up, so he had arranged a backup in case I didn’t work out (or maybe I was the backup and I just got there first).

So, I didn’t actually get to climb with Fred, nor did Fred get to climb Monkey Face that day, but I did get to hear him say “What do ya think about the weather?”. And that was better than doing the climb.

Alex Honnold free solos Freerider on El Capitan

Alex Honnold has become the first climber to free solo Yosemite’s 3,000-foot El Capitan wall

This is an incredible achievement. It’s a landmark in the history of rock climbing. Honnold is an exceptional climber and has free soloed (no rope or other equipment) many difficult routes before but this route is in another category.

I climbed the Nose Route on El Capitan in the late 1970’s in slightly slower than what was then the regular time: 4 days (an extra day) and with about half the climb using aid (using gear to advance, not just protect a fall). The route Honnold has done is much harder than the Nose route and he’s done it free solo. Freerider is a variant of the Salathe Wall route put up by the recently deceased Royal Robbins in 1961.

I’m a long retired climber but I’m interested in how the sport has advanced over the many years since I did it. This is a very large advance.

Wow.

Ueli Steck dies on Mt. Everest

Swiss climber Ueli Steck was killed in a fall on Mt. Everest today.

Steck was one of the greatest mountaineers and all-around climber-athletes in the world. He was skilled and experienced enough so that an accident like this would be unlikely for him, however, free solo climbing (climbing alone without a rope) is dangerous, even for someone as skilled as Steck.

I’ve followed Steck’s career for a while, mostly because he’s an interesting guy, and also because those of us who were or still are climbers know what The Eiger North Face is and Steck not only free soloed it, he did it numerous times in under 3 hours. This is an incredible achievement because of the skill and daring involved but also because of the endurance involved. Steck was called “the Swiss machine” for a reason: he had tremendous endurance.

I posted about him here in 2011. Below is the video from that post.

Climbing Lunag Ri

Let me preface this by saying I used to climb, not a lot of alpine climbing like what’s depicted here, but serious rock climbing on big walls in various places including Yosemite Valley.

This video shows David Lama and Conrad Anker as they become the first expedition to reach the headwall of Lunag Ri, a mountain that’s over 22,000 feet tall on the border of Nepal and Tibet.

This is very serious stuff and these guys are the best in the world at it. Still, it makes my stomach uneasy to see it.

More on the Lunag Ri expedition here: See David Lama’s expedition to an unclimbed peak.

There are images of mixed rock, snow, and ice climbing like this in the movie Meru which also features Conrad Anker and if you’re into this stuff, is well worth seeing.

[via Sploid]

Climber

Climber

New York City.

My iPhone says we walked over nine miles in New York yesterday. Not sure how accurate that is but we avoided subways and walked a big loop from Grand Central to B&H, the Rubin Museum (great Steve McCurry show there), down to REI/Soho to shop for a new pack for Tom, and Keste’s pizza in the Village, then back to Grand Central.

On the way I took a few shots of this “climber” or maybe “hanger” on the alley wall of a building in the Village.

All the way everyone in New York was either gearing up for the big snow coming, or gearing up for a night of partying before the big snow coming. Either way, we were glad to get on the train home and get back to our respective houses before it hit. I’m guessing it will start snowing up here in Connecticut later this morning and we won’t get all that much today. This climber is probably getting blasted about now.

Dave Mention

Self Portrait

My flickr contact Dave Mention posted a nice self-portrait taken with his Fuji X100T.

The reason I’m posting this (besides it being a nice image) is because Dave is someone I climbed with at Smith Rocks, Oregon in the 1970’s. He and I did what was then a tough mixed free and aid route on Monkey Face called the Northwest Passage which started on the north face and halfway up went around the corner and finished on the west face and over the back of the head, then the fun free rappel off the nose.

Both of us went our separate ways after a few climbs together at Smith and I never heard anything about him until recently when I found him by accident up on Flickr. This is over 35 years later!

I have scanned images of other climbs I did at Smith in those days but not this one I did with Dave. Those were some fun times.