Fred Beckey dies aged 94

US climbing legend Fred Beckey has died aged 94. Beckey was widely regarded as one of North America's greatest mountaineers, and perhaps the ultimate 'dirtbag', rejecting conventional security for a life devoted to climbing.

Legendary climber Fred Beckey, 92 kb
Legendary climber Fred Beckey
© Mick Ryan

Taking up climbing as a teenager in the Cascade Range of America's Pacific Northwest, Beckey soon gained a reputation as a committed exploratory mountaineer, at a time when the potential of the Northwest was only beginning to be tapped.

"I was 13 when I climbed Boulder Peak in the Olympic Mountains by myself" he later recalled, "and I guess you can say that I never stopped climbing after that. For me, the appeal of climbing has many sources: a longing to escape from the artificial civilized order, a need for self-rejuvenation, a desire to restore my sense of proportion. When you are climbing, you experience freedom from constraints."

Fred Beckey, the legend.
© Patagonia Inc

In 1942, aged just 19, Beckey and his brother Helmy (17) made waves with the second ascent of Mount Waddington, in British Columbia's remote Coast Range. Over a climbing career spanning seven decades, he then went on to establish one of the most prolific first ascent records in the world. He also wrote several classic guides and other books.

Fred Beckey's life is the subject of the new film Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey, showing at film festivals this year.

Forums (21 comments)

Most of my adventures are in the North Cascades and wherever I go the presence of Fred is there. From nearby my house I can see several mountains he did first ascents on. When traveling further afield to Wyoming, Idaho,...
The story I like about him is that he kept a very full address book but it was organised by location so he could look up where to doss easily. It wasn't unusual for people to wake up and find him asleep in their porch...
We can only aim to emulate a much lesser version of Fred Beckey. I've often looked at his Cascade books and thought to go back there again, and I always think of him when Washington state and the Cascades are mentioned....

Read more

This has been read 13,616 times
Return to News from November 2017