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Interview with 80-Year-Old Fred Beckey Author of Definitive Cascades Climbing Books

March 8 2003 at 12:45 PM
roger  (no login)

Response to Climbing Author Interviews and Book Reviews

Here's an excellent article in the Seattle Post-Inelligencer on 80-year-old bachelor climber Fred Beckey who writes scholarly books that are the definitive books on the Cascades and has the title of climber of most unclimbed peaks

"Range of Glaciers" is a scholarly history of the exploration and survey of the Northern Cascade Range, not a mountaineering guidebook like his best-known works. Yet many of the people who lined up to meet Fred Beckey that Sunday weren't history buffs but young, hero-worshiping climbers.

They beheld one of the least famous of the world's most accomplished athletes, a wiry, slightly stooped nomad who has set records that will never be broken -- and who, at the age of 80, is still at it, relentlessly.
For years, mountaineering journals and climbers' tales have buffed the outlaw-tinged Beckey mystique: his independence, prickly personality, raucous sense of humor and seeming aversion to fame; his endless pursuit of unclimbed peaks and routes, his knowledge of mountains no one else has heard of and even his womanizing -- "He's going to do that until he's dead," says Sybil Goman, an ex-girlfriend and a still-close friend.

Beckey seemingly set out to climb practically everything else, with less fanfare, on leaner, quicker, Alpine-style trips with a few scruffily outfitted pals. His renown began in the North Cascades, British Columbia Coast Range and Alaska and spread elsewhere.
There is even a Mount Beckey, a previously unnamed, 8,500-foot peak in Alaska's remote Cathedral Mountains that Beckey and two partners were the first to climb in 1996.

"Nobody has been as prolific (in first ascents), and nobody ever will be, because there aren't enough (unclimbed) mountains left," Bertulis said. "So he's one of a kind in history."

The fabled alpinist curtly dismisses any suggestion that he might have more first ascents than anyone else on earth.
"I don't know. I don't care," he said in an interview. "I don't want to claim that, and I really don't care. There are people in Europe who have probably done more new routes."

Beckey's rock-star status with young climbers stems from his age-defying, never-ending climbing career and also from his books, especially the three-volume, 1,000-page Cascade Alpine Guide. It describes nearly every route on each of the hundreds of peaks in the Cascades north of the Columbia River.

Beckey turned 80 Jan. 14. Yet he typically climbs with people in their 20s and 30s -- partly because many of them, like their single-minded, never-married, Gypsy-like elder, aren't yet encumbered by spouses, mortgages, families and 9-to-5 jobs.

Fred Beckey on web

Fred Beckey Books: Page 1 and 2

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