Legendary Climber and Mountaineer Fred Beckey Dies at 94

Credit: Photo by Pat Ament, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On Monday, legendary mountaineer and climber Fred Beckey passed away quietly at home in Seattle, Washington. He was 94.

According to partner Megan Bond, the two were planning a trip to the Himalayas the following year. “He had a lot more to do," she told Outside. "He had a good death and a great life." 

Beckey, born in Düsseldorf, Germany, emigrated to the U.S. when he was two years old. In his new home of Seattle, he quickly established himself as a wunderkind of the climbing scene, summiting 35 peaks at age 16, the first year of his membership in the local club. By 19, with brother Helmy, he bagged the second ascent of Mount Waddington, a 13-er in British Columbia and the territory’s tallest peak.

Over his long and illustrious career, Beckey would pioneer, explore, and establish many of North America’s most iconic routes, and he would cement their existence in the climbing world by chronicling them in print. He would author at least eight expansive guidebooks, according to Outside, but his knowledge of his local Cascades range was unparalleled.

“If Thoreau and Emerson describe the transcendental American theme, then Beckey—after Ahab, akin to Kerouac—describes the oddly manic drive to scale and map and detail the wilderness in a modern way,” said Steve Costie, executive director of the Seattle-based Mountaineers club, in an interview with the New York Times.

Beckey’s life was meticulously documented in the 2017 documentary Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey.

“A true American icon,” its account tweeted on Monday. “Fred inspired so many people. His legacy will live on forever.”