Yosemite Climbing Pioneer Mike Corbett Has Died at 68

Older caucasian man in baseball cap and tan T-shirt sitting against rock wall
Mike Corbett at the Yosemite Climbing Museum in Mariposa, California. Chris Van Leuven

“Mike Corbett passed away,” read the message.

My friend of 27 years, who once held the title of most ascents of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, is gone.

Corbett moved to Yosemite at age 18 in the early 1970s, where he climbed El Capitan in rapid succession with his lifelong friend Ken Yager. He logged so many ascents of the formation, more than 50, that he earned the nickname, “Mr. El Cap.”

Man wading into rushing river

On the Ground With National Geographic Explorer Chris Boyes

Read article

During a winter ascent of the South Face of Half Dome in Yosemite in 1986, he and his two partners were rescued when a storm nearly killed them.

In 1989, Corbett applied his expertise in the vertical to climbing El Capitan with paraplegic Mark Wellman. Their ascent made headlines across the country and earned them a visit to the White House where they met President George H.W. Bush. In 1991 Corbett and Wellman climbed Half Dome. Once again, the press took notice, including the Chicago Tribune, which coined Corbett “a bona fide climbing bum who works as a janitor.”

yosemite highline el capitan

The High-Exposure World of Yosemite’s (Other) Big-Wall Adventures

Read article

In 1992, Corbett and Yager began collecting Yosemite climbing artifacts, including pitons forged out of stove legs that were used on the first ascent of El Capitan in 1958. Today, there are permanent climbing museums in both Yosemite Valley and the nearby town of Mariposa. Just last week, I met with Corbett during the grand opening of the Mariposa location.

“He loved his family and was also into baseball, trivia, and campaign buttons. He had an exceptional memory and attention to detail,” said Yager. “It’s devastating.”

Added Bosque, “I loved him. I’m so glad I was part of his life. There are no words; I miss him. We were planning to climb El Cap in October.”

Yosemite Highline4

Yosemite’s Limit-Pushing Highline Across El Capitan’s Most Exposed Section

Read article

Like Corbett, I moved to Yosemite soon after graduating high school. Over the decades I knew him, he’d share countless stories about his times in the vertical. I’ll miss him dearly.

He’s survived by his siblings; wife, Jennifer Laduca; children, and grandchildren.

Read more on Mike Corbett in Men’s Journal here:

climbing in yosemite

Exploring the Beauty of Big-Wall Magic in Yosemite

Climbing legend Steve Bosque performs amazing feats on the rock — and not just while putting up new ...
Read article
Skydve yosemtie

Bucket List: Jumping Out of a Plane Over Yosemite Valley

"It was so clear you could see 30 to 40 miles. El Cap sticks out like a sore thumb from up there."
Read article

For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!