"Beware of Beckey: He will steal your woman, steal your route." (from a T-shirt)
"Got one of those calls today...from Fred Beckey. He wants info and connections to go Langtang in Nepal. A partner wants to do a trekking peak there, but Fred's not interested in that, he wants to scout serious peaks for future expeditions."
........from Andy Selters Facebook Page last month.
"Fred's the ultimate dirtbag," says Patagonia Inc. founder Yvon Chouinard, who during the first ascent of the Beckey-Chouinard route on South Howser in Canada watched Mr. Beckey settle in for a cold night on a ledge by stuffing the pockets of his jacket with pages torn from a Louis L'Amour novel - an old hobo trick.
"I chose not to get involved with a marriage or getting a house or being encumbered by debt," Beckey says. "I didn't have to stick with a job. I'm sure I've sacrificed stuff - finances, romance, friendships. Everybody sacrifices something."
Fred and his brother Helmy, set the North American climbing community on its ear, when they made the second ascent of the remote and technical Mount Waddington in the Pacific Northwest of the USA back in 1942. The first ascent of Waddington had been made, after numerous attempts, in 1936 by Fritz Wiessner and Bill House and was so significant it was featured on the cover of the London Illustrated News.
Colin Haley, one of today's most accomplished alpinists, and often called the young Fred Beckey said, "Fred and Helmy's second ascent of Mt. Waddington, at nineteen and seventeen years old, would be the equivalent today of two teenage brothers making the second ascent of Gasherbrum IV's west face in alpine style."
"He's never sustained a serious injury whilst climbing. In fact the only time he hurt himself in a fall was when he fell off a bar stool when a good-looking girl went by."
German-born Fred Beckey is still climbing at 89, every day if he can. The mountaineer and author is renowned as 'one of America's most colourful and eccentric mountaineers' and is unofficially recognised as the all-time world-record holder for the number of first ascents credited to one man. As well as being a lifer, and for most of his life living on the road in search of first ascents, Beckey is also a mountaineering author of considerable note and has written many detailed and scholarly guidebooks most notably the Cascade Alpine Guide, the definitive 3-volume description of the North Cascades from the Columbia River to the Fraser River, now in its third edition, published by The Mountaineers. He is also the author of Mountains of North America, The Range of Glaciers: Exploration and Survey of the North Cascades, and a personal narrative, Challenge of the North Cascades.
His latest book, Fred Beckey's 100 Favorite North American Climbs is his magnum opus, a lavish and detailed large format book describing Fred's recommended multi-pitch routes, part autobiography and part guidebook (lots of topos and pitch descriptions). This is the ultimate ticklist documenting classic routes of all grades in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, British Columbia, the Canadian Rockies, Selkirks and Bugaboos, the Rockies, California's Sierra Nevada, the Southwest Desert, the Appalachians and Mexico. I highly recommend it, it is a work of love and will give you hours of pleasure and much inspiration; I have done six of the routes in it, with plans to do more. Beckey maybe a climbing bum but his opus of work is worthy of a scholar.
AUDIO: The Master's Apprentice by Yvon Chouinard (wait for it to load, it is worth it)
Below is an abridged version of one of the routes in Fred's book, Fred Beckey's 100 Favorite North American Climbs published by Patagonia. The Beckey-Chouinard on the West Buttress of South Howser Tower in the Bugaboos is high on my ticklist. Answer the question in the form below and we will pull one of correct answers out and that lucky person will win......well have a look below at the BIG PRIZE.
Beckey-Chouinard, West Buttress, South Howser Tower, The Bugaboos, B.C.
(V 5.10-; 15-22 pitches)
FA: Fred Beckey and Yvon Chouinard, 1961
During a reconnaissance of triple-summitted Howser Spire in 1959, I stared in disbelief at the sweeping curve of the South Tower's granitic splendor and its immense west buttress. Although the buttress had a fearsome aspect, a few cracks could be detected in absurd locations. I wondered why this was the only Bugaboo peak with but a single route.
For much of the 1961 summer I had teamed with Yvon Chouinard - well known for his hard drive and inventive climbing gear. [We] could barely ignore the urge to focus on the prize of the Bugaboos. From a camp at the col adjacent to Pigeon Spire, we first undertook a taxing circuit of the Howser massif, where we confirmed the beauty of the South Tower's grand prow.
On August 8 we began the final push. We adhered to Yosemite wall-climbing methods - the leader hauling his pack on a spare rope and the second man carrying a rucksack, sometimes using prusik-knot loops for handholds at cruxes. "At the seventh pitch a single crack sliced the granite for 40 meters. Farther up, we climbed a chimney formed from an immense flake, then a long corner system that led to the sandy base of what we had already dubbed the Great White Headwall.
We tackled the formidable headwall's first pitch with positive energy, placing 16 pitons. That day I was more comfortable on the aid moves, while Chouinard continued with protean grace from a hanging belay in nylon stirrups to reach a chimney."Morning light stirred us into methodically ascending our fixed ropes. From our highest anchor, I climbed the left wall of a 'dihedral chimney' with the help of knifeblade pitons that I only trusted with my partner's shouted assurance.
Another chimney curved to the top of the headwall, which we climbed with glee, sensing a victory yet that day. We soon made a simple pendulum traverse to a broken gully, then clambered more easily onward, to reach the summit by mid-afternoon."Climbers now do the route in about 15 pitches, and mostly or all free. Few bivouac, but it's a big day!
Access: Bugaboo Provincial Park off Highway 95, near Brisco Guidebook: Bugaboo Rock: A Climbing Guide, by Randall Green and Joe Bensen
A signed copy of Fred Beckey's North American Climbs published by Patagonia (SRP: £60.00)
Two tickets (£12.50 each) to see Fred at the Kendal Mountain Festival
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