logo

Inveniam viam aut faciam

- Hannibal Barca


image

Climbers

Oct 31, 2017

Fred Beckey, Legendary American Climber, Dies at 94

Fred Beckey, the American climber whose list of epic first ascents reads like a history of North American climbing in the twentieth century, passed away yesterday.

WRITTEN BY

Michael Levy

The East Ridge of Devil’s Thumb, in Alaska; El Matador, on Devils Tower in Wyoming; the Northeast Buttress of Mt. Slesse, in British Columbia; the West Ridge of Mount Hunter, in Alaska; The Beckey-Chouinard, on South Howser Tower in the Bugaboos, British Columbia. Fred Beckey’s climbs litter the ranges of North America, and the routes he authored tell the story of climbing in the twentieth century.

On Monday, October 30, Fred Beckey, one of the most prolific American climbers and a pioneering first ascentionist, passed away at 94 years old. Climbers young and old lamented the loss of the community’s elder-most statesman. And, up until his last day, Beckey was still gunning for more time in the mountains. In Outside magazine’s obituary, Beckey’s friend Megan Bond said, “We were planning another trip to the Himalaya for next spring. He had a lot more to do.”

While Beckey’s profile among dilettante climbers never reached the levels of his climbing contemporaries—like Edmund Hillary—or compatriots—like Yvon Chouinard—among serious climbers he was as revered as they come.

Fred Beckey hitchhiking and holding a sign that reads, “Will Belay for Food!” in South Lake Tahoe, California. Photo: Corey Rich.

Beckey was born in 1923 in Dusseldorf, Germany, and came to the United States with his parents at two years old. He cut his teeth climbing in the Pacific Northwest in the Cascades and the Waddington Range, and in 1942 made the second ascent of Mt. Waddington with his brother.

Perhaps his best year ever in the mountains was 1954, when he made the first ascents of Mount Hunter (4,442 meters) and Mount Deborah (3,761 meters), and pioneered a new route on Denali via the peak’s Northwest Buttress.

Though he roamed North America untrammeled and enjoyed unrivaled successes, Beckey’s climbing in the Himalayas invited controversy. On an expedition to Lhotse in 1955, Beckey left his ailing partner high on the mountain, ostensibly to go get help. According to an obituary in The New York Times, Beckey’s partner, “snow-blind and nearly frozen without a sleeping bag, was rescued by others, but it was a misadventure that Mr. Beckey never lived down.”

Fred Beckey during the 1955 Lhotse expedition. Photo: Fred Beckey archives.

Having been burned in the Himalayas, Beckey continued to focus on the shorter but harder hidden gems in the North American ranges. The 1960s were another fruitful decade for Beckey, with famous climbs like the first ascent of Mount Slesse’s Northeast Buttress, a route that would go on to be included in Steve roper and Allen Steck’s 50 Classic Climbs of North America. (Beckey established a disproportionate seven of the 50 classics on the list. Among them are his previously mentioned climbs on Mount Hunter, South Howser Tower and Devils Thumb.)

Fred Becky (left) with Eric Bjornstad. Photo: Courtesy of Eric Bjornstad.
Fred Beckey in the mountains. Photo: Don Liska.

In his later decades, Beckey maintained an undimmed passion for climbing of all types. A photo of Beckey in his early 80s, standing on the side of a road, draped in climbing gear and holding a cardboard sign upon which the words “Will Belay For food!!!” are scribbled gets to the heart of the man. Patagonia used the photo, taken by Corey Rich, in an advertisement in 2004. In “STORY BEHIND THE IMAGE: The Creative, Spontaneous Life of Fred Beckey,” Rich writes that the advertisement “really seemed to provoke a positive, emotional response in people. Part of that is because Fred really has set the bar for what it means to be dedicated to the climbing life, and this photo captures what Fred represents to the climbing community.”

“But,” Rich continues, “the real reason the photo works is that it goes beyond being just a representation of an abstract ideal; it captures who Fred is genuinely … This photo IS Fred Beckey, through and through.”

A documentary film about his life and climbs, Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey, is currently making the rounds at film festivals. Keep an eye out for a screening near you to learn more about Beckey and his singular influence on North American climbing.

Fred Beckey in front of Shiprock in 2016. Photo: Dave O’Leske.

Feature Image: A portrait of Fred Beckey, legendary first ascensionist, mountaineer and rock climber, in Lover’s Leap climbing area, just outside of Lake Tahoe, California in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Photo: Corey Rich.

Continue Reading

image

Adventure Travel

Jul 31, 2018

Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.

image

WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

 

“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”

 

For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

Subscribe here: https://www.outdoorjournal.com/in/subscribe/

loadContinue readingLess Reading

Recent Articles



Crag Caucus: Veterans and Politicians Rock Climb Together with American Alpine Club

The “Hill to Crag” event series connects veterans and legislators on rock climbing excursions to advocate for public lands. AAC Chairman and active-duty US Army Major Byron Harvison serves the beta.

Update: Following a Wave of Protests, China Postpones Lifting the Ban on the Use of Tiger and Rhino Parts

The use of rhino horn and tiger bone for medicinal uses was to be permitted again, which would have had a large impact on tiger and rhino endangerment.

The 2018 midterms: Colorado Voting Blue, Thinking Green

News From Boulder: Climate-conscious Jared Polis won the contest for governor, Democrats took control of the state Senate and then swept the highest state offices, but what does the “blue wave” mean for the environment?

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Advertising

Analytics

Other