Climbing legend and West Seattle High School alumnus Fred Beckey dies at 94

That New York Times video from 2008 tells the story of Fred Beckey, a climbing legend and West Seattle High School alumnus who has died at age 94. (Thanks to James for e-mailing to ensure we had heard.) Mr. Beckey’s obituary published tonight on Outside Online says he is “widely hailed as North America’s most prolific climber and mountaineer” – in the history books for a multitude of “first ascents.” Before he was inducted into the West Seattle High School Hall of Fame in 2014, this bio was written to explain why he should be part of it (he was in the WSHS Class of 1941); it notes there’s even a mountain named after him (Mt. Beckey in Alaska). Mr. Beckey also recently became the subject of a documentary about his lifelong obsession with climbing:

The Seattle Times reports that Mr. Beckey died today at the home of a longtime friend. According to the obituary for Mr. Beckey, his many other climbing companions included Lloyd Anderson, who co-founded REI while living in West Seattle. Mr. Beckey was still climbing in recent years, and was a prolific guidebook writer, as noted on the page that tells his story.

9 Replies to "Climbing legend and West Seattle High School alumnus Fred Beckey dies at 94"

  • Mark October 30, 2017 (10:45 pm)

    I knew Fred for almost 38 years and was fortunate enough to have climbed with him a few times. He was a true Northwesterner, a legendary explorer and mountaineer who wrote the definitive guidebooks to his beloved Cascades. A relentless, driven climber, Fred amassed more first ascents in the mountains than anyone ever has or likely ever will.  He was enigmatic, controversial at times, and had quite the reputation as a lady’s man.

    R.I.P, Fred, the world is a duller place without you.

  • Molly October 30, 2017 (11:56 pm)

    My brother helped produce the documentary on Fred’s life. I had the privilege of meeting Fred over the last few years. Quite the character. Amazing how much he’s contributed to the climbing community. RIP Fred!! 

  • Jeff October 31, 2017 (7:28 am)

    There an the old saying regarding risk in the mountains: “there are old climbers and there are bold climbers, but there are no old bold climbers*”

    *Except Fred Beckey

    What a life and body of work.  RIP.

  • montanapup October 31, 2017 (8:49 am)

    Fred, RIP.

    I hear there’s some secret unclimbed peaks where you’re headed,  Of course, you’ve probably already scouted it all out and written down somewhere on a random piece of paper.  I’m sure you’ll get there first, Have a beer. The ladies are already well aware of your prowess and long reach, they are expecting you. We’re going to miss you Fred, take care. 

  • Peter October 31, 2017 (10:08 am)

    Happy to see Fred’s passing was noted on WSB.  Sad that NYT had a much better obit write-up than Seattle Times.  Although I knew this day was coming soon, it still hurts because Fred was one of my heroes  from the time I first laced up some climbing boots many years ago.  I strongly encourage anyone with more than a passing interest in West Seattle history to read up on this extraordinary man  who became a worldwide legend in the climbing community. 

    I was very glad I got to see DirtBag when it played at the Seattle Mountaineers, even though we were told that Fred “wasn’t doing too well”, during the Q/A after the film.

    RIP Fred.  That last long approach is a real …  

  • Blinkyjoe October 31, 2017 (10:34 am)

    Between Fred, The Whittakers, Ed Veisturs, etc, etc, West Seattle has spawned more than a few great climbers. ‘Freedom of the Hills” and Fred’s guidebooks were the most dog-eared books in my house back in the 80’s. RIP, Fred.

  • Mark October 31, 2017 (1:15 pm)

    He got closer to the heavens, top of mountains, than most of us.  May he rest in peace looking down at the mountain peaks he conquered

  • R0b0 October 31, 2017 (4:48 pm)

    Dirtbag is a great doc and really makes you feel like you get to know the legendary climber and character Fred Beckey. The filmmakers say they have tons of stuff that couldn’t fit in the movie. Hopefully they find the time and resources to put it online. 

    I was just at a wedding in Bishop, CA and of course Fred’s name came up in some great stories from the veteran climbers there. What a well lived life! 

  • Craig November 1, 2017 (5:50 pm)

    In Dharma Bums Kerouac quotes the famous Zen saying,

     “When you reach the top of the mountain, keep climbing”

    Fred followed this path literally and figuratively.



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