Northwest climbing icon presents program in Olympia

Northwest mountaineering legend Fred Beckey will share memories from his 75 years of climbing during a program Feb. 11 at The Evergreen State College in Olympia.

Beckey will present “The Mountains of North America,” a multimedia program of photos, videos and stories, detailing some of the first ascents he made of mountains in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Now 92 years old, Beckey was born in Dusseldorf, Germany. At the age of 2, his family emigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Seattle.

As a teenager in the 1930s, he began his climbing career making first ascents in the North Cascades. Beckey is credited with making hundreds of first ascents, more than any other North American climber.

Among his climbing achievements:

• During a trip to Alaska in 1954, he established a difficult new route up the unclimbed northwest buttress of Mount McKinley, and then went on to make the first ascents of mounts Deborah and Hunter.

• In the 1960s, Beckey established many new routes in the Canadian Rockies, including the north face of Mount Edith Cavell, and many now-classic routes in the Bugaboo Mountains of British Columbia's Interior Range.

• In 1996, he and two fellow climbers made the first ascent of Mount Beckey, named in his honor, in the Cathedral Mountain in Alaska.

Never married, and without children, Beckey devoted his life to climbing.

Yvon Chouinard, founder of the Patagonia company, has described Fred Beckey as the most prolific climber in the history of mountaineering. The two climbed together in the Canadian Rockies in 1961.

“Fred has done more first ascents than any other human has, or ever will. He is the essence of climbing,” Chouimard said in a documentary film on Beckey. “He's never done it for money or fame. He does it because he loves it, absolutely loves it. Fred climbs for the joy of it.”

Still climbing, Beckey also is the author of numerous climbing guides. His first climbing guide to the Cascade and Olympic Mountains was published in 1949, and his three-volume Cascade Alpine Guide, affectionately known as "Beckey's Bible," is in its third edition.

Beckey is the 2015 recipient of the American Alpine Club's prestigious President's Gold Medal for his lifetime achievements in mountaineering. This award has been presented only three times in the 115-year history of the American Alpine Club.