Fred Beckey

This is a piece I wrote for Climbing's "Hot Flashes" about a trip I made with Freddie in 1995. I was quite impressed with Fred: still as sharp as a tack when it comes to logistics of an expedtion, and incredibly fit. The first day we hiked over 8 miles on up and down terrain with pretty heavy packs (with only a little complaining). Of course, all his gear is archaic: frame packs, leather boots, and neoprene strap crampons.

Mt. Beckey in the Alaska Range climbed.

Calvin Hebert, John Middendorf, and Fred Beckey explored a relatively unknown area of the Alaska Range and climbed the highest peak in the area: Mt Beckey (formerly peak 8500'). We climbed the peak, which is located at coordinates North 62 degrees, 52 minutes, West 152 degrees, 15 minutes, from the west. In June, we flew into a small gravel strip at the base of Camp Creek where we met the proprietor of the Grandview Lodge, a remote hunting and fishing lodge which is accessible only by plane on the west side of the Alaskan Range. From there, we fought mosquitoes on our trek up and over a 5200' pass to the Cathedral Glacier, where we set up basecamp at appoximately 4500 feet. Fred's endurance of carrying heavy loads in his ancient framepack amazed me. Surrounding our basecamp, many beautiful unclimbed 1000 foot rock walls rose up, and although we had plenty of technical rock climbing gear delivered by airdrop, we opted instead to climb the mountaineering challenge of Peak 8500, mostly because of the unsettled weather. While waiting for several days for the weather to clear and shuttling heavy loads of the technical gear back to the Camp Creek area, Calvin and I joked, "It's a backpacking and sleeping adventure! with your host, Fred Beckey!"--a la the 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous' commentator. We climbed Peak 8500 on June 28th in whiteout, windless conditions. Just prior to roping up on the upper Cathedral glacier, Fred fell into a deep crevasse to his neck, and was heroically rescued by Calvin, who leaped over the crevasse in a flash and pulled Fred out. The crux of the route was a loose rock step, which Fred led (5.5X). It was nice to climb with Fred, with all his experiences in the mountains, and with whom every logistical aspect of climbing and living in the mountains was at all times thought out in detail. From the rock step a beautiful snow ridge led to the summit. The three of us had been alternating leads during the climb, and although Fred had been leading on the section just below the top, he stopped 20 feet short of the summit and allowed me to pass, in honor of it being my first Alaskan summit, whereupon I named the peak Mt. Beckey.

 

Fred Beckey has been climbing since the mid 1930's, and ever since his participation in the first ascent of Forbidden Peak in 1940, Fred has climbed countless first ascents all over the world. In America, Fred must be one of most prolific climbers in history, with probably over 1000 first ascents in North America alone. He was born in 1921 and climbs well to this day.

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