Remembering Fred Beckey

Fred Beckey inspired generations of climbers with his storied and prolific climbing career.  He leaves behind an incredible legacy through his insatiable curiosity for seeking the unknown through legendary first ascents. His adventures and guidebooks inspired countless people to a life of adventure.

By Katie Boué November 1, 2017

Fred Beckey was an American outdoor icon. Hailed seemingly unanimously as climbing’s ultimate icon and legend, Beckey was more than that. He pioneered what it means to be a dirtbag—in the best meaning of that word. He was a true pursuer of the unknown. Beckey shaped climbing culture—and by extension, outdoor culture—with his ambition, wit and unwavering friendship.

Knowingly or not, Beckey has touched the lives of every modern climber. If you’ve ever put on a harness, you’ve likely padded your way up one of his countless first ascents or found inspiration in his iconic images with signs that read “Will belay for food!” and “Absolutely No Rock Climbing.”

Outdoor Industry Association Executive Director Amy Roberts had a special connection to Beckey: “During my ‘year off’ to go climbing, I spent the winter living in Vegas and climbing at Red Rocks.  Fred would show up occasionally with a bag of instant potatoes in hand and crash on the couch.  Fred was always fun to have around because he was a walking encyclopedia of climbing routes and adventures, and he never lost his enthusiasm for another day of climbing.”

Here are some of the responses from around the outdoor community:

Nina Williams, professional climber, wrote on her Instagram: “Damn. Just heard that Fred Beckey has passed away. Sad news, but he certainly lived life with 100% passion. Fred’s dedication to climbing was rivaled by few… if any. He pursued the lifestyle for 94 years, contributing hundreds of first ascents and always looking towards the next horizon. I’ve always said I want to climb my whole life; if I can do a fraction of what Fred accomplished, I will be satisfied. RIP you legend.”

“A great American climber has passed. You were perhaps the greatest first acentionist of all time. Thank you, Fred Beckey. Rest in peace.” – The Access Fund

“Thanks Fred for bearing the torch; the light from which we all benefited.” – Conrad Anker

As our friends at the American Alpine Club so eloquently put it: “Off belay, Fred.” You will be deeply missed by outdoorists everywhere.
If you would like to add your thoughts, memories, photos and stories of Fred Beckey and his outdoor legacy to our tribute, please e-mail Katie Boué at kboue@outdoorindustry.org. We are so saddened by his death, but uplifted by the outpour of love and good memories for Fred. He will be missed.