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At 85, Fred Beckey climbs like a 30-year-old. Weathered old hands and a craggy face don’t hide any of those years, but his quick, graceful, and assured movements across the rock do, and he still possesses every ounce of the determination and skill that allowed him to rack up more first ascents than perhaps anyone ever.
Beckey began his climbing career in 1939, and he’s hardly slowed down since: He continues to put up grueling routes in the Cascades, Alaska Range, and the Sierras he favors, though he’s climbed all over the world. Climbers one-third his age are scrambling to join him on his next international trip, which will take him to Spain over the Christmas season, partially because he “hate(s) Christmas shopping.”
In this New York Times article, Beckey shares more than a few choice bits of wisdom from an old mountain man who’s outlasted most climbers from the generation after his:
“You’ve got to be physically pretty strong to be any good at it at all,” Beckey said. “You’ve got to have a hard-core mental attitude. You’ve got to have the right mantra. You’ve got to have dedication, a sense of security, safety and sensitivity with your partners, and a good sense of balance. It’s a combination of many, many things. You need to have the capability or desire to accept a certain amount of risk. A lot of it is maybe spiritual, not a religious type, but you have to have an affinity with the outdoors.”
“You’re putting yourself on the line. Man used to put himself on the line all the time. Nowadays we’re protected by the police, fire, everything. There’s not much adventure left. Unless you look for it.”
To complete his personal life list, Beckey hopes to conquer tough routes on Longs Peak as well as Mt. Assiniboine and Mt. Monarch in Canada. And if he ever gives up climbing—don’t bet on it—he says he’ll take up “serious hiking.”
In that case, I guess we should all prepare to get passed on the trail by a 105-year-old man in the near future.