Biography of Fred Beckey
Originally written on 07/11/2009 for a job interview.
Somewhat obscure and averse to fame and the public spotlight, with only visions of unclimbed mountain peaks, first ascents, new routes, and woman, Fred Beckey is a climbing legend.
Born as Friedrich Wolfgang Beckey on January 14th, 1923 in Germany, his parents moved to Seattle, WA when he was 3. It did not take long for the Cascade Mountain Range to take over his ambition and thoughts.
Often described as cranky, cantankerous, and other colorful adjectives, there is no question of his legendary status as a world-class climber, especially to other mountaineers. His climbing equipment, and often his style, are referred to as old-school and classic, and that fits the man who in his 80s, is still scouring the planet for unclimbed routes and peaks. For a man who is unofficially credited with over 1000 first ascents, he is humble and quiet about his accomplishments, preferring to talk about the next climb he is planning.
Beckey has climbed all over the world, from Alaska, Canada, China and the US. However his expertise and fame stem from the Cascade Mountains where much of his obsession and books came from.
He has written many books, but the ones about the Cascades are sought out for their detail and thoroughness. Climbers, many of them in their 20s and 30s, seek out the man and his word as guides and knowledge as they attempt to follow or create their own routes. Employing classic techniques, he uses hand drawn topographic maps and notes to plan and attempt first ascents. Eschewing guidebooks, he prefers the stories of others when climbing where someone beat him to a route.
Early in his life, he made the decision to live life his way, pursuing his passions, and creating becoming an enigma that pulls people into him, and around him, regardless of his hardened personality, that has soften somewhat in later years. In 1996, he and a couple of climbers were in a relatively unknown area of the Alaska Range, in the Cathedral Mountains. There plan was to climb the highest peak in the area: Mt Beckey (formerly peak 8500′).
For a man living away from the spotlight, it is fitting that his tribute, his peak, is a remote location that can leave his legendary status untouched.