|A display of Beckey's works at The Summit at Revolution|
Hall on Nov. 19.
While Fred Beckey may be known by most as the Northwest’s finest and most prolific climber, and a seminal figure in North American mountaineering, focus on his climbing career alone fails to capture his impact on, and contribution, to climbing. Over the course of seven decades, Fred has published a wide range of books, ranging from local and regional climbing guides, and historical treatises, to gripping personal narratives of his climbing adventures. His Cascade climbing alone provides a broad range of information (including history and geology for and astounding range of peaks, paving the way for countless amateur climbers and adventurers.
Fred Beckey begins his literary career with the Climber’s Guide to the Cascade and Olympic Mountains of Washington, published in 1949 by the American Alpine Club, the first comprehensive guide to Northwest peaks. After approaching the Seattle-based Mountaineers, the Alpine Club agreed to release a few thousand copies for a flat fee. A revised edition, as well as a supplement, followed in 1953, and again in 1960. In 1965 the Mountaineers published Beckey's and Eric Bjornstad’s Guide to Leavenworth Rock Climbing Areas. The Challenge of the North Cascades followed in 1969 and is often praised as his best work. The book chronicles his more than three decades of climbing and exploring the North Cascade peaks and countless first ascents (his bold second ascent of the formidable Mt. Waddington as a teen (“used felt pullovers on tennis shoes”) being notable. Four years later, Beckey published the first volume of the Cascade Alpine Guide, Columbia River to Stevens Pass. Volume Two, Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass followed in 1977, and Volume Three, Rainy Pass to Fraser River, in 1981. The series became known affectionately as the “Beckey Bible,” or simply, the “Beckey.” Now in its third edition, the books remain as popular as ever. Between Vols. One and Two, Beckey published the Darrington & Index Rock Climbing Guide in 1976.
In 1999 Becky and long-time guide Alex Van Steen published Climbing Mount Rainier, highlighting fifty alternate routes to the summit. In 2003 Beckey finished his most expansive project to date, the 563-page Range of Glaciers. Published by the Oregon Historical Society Press, the books is a comprehensive accounting of the nineteenth-century exploration and survey of the Northern Cascade Range. Beckey traveled widely in researching the book, visiting archives and libraries across the United States and Canada. In 2011 Patagonia Books published Fred Beckey’s 100 Favorite North American Climbs, a coffee-table-sized magnum opus. The book, filled with hand-drawn topos, photographs, narrative description, and plenty of notes, chronicles Beckey’s detailed knowledge of the mountains and climb routes he knows and loves.
Fred Beckey’s body of literary work is amazing and, unfortunately, often overlooked. His decades- long effort to document and share, in print, his experiences and travels are truly remarkable and represent an absolutely critical contribution to the Northwest climbing and exploration canon.