10th Mountain vet, legendary climber

Passing Date: 
Monday, October 30, 2017

Friedrich Wolfgang Beckey, the 10th Mountain Division veteran who, over a 70-year climbing career put up more first ascents than any other North American, died October 30 in Seattle. He was 94 years old.

Beckey was born in Düsseldorf, Germany and the family moved to Seattle in 1925. With his younger brother Helmut (Helmy), he began climbing in the Cascades. By 1939 the brothers had achieved national fame for difficult first ascents, especially in British Columbia.

Beckey joined the 10th Mountain Division in 1942. After the war he earned a degree in business administration at the University of Washington, but abandoned a business career to climb full time. Thereafter he supported himself with casual part-time jobs and writing. He published some 13 climbing guidebooks over the decades, culminating in the massive history Range of Glaciers (2003, Oregon Historical Society).

He was still climbing at age 93, and in 2017 was the subject of a feature documentary film, Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey.

Beckey never married or had children. He is survived by his brother Helmut.

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