Rock climb in North America long enough and eventually you’ll see these words: The Beckey Route. Then you’ll see them again. And again. And you’ll start to notice the man’s name on damn near every page of every guidebook containing traditional and alpine climbs. And beside his name, you’ll see the words, “First Ascent.”
That’s because Fred Beckey is one of the most accomplished adventurists/rock climbers/people to ever look at cliffs and mountains and see a climbable lines. Anyone who fancies themselves a climbing bum likewise owes Beckey a debt of gratitude. He may have been the first to embrace the title and he sure as hell earned it.
He’s 93, has been climbing for 80 — yes, 80 — years, and still gets after it. His tick list has come at no small price. As he told The Wall Street Journal a few years ago, “I chose not to get involved with a marriage or getting a house or being encumbered by debt…I didn’t have to stick with a job. I’m sure I’ve sacrificed stuff—finances, romance, friendships. Everybody sacrifices something.”
Tales of those sacrifices, and the many climbs he pioneered, are sure to surface in a new documentary on Beckey, “Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey.” Director Dave O’Leske has been capturing footage of Beckey for a decade. He’s put a Kickstarter for the film until August 27, hoping to reach a goal of $75,000. Next time you see the words “The Beckey Route,” wouldn’t you like to know more about the man whose vision gave you that climb?