Last week, I had a chance to get out on the cliffs of Squamish with a man who needs no introduction to the area: Fred Beckey. In fact Fred is largely responsible for introducing the rest of the world to Squamish. Since the late fifties, when the Sea to Sky highway was just a fresh dirt track, Fred and company would explore the Chief and eventually open such timeless classics as Angels Crest, Squamish Buttress and Calculus crack. For Fred, Squamish, Index and Leavenworth were ideal training areas for his great ascents in the mountains of Western North America: Devils Thumb, Mt. Deborah, Edith Cavell N Face, South Howser Tower W Buttress, Forbidden Peak, Slesse N Buttress just to name a few. It seem though that he has never tired of returning to these crags and enjoying the simple pleasures of getting in a few pitches on a sunny spring day.
For our climb we chose Jeremy Frimer and co.’s excellently crafted new route: Rambles. As usual, the crux for Fred was shaking off the cobwebs and getting the first coffee of the day into his veins, then like a well traveled locomotive he chugged his way to the cliffs and started rolling.
Just imagine if at ninety you had this much tenacity!
Or this much style…
Fred climbed the route with the focus of a veteran and the gumption of a rookie. Atop pitch two we were passed by a pair of young soloists, one of them did the double take as he saw Fred, more than four times his age, hanging out at the stance. “Are you the legendary Fred Beckey?” he asked without hiding the admiration in his voice. “Hi… how you doing?” was all Fred would muster. But after the youths had passed Fred grumbled with a little admiration of his own “pretty good climbers, eh?”
Without breaking any speed records we made it to the last pitch and began the rappels. At the anchor of the second pitch Fred insisted that I lower him, not to speed up the process but rather to reclimb the crux which had stymied him on the way up. As I lowered him into position I couldn’t help but root for this guy who has been at it all his life and at ninety, still wants to go out there and get some. Fred dispatched the crux with panache and we finished the raps sans soucie. What an honor and an inspiration to get out with the old man of the mountains…Keep crankin’ Fred!