Allen Steck

Allen Steck (born 1926) is an American mountaineer and rock climber. He is a native of Oakland, California.

Allen Steck
Personal information
Oakland, California
Climbing career
Type of climberMountaineer, rock climber
First ascentsSoutheast Face (Clyde Minaret)
Named routesSteck-Salathé Route (Sentinel Rock)


Steck started climbing with his brother George. In 1940 when Allen was 14, the two completed the first ascent of the northwest ridge of Mount Maclure (12,886 feet (3,928 m)). He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Discharged in 1946, he joined the Rock Climbing Section of the Sierra Club, and began climbing on Berkeley crags such as Indian Rock and Cragmont. He enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in German. His early climbing influences included Dick Leonard and David Brower.

He began climbing in Yosemite Valley in 1947, initially learning the use of pitons by trial and error. He said that at that time, there "was no body of people who could help you learn these things." He has been a Life Member of the Sierra Club since 1947.[1]

In 1949, he climbed in the Alps, completing the first ascent by an American of the Comici route on the north face of the Cima Grande in the Dolomites together with his Austrian friend Karl Lugmayer.[2]

Sentinel Rock
Sentinel Rock in Yosemite Valley

From June 30 to July 4, 1950, with John Salathé, he completed the first ascent of Steck-Salathé Route up the 1,600-foot (490 m) north face of Sentinel Rock in Yosemite Valley.[3] Steck described the climb in an article originally published in the Sierra Club Bulletin in 1951: "The ascent of this wall was probably the toughest that either of us had ever made, or ever hoped to make again. Though John has 51 years to my 24, the climb seemed to have little effect on his endurance; only toward the end of the third day, did he seem to show signs of wear, but then both of us were ready to acknowledge the pleasures of simple back country hiking. It was just too damned hot".[4]

In 1952, he went to work at a Berkeley ski, mountaineering and backpacking store called The Ski Hut, and later worked for their equipment manufacturing division Trailwise. He specialized in sleeping bag design.

Steck participated in the first attempt on Makalu in Nepal which was made by an American team led by William Siri in the spring of 1954. The expedition was composed of members of the Sierra Club and was called the California Himalayan Expedition to Makalu. This was the first major American mountaineering expedition to the Himalaya. They attempted the southeast ridge but were turned back at 7,100 m (23,300 ft) by a constant barrage of storms, as well as food shortages and lack of bottled oxygen.[5]

On June 22, 1963, he completed the first ascent of the 1,000-foot (300 m) Southeast Face of Clyde Minaret (12,281 feet (3,743 m)) with Dick Long, John Evans and Chuck Wilts.[6]

On August 6, 1965, he completed the first ascent of Hummingbird Ridge on Mount Logan (19,850 feet (6,050 m)) in the St. Elias Range located on the border between the Yukon and Alaska, a climb that took 35 days. The climb has never been repeated, despite numerous attempts, and is considered among of the most challenging climbs in mountaineering history for that reason. Mount Logan is the second-highest peak in North America. He was accompanied to the summit by Dick Long, John Evans, Jim Wilson, Frank Coale and Paul Bacon.[7]

In 1969, he co-founded Mountain Travel with Leo LeBon. The company is now known as Mountain Travel Sobek.

In July, 1970, Steck and Doug Robinson completed the first ascent of the "Doors of Perception" route on North Palisade rated III 5.8, described as "the most striking feature on the northeast face of the mountain" and "one of the most aesthetic lines in the Sierra." [8]

Along with Steve Roper, he has been the long-time editor of the mountaineering journal Ascent, which was originally published by the Sierra Club and later by the American Alpine Club. Steck and Roper also wrote the book Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, first published in 1979.


Jointly with Norman Clyde, he was the first recipient of the Sierra Club's Francis P. Farquhar Mountaineering Award in 1970.[9]

In 1995, he won the American Alpine Club's Literary Award for co-authoring Fifty Classic Climbs of North America with Steve Roper.[10]

He celebrated his 70th birthday by reascending the Steck-Salathé Route. His nickname is "the Silver Fox." [11]

Allen celebrated his 75th birthday by meeting up with a large group of friends at Red Rocks, climbing classics like the Crimson Crysalis, Lotta Balls and the chimneys of Epinephrine. Allen also gave a slide show at Desert Rock Sports of the first ascent of the Hummingbird Ridge of Mt. Logan - slides that had been in storage since the early 1960s.

At 86, Steck was still gym climbing twice a week, public speaking, and occasionally visiting the high peaks.[12]

His memoir, A Mountaineer's Life, was published by Patagonia in 2017.[13]


  1. ^ Brower, David (editor) (November 1947). "The Sierra Club: A Handbook". Sierra Club Bulletin. San Francisco: Sierra Club. 32 (10): 104.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Jones, Chris, Climbing in North America, (University of California Press and American Alpine Club, Berkeley, 1976) ISBN 0-520-02976-3
  3. ^ Roper, Steve and Steck, Allen, Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, pp. 243–8 (Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1979) ISBN 0-87156-292-8
  4. ^ Steck, Allen (1995) [1973]. "Ordeal by Piton". In Galen Rowell (ed.). The Vertical World of Yosemite. Berkeley, CA: Wilderness Press. pp. 21–28. ISBN 0-911824-87-1.
  5. ^ Duane, Daniel (September–October 2005). "Career Climber". Sierra Magazine. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
  6. ^ Roper, Steve and Steck, Allen, Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, pp. 288–93 (Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1979) ISBN 0-87156-292-8
  7. ^ Roper, Steve and Steck, Allen, Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, pp. 37–41 (Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1979) ISBN 0-87156-292-8
  8. ^ Porcella, Stephen F.; Burns, Cameron M. (1998). Climbing California's Fourteeners. Seattle, WA: The Mountaineers. pp. 189 and 201. ISBN 0-89886-555-7.
  9. ^ Sierra Club Awards – List by Award
  10. ^ Roper, Steve and Steck, Allen, Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, (Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1979) ISBN 0-87156-292-8
  11. ^ "Mountain Travel Sobek: Our Heritage". Archived from the original on 2009-10-24. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
  12. ^ Senior Athletes: Allen Steck
  13. ^ "A Mountaineer's Life by Allen Steck". Patagonia. ISBN 9781938340703. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
Anderl Heckmair

Andreas "Anderl" Heckmair (October 12, 1906 – February 1, 2005) was a German mountain climber and guide who led the first successful ascent of the Eiger north face in July 1938.

Crestone Needle

Crestone Needle is a high mountain summit of the Crestones in the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The 14,203-foot (4,329 m) fourteener is located 6.9 miles (11.1 km) east-southeast (bearing 108°) of the Town of Crestone in Saguache County, Colorado, United States. The Crestones are a cluster of high summits in the Sangre de Cristo Range, comprising Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, Kit Carson Peak, Challenger Point, Humboldt Peak, and Columbia Point. They are usually accessed from common trailheads.

D1 (Longs Peak)

The D1 is the original technical climbing route up The Diamond of Longs Peak. In 1954, when National Park Service was petitioned to allow climbing on The Diamond they responded with an official closure. Climbing on The Diamond was banned until 1960. When the ban was lifted later that year, Dave Rearick and Bob Kamps were the first to climb the Diamond via a route that would come to be known simply as D1. This route would later be listed in Allen Steck and Steve Roper's influential book Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. Today the route is not necessarily regarded as the best of its grade on The Diamond, some consider other routes to be of higher quality. The easiest and most popular route on the face, the Casual Route (5.10-), was first climbed in 1977.

Fifty Classic Climbs of North America

Fifty Classic Climbs of North America is a climbing guidebook and history written by Steve Roper and Allen Steck. It is considered a classic piece of climbing literature, known to many climbers as simply "The Book", and has served as an inspiration for more recent climbing books, such as Mark Kroese's Fifty Favorite Climbs. Though much of the book's contents are now out of date, it is still recognized as a definitive text which goes beyond the traditional guidebook.

The first edition was published in 1979, by Sierra Club Books in the United States and in Great Britain by the now defunct Diadem Books. This was followed by a paperback printing by Random House in 1981. Two subsequent editions (with the same content) were published by Sierra Club Books in 1982 and 1996. Between 1979 and 1999 it sold nearly thirty thousand copies, a considerable achievement for a climbing guide book.Reviewing the book in American Alpine Journal, Fred Beckey wrote: "Roper and Steck have presented a profile of what could be considered the Great American Dream climbs with a writing style that provides much Lebensraum for speculation and meditation. While reading, one is tempted to meditate: the challenge of the alpine adventure is always there; the dreams of the various pioneers sometimes filter through the narrative."Roper and Steck received the American Alpine Club's 1995 Literary Award for the book and for their other works such as The Best of Ascent.To choose the list of climbs, the coauthors solicited opinions from a number of leading climbers of the era, narrowing a list of more than 100 climbs according to three basic criteria: that the peak or route appear striking from afar, have a noteworthy climbing history, and offer climbing of excellent quality. Precedence was given to climbing quality over appearance, and appearance over historical significance. In order to judge historical significance and continuing popularity, routes were limited for the most part to those first ascended before 1970. A lower limit on the length of the route, at 500 feet, was also established. Steck and Roper had personally ascended or attempted most of the selected routes.The list of fifty climbs has served as a challenge to climbers, providing them with a "tick list" of challenging routes that span a wide section of western North America. Author Steve Roper has emphasized that the climbs were chosen from a list of about 120 climbs he and Steck considered classic, and are simply '50 classic climbs', not 'the 50 classics'. Nevertheless, the book brought great popularity to many of the routes it featured, and prospective climbers pursuing one of the "fifty classics" often found crowds on the more accessible climbs and unexpected company on the more remote routes, earning them the nickname "Fifty Crowded Climbs".No one person has yet climbed all fifty routes. This has been attributed to the difficulty of some of the Alaskan and Canadian routes (the Hummingbird Ridge of Mount Logan has never been repeated by the original route).

Francis P. Farquhar Mountaineering Award

The Francis P. Farquhar Mountaineering Award is given by the Sierra Club, and is named after club leader, historian and mountaineer Francis P. Farquhar. According to the Sierra Club, this award "honors an individual's contribution to mountaineering and enhancement of the Club's prestige in this field". It was first given in 1970.

Award winners

1970 Norman Clyde and Allen Steck

1971 Richard Leonard

1972 Jules Eichorn

1973 Glen Dawson

1974 Nicholas Clinch and Marjorie Farquhar

1977 Galen Rowell

1978 John and Ruth Mendenhall

1979 William E. Siri

1981 Sam Fink

1982 Arlene Blum

1983 Steve Roper

1985 Richard Hechtel

1987 Lotte Kramer

1988 Gordon Benner

1994 Randy Danta and Doug Mantle

2001 Andrew J. Smatko

2003 Barbara Lilley

2005 Gerry Roach

2010 Greg Vernon

2011 Royal Robbins

2012 Tina Bowman

2013 R. J. Secor

John Salathé

John Salathé (June 14, 1899 – 1993) was an American pioneering rock climber, blacksmith, and the inventor of the modern piton.

Longs Peak

Longs Peak (Arapaho: Neníisótoyóú’u) is a high and prominent mountain summit in the northern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The 14,259-foot (4346 m) fourteener is located in the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness, 9.6 miles (15.5 km) southwest by south (bearing 209°) of the Town of Estes Park, Colorado, United States. Longs Peak is the northmost "fourteener" in the Rocky Mountains and the highest point in Boulder County and Rocky Mountain National Park. The mountain was named in honor of explorer Stephen Harriman Long and is featured on the Colorado state quarter.


Makalu is the fifth highest mountain in the world at 8,485 metres (27,838 ft). It is located in the Mahalangur Himalayas 19 km (12 mi) southeast of Mount Everest, on the border between Nepal and Tibet Autonomous Region, China. One of the eight-thousanders, Makalu is an isolated peak whose shape is a four-sided pyramid.

Makalu has two notable subsidiary peaks. Kangchungtse, or Makalu II (7,678 m) lies about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) north-northwest of the main summit. Rising about 5 km (3.1 mi) north-northeast of the main summit across a broad plateau, and connected to Kangchungtse by a narrow, 7,200 m saddle, is Chomo Lonzo (7,804 m).

Mount Logan

Mount Logan () is the highest mountain in Canada and the second-highest peak in North America, after Denali. The mountain was named after Sir William Edmond Logan, a Canadian geologist and founder of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). Mount Logan is located within Kluane National Park Reserve in southwestern Yukon, less than 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of the Yukon–Alaska border. Mount Logan is the source of the Hubbard and Logan glaciers. Logan is believed to have the largest base circumference of any non-volcanic mountain on Earth (a large number of shield volcanoes are much larger in size and mass), including a massif with eleven peaks over 5,000 metres (16,400 ft).Due to active tectonic uplifting, Mount Logan is still rising in height. Before 1992, the exact elevation of Mount Logan was unknown and measurements ranged from 5,959 to 6,050 metres (19,551 to 19,849 ft). In May 1992, a GSC expedition climbed Mount Logan and fixed the current height of 5,959 metres (19,551 ft) using GPS.Temperatures are extremely low on and near Mount Logan. On the 5,000-metre-high (16,000 ft) plateau, air temperature hovers around −45 °C (−49 °F) in the winter and reaches near freezing in summer with the median temperature for the year around −27 °C (−17 °F). Minimal snow melt leads to a significant ice cap, reaching almost 300 metres (980 ft) in certain spots.

Mount Pomiu

Mount Pomiu is a mountain in Sichuan province, South East China.

The mountain is 5413 m (17,759 ft) high, and is also known as Celestial Peak, and is found in The Four Girls (Signuniang) Nature Reserve.

The highest mountain in The Four Girls Nature Reserve is 'The Four Girls Mountain' (Mount Siguniang), which is 6,240–6,250 m tall.

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier (pronounced: ), also known as Tahoma or Tacoma, is a large active stratovolcano located 59 miles (95 km) south-southeast of Seattle, in the Mount Rainier National Park. With a summit elevation of 14,411 ft (4,392 m), it is the highest mountain in the U.S. state of Washington, and of the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, it is the most topographically prominent mountain in the continental United States and the first in the Cascade Volcanic Arc.

Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and it is on the Decade Volcano list. Because of its large amount of glacial ice, Mt. Rainier could produce massive lahars that could threaten the entire Puyallup River valley. "About 80,000 people and their homes are at risk in Mount Rainier’s lahar-hazard zones."

Sentinel Rock

Sentinel Rock is a granitic peak in Yosemite National Park, California, United States. It towers over Yosemite Valley, opposite Yosemite Falls. Sentinel Rock lies 0.7 miles (1.1 km) northwest of Sentinel Dome.

Slesse Mountain

Slesse Mountain, usually referred to as Mount Slesse, is a mountain just north of the US-Canada border, in the Cascade Mountains of British Columbia, near the town of Chilliwack. It is notable for its large, steep local relief. For example, its west face drops over 1,950 m (6,398 ft) to Slesse Creek in less than 3 km (2 mi). It is also famous for its huge Northeast Buttress; see the climbing notes below. The name means "fang" in the Halkomelem language. Notable nearby mountains include Mount Rexford and Canadian Border Peak in British Columbia, and American Border Peak, Mount Shuksan, and Mount Baker, all in the US state of Washington.

Southeast Face (Clyde Minaret)

The Southeast Face of Clyde Minaret is a technical rock climbing route on Clyde Minaret near Mammoth Lakes, CA and is featured in Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.

Steck-Salathé Route

The Steck-Salathé Route is a technical climbing route up Sentinel Rock. The route was first climbed June 30 - July 4, 1950, by Allen Steck and John Salathé, up the 1,600-foot (490 m) north face of Sentinel Rock in Yosemite Valley.

The route is recognized in the historic climbing text Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. The route is famous for its large cracks: out of 18 pitches, 15 feature either offwidth cracks or squeeze chimneys, including what is arguably the most famous squeeze chimney in the world.

Derek Hersey died while free soloing the route in 1993.

Steve Roper

Steve Roper is a noted climber and historian of the Sierra Nevada in the United States. He along with Allen Steck are the founding editors of the Sierra Club journal Ascent.

Roper is the winner of the Sierra Club's Francis P. Farquhar Mountaineering Award for 1983.

He is also, with Allen Steck, the recipient of the American Alpine Club's Literary Award (1995).

The Diamond (Longs Peak)

The Diamond is the sheer and prominent east face of Longs Peak and named for the shape of the cliff. The face has a vertical gain of more than 900 feet (270 m) all above an elevation of 13,000 feet (4,000 m). It is a world-famous alpine climb.

Tom Higgins (rock climber)

Thomas John Higgins (November 7, 1944 – March 21, 2018) was an American rock climber with many first and first free ascents primarily in the western United States. He was noted for pushing standards using a purist, free climbing style.


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