Climbing Pioneer Royal Robbins Died at 82 Yesterday

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Climbing Pioneer Royal Robbins Dies at Age 82
Royal & Liz Robbins in Yosemite, CA.

Legendary Yosemite pioneer climber Royal Robbins died yesterday in Modesto, CA at the age of 82.  Royal was born on February 3rd, 1935.

In 1957, in Yosemite Valley, Royal put up the first grade VI climb in the USA, the Northwest Face of Half Dome.

In 1963, Royal made the first ascent of the Salathé Wall on El Capitan – the hardest grade VI climb on Earth at the time.

Royal said this about climbing the Salathé:

“Our muscles tensed when we heard the air rushing across the rock face. Seconds later we were rudely buffeted by an incredibly strong and ferocious blast of wind. We worried lest our excellent Austrian bivouac sack should tear and leave us completely exposed to the elements. The wind blew in appalling gusts almost continuously, with occasional short periods of dead calm. Rain fell steadily, and whenever the wind died, the natural drainage asserted itself and we received a waterfall directly upon our heads. This tempest had been pound us for five hours.” – Royal Robbins

Royal Robbins

Royal was a major proponent of clean climbing – not using pitons nor bolts on climbing walls.

Royal was good friends with Yvon Chionard (Patagonia founder) and Doug Tompson (The North Face & Esprit founder).

In 1978, Royal developed psoriatic arthritis, which prevented him from any serious climbing.  So, he got into kayaking and hiked his kayak over Mount Whitney Pass, CA at 13,777′ and descended 55 miles down the Kern Trench along with many other impressive kayak descents in CA.

Royal Robbins founded a successful outdoor apparel company named after himself with his wife Liz Robbins:  Royal Robbins, LLC.

Royal Robbins in Yosemite, CA.

Royal wrote classic climbing books:  Basic Rockcraft and Advanced Rockcraft, along with 3 volumes of his memoirs.

Royal Robbins Notable Ascents

  • 1957 Northwest Face of Half Dome, Yosemite, CA, USA. First grade VI climb in America. With Mike Sherrick and Jerry Gallwas.[2]
  • 1961 Salathé Wall, El Capitan, Yosemite, CA, USA. Hardest big wall grade VI climb in world at time of first ascent. With Tom Frost and Chuck Pratt.[2]
  • 1962 American Direct, Aiguille du Dru, Mont Blanc Range, France. With Gary Hemming.
  • 1963 Direct NW Face of Half Dome, Yosemite, CA, USA. With Dick McCracken.[2]
  • 1963 Robbins Route, Mount Proboscis, Logan Mountains, NWT, Canada. With Jim McCarthy, Layton Kor and Dick McCracken.[3]
  • 1964 North America Wall, El Capitan, Yosemite, CA, USA. With Tom Frost, Chuck Pratt and Yvon Chouinard.[2]
  • 1964 North Face, Mount Hooker, Wind River Range, Wyoming, USA. With Dick McCracken and Charlie Raymond.
  • 1964 Danse Macabre, Devils Tower, Wyoming, USA.
  • 1964 Final Exam, Castle Rock, Boulder, CO, USA. With Pat Ament.
  • 1964 Athlete’s Feat, Castle Rock, Boulder, CO, USA.[4]
  • 1965 American Direttissima, Aiguille du Dru, Mont Blanc Range, France. With John Harlin.[5]
  • 1967 Nutcracker, Yosemite, CA, USA. An early all-nut protected route, now a Yosemite classic.
  • 1967 West Face, El Capitan, Yosemite Valley – First ascent with TM Herbert.[6]
  • 1967 North Face, VI 5.9 A3, Mount Geikie, Canadian Rockies, first ascent with John Hudson.[7]
  • 1967 North Face, Mount Edith Cavell, Canadian Rockies – First solo ascent.[6]
  • 1969 Mount Jeffers, Cathedral Spires, Kichatna Mountains, Alaska, USA. First ascent of peak with Fitschen and Raymond.[8]
  • 1969 The Prow, Washington Column, Yosemite, CA, USA. With Glen Denny.[2]
  • 1969 Tis-sa-ack, Half Dome, Yosemite, CA, USA. With Don Peterson.[2]
  • 1970 Arcturus, Half Dome, Yosemite, CA, USA. With Dick Dorworth.[2]

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