Famed climber stops in for Tea

At a Trumbull College Master’s Tea on Tuesday, slideshows and stories of avalanches and deceptive weather transported those in attendance out of a crisp New England day to the snowy landscapes of the Canadian Rockies.

Fred Beckey, a famed 84-year-old mountaineer and guidebook author, spoke to about 20 students, focusing on his extensive climbing experience — not his age.

Mountaineer and “legend” Fred Beckey spoke on his love of the outdoors at a Trumbull College Master’s Tea yesterday.
Margaret Katcher
Mountaineer and “legend” Fred Beckey spoke on his love of the outdoors at a Trumbull College Master’s Tea yesterday.

Beckey said he started hiking when he was 12 and joined a Boy Scouts troop in Seattle, Wash., where he spent the majority of his childhood. Before long, he said, he discovered the joy of “scrambling around” in the outdoors.

“I was lucky that my parents moved when I was two from Germany to Seattle,” Beckey said. “I probably would have picked up golf or ping-pong if I had landed in Missouri.”

Beckey does not know exactly why he climbs but said it is simply “something of an obsession.” Even today, he continues to plan climbs and scale peaks around the world.

Beckey used the tea to discuss the negative impact of global warming on the environment. One slide he showed depicted an ice lake melting and breaking apart.

“I heard Rush Limbaugh say something the other day about ‘people who believe in global warming,’ ” Beckey said, pointing to the slide. “I’d tell him to go [to the lake] and he’ll see the global warming and even get his feet wet.”

As Beckey clicked through his slide show, he encouraged Yale students to pursue adventures like those he has experienced.

He said there is a peak in Adirondack Park in New York that has yet to be climbed, and scaling the mountain would earn any Yale student a well-deserved place in a guidebook.

In a question-and-answer session after his slide show, Beckey said he is unfazed by the danger inherent in an activity as risky as mountain climbing.

“I don’t know,” he said when asked how he manages his fear. “Focus. Some people can handle it, some can’t.”

Beckey said he does not have any single favorite climb. He defined himself to those in attendance as a “travelocity bug” who likes to travel to exotic locations in order to experience new things.

This last summer, for example, Beckey spent two weeks with Amar Vutha GRD ’11 climbing in the Andes, Vutha said. Vutha said he was in Ecuador when Beckey arrived, still in need of a climbing partner.

Vutha said he was impressed by Beckey’s ability to remember specific events from each of his treks.

“Listening to him talk about his slides … shows what makes him tick,” Vutha said.

Active climber Laura Fox LAW ’08 said she found Beckey’s description of his mountain-climbing career interesting.

“He’s a legend,” Fox said. “I enjoyed how the pictures he showed spanned the decades.”

Simply completing a climb — with its numerous adventures and misadventures — is enough to make Beckey feel successful, the climber said.

Sporting can only be truly rewarding when it takes place outdoors, he said to audience members.

“Gyms lack adventure,” he said.

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