I don't know why I climb. Why does a guy stand for five hours in a river in Alaska, freezing his butt off, hoping to catch something? You can buy fish at the market cheaper, as we all know. I don't think I'm a climb-aholic. But there's maybe some kind of internal drive. Mountains grip me. Say you're driving, out from Nebraska or Kansas across the Great Plains, and the first sight of the Rockies gets you. Wham. There they are. They're beautiful. It's "Hey, I got to get my hands on them. Get tangled up in them." I've focused on first ascents because it's more of an adventure solving an unknown problem. There's no telling what may happen, or what the consequences will be. It's a commitment.
Fred Beckey, 85, has put up more than 1,000 first ascents. This year he plans to explore new routes in China.