Legendary Climber Layton Kor Dies

Made first ascents of Castleton Tower, Naked Edge

Adam Roy

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Layton Kor, the legendary climber who established some of America’s hardest and most frightening routes during the 1950s and 60s, died on Sunday night. Kor, 74, had been fighting kidney failure and prostate cancer.

Born in Canby, Minnesota, Kor began his climbing career in Colorado’s Eldorado Canyon, where he established bold free and aid climbs like The Naked Edge and T2. Beginning in the 1960s, he took his act to the deserts of southern Utah, where he made the first ascents of cutting-edge routes on Moab’s sandstone spires, including Kor-Ingalls on Castleton Tower and Finger of Fate on the Titan, both of which were later featured in the seminal book Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.

Kor essentially quit climbing in 1968 when he became a Jehovah’s Witness, but came back to the sport later in his life. In 2009, when Kor was in his early 70s, he made the first ascent of a 150-foot tower near his home in Kingman, Arizona, with Stewart Green, Ed Webster, and Dennis Jump. “Climbing is hard to give up,” Green would later recall him saying. “It’s just as hard to give up as cigarettes.”

In his later years, Kor struggled with medical bills, including daily medications and thrice-weekly dialysis. Despite the efforts of fellow climbers who organized fundraisers for his benefit, his biographer, Cameron Burns, told Climbing that Kor died “essentially in poverty.”

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