Been there |

Been there

The Associated PressAspen, CO Colorado

BOISE, Idaho – They’re out there still in West – never-been-climbed summits where a human has yet to set foot.But not many remain in the Lower 48, say some of the country’s most prolific peak baggers, who have left a trail of pitons, rock cairns and summit registers in their wakes.”Most anything that has a nontechnical way up, most of those mountain tops have been accessed at this point in the game,” said Kirk Bachman, a climbing guide in Idaho’s rugged interior with Sawtooth Mountain Guides. “But as you get into more of the remote backcountry, there is probably still some opportunity there.”They just may be lesser-known peaks.”I doubt there are any major summits left,” said Eric Simonson of International Mountain Guides, based in Ashford, Wash. “But there are probably some subsidiary summits, and there are probably some spires on ridges.”No one group is cataloging what’s been climbed and what remains.”We don’t keep a list of what’s left, and nobody I know does,” said Gary Landeck, library director at the American Alpine Club in Golden, Colo. “Everybody relies on self-reporting, so nobody knows for sure whether certain peaks have been climbed before.””I would think that there has to be some,” said Tom Lopez, who has written a climbing guide to Idaho. “But if people know about them they’re less likely to talk about them.”Opportunities to be the first atop a peak in the Lower 48 have mostly disappeared thanks to early adventurers such as Fred Beckey, a legendary figure in the mountain-climbing community who has been assaulting peaks and spires with remarkable dedication for most of his 80 plus years, bushwhacking into the base of climbs before roads or trails existed.Beckey, who said his exact age is a secret, estimates he has some 400 to 500 first ascents.Of unclimbed peaks in the Lower 48, he said, “I can’t think of anything worth talking about.”Still, even he said some remote climbs remain on isolated towers.”If I were to go back and look for a few tower climbs, I would float down the Green [River in Utah] with a few days’ provisions. If I need more adventure some coming fall season, I might just do that.”Determining who made a first ascent is often open to speculation. The West has been inhabited for thousands of years, and then waves of backcountry explorers came through in the 1800s. Even peaks that require special gear and skills could have been climbed at some early point.”Sometimes you’ll see a rappel sling that indicates someone has been there,” said Glenn Kessler, lead climbing ranger at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state. “I’m guessing there are a few peaks. But you would never know if you’re the first one there.”Bachman has left peaks without a trace of his visits.”I definitely think that in the Idaho style of mountaineering, a lot of stuff goes unsaid and unreported,” he said. “It kind of leaves that impression to the next person that it has never been climbed.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User