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Happy Pub Day: Patagonia’s A MOUNTAINEER’S LIFE by Allen Steck

POSTED BY prbythebook ON October 24, 2017

One of the pioneers of climbing in the modern age, Allen Steck has had a remarkable journey through 54 years of climbing around the world, testing himself against wind, rain, rock and snow. Now 91 years of age, he reflects on his adventures in his first memoir, A Mountaineer’s Life from Patagonia.


Steck was 16 when he made his initial climb, a first ascent of Mount Maclure in the Sierras, with no hardware, no ropes, no experience. But the event turned his into a mountaineer’s life.
His prolific climbing career includes a 1954 expedition to Makalu, a 1963 first ascent of the south face of the Clyde Minaret, and a 1965 first ascent of the Hummingbird Ridge on Mount Logan. In 1967, with Steve Roper, he co-founded and edited
Ascent magazine. Two years later, his interest in the far reaches of the world led him to partner in Mountain Travel, America’s first true adventure travel company.

Over the years, Steck has seen monumental changes in the climbing scene. When he entered Yosemite Valley for the first time in 1947, the most difficult route yet done was the normal route on Higher Cathedral Spire, rated at 5.9. Not a single line had been done on El Capitan. He’s seen climbing gear change from soft iron pitons to hard steel pitons and wider aluminum bong-bongs to clean climbing with chocks of all shapes and sizes and “the ultimate shocker” with the invention of camming devices in 1971.

In A Mountaineer’s Life, the Oakland native reflects on how the perception of climbing in the United States has changed, writing, “When I started in 1946, climbing was little known or understood in America. Compare this to what climbing was like in France at the time, where the French Alpine Club was so vigorous that they easily funded an expedition to make the first ascent of Annapurna in 1950. In Yosemite Valley, climbing was simply tolerated; climbers had to check in with the rangers before attempting a route, and it was clear that they considered us rogues and vagabonds at best.”

A Mountaineer’s Life is filled with stories from the days when climbing was discovery, when men like Steck forged new routes, both literal and literary. With dry humor and detailed recall, he captures the excitement and intrigue of a time when there were few rules and no guidelines. As he says, “We do not deceive ourselves that we are engaging in an activity that is anything but debilitating, dangerous, euphoric, kinesthetic, expensive, frivolously essential, economically useless and totally without redeeming social significance. One should not probe for deeper meanings.”

With over 100 photographs, many published for the first time, this book is an anchor to the foundation of the life-changing sport of alpine climbing.

A Mountaineer’s Life is now available on and everywhere books are sold.




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