Documentary in the works |

Documentary in the works

Amanda Fehd
Photos by Todd Offenbacher / Todd Offenbacher sits at the 13,000-foot base camp at Holy Lake with 83-year-old Fred Beckey.

Fred Beckey doesn’t know how many mountains he’s climbed. He doesn’t know how many routes are named after him. He doesn’t even know, or care, how old he is anymore.

All he knows is he wouldn’t want to sit on a couch all day, even if he is an octogenarian.

“Sports give you an objective, something to do,” Beckey said in an interview earlier this year with Web site “It’s how you burn a lot of energy. If you were just armchairing everything, it would be a drag. Most people do: their whole life is work, cooking and spectator sports.”

To this day, Beckey can still be spotted in Yosemite’s climber hangout Camp 4, rope in tow, looking for a partner, or a climb.

Climbing historians believe Beckey has likely put up more new routes than anyone else in history, somewhere in the ballpark of 500 routes, from small crags to snow-capped mountains. Alaska’s 8,500-foot Mount Beckey is named after him.

A climbing pioneer, Beckey was mentor to Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, and has tied up with countless other names.

Chouinard personally sponsored Beckey’s expedition to Haizi Mountain with a team of filmmakers from Through a Child’s Eyes Productions. Videographer Dave Oleski is working on a documentary of Beckey’s life with some help from the American Alpine Club.

Todd Offenbacher, a South Shore TV personality and climber, said when he met Beckey five years ago, he started thinking about ways to document the historic mountaineer’s life. He did some interviews, started gathering photos and looking for other interests. He got Oleski on board and hatched the trip to Tibet.

While Beckey was taken ill at base camp and unable to proceed up the mountain, he kept a close watch on the expedition. As they prepared to leave, Offenbacher said Beckey ticked off a checklist stored in his mountaineer’s brain of essential items they’d better not forget.

In the end, an American team never would have set the new route to the North Summit if it weren’t for Beckey’s knowledge of it and persistence that it should be done, Offenbacher said.

“None of us would have even known about it, or been inspired to do it, if it weren’t for Fred,” he said.

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