Allen Steck

October 24, 2017
Hardcover, $35 US
256 pages with photos
ISBN: 978-1-938340-70-3
Nonfiction | Memoir | Climbing

Allen Steck (Bay Area, CA)

Legendary climber and author of A Mountaineer’s Life


Elena Meredith | | 512-481-7096 | Twitter: @elenameredith


Allen Steck, born in 1926, is an American mountaineer and rock climber. He has climbed around the world, with a number of first ascents, including the Steck-Salalthé Route up Sentinel Rock in Yosemite Valley, and Hummingbird Ridge in Alaska. Jointly with Norman Clyde, he was the first recipient of the Sierra Club’s Francis P. Farquhar Mountaineering Award in 1970. Also in 1970, he won the American Alpine Club’s Literary Award for co-authoring Fifty Classic Climbs of North America with Steve Roper.


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 memoir from Patagonia, A Mountaineer’s Life.

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.

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 reflection at 91 years young: Is climbing worth dying for?
  • Perspectives on John Salathé, the Swiss climber who first made hard-steel pitons and was known for his technical climbs in Yosemite
  • The years of publishing Ascent Magazine, 1966-1999
  • Steck’s most significant ascents:
    • Climbing in the Alps with Karl Lugmayer
    • Sentinel Rock with John Salathé
    • Waddington Range of British Columbia
    • Cordillera Blanca of Peru
    • The East Buttress of El Capitan
    • An attempt at the first climb on Makalu, Himalaya
    • A traverse of the Grand Tetons
    • First ascent of the Hummingbird Ridge, Yukon Territory
    • Third ascent of El Capitan’s Salathé Wall
    • Soviet International Mountaineering Camp in the Pamirs
    • First ascent of Pakistan’s Payu Peak
    • Climbing in Southern Algeria

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