Fifty Classic Climbs of North America

Fifty Classic Climbs of North America is a climbing guidebook and history written by Steve Roper and Allen Steck.[1] It is considered a classic piece of climbing literature, known to many climbers as simply "The Book",[2] and has served as an inspiration for more recent climbing books, such as Mark Kroese's Fifty Favorite Climbs.[3] Though much of the book's contents are now out of date, it is still recognized as a definitive text which goes beyond the traditional guidebook.

Fifty Classic Climbs of North America
Cover of first paperback edition. Dick Long on the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock.
AuthorSteve Roper
Allen Steck
CountryUnited States
PublisherSierra Club Books
Publication date
Media typePrint

The first edition was published in 1979, by Sierra Club Books in the United States and in Great Britain by the now defunct Diadem Books. This was followed by a paperback printing by Random House in 1981. Two subsequent editions (with the same content) were published by Sierra Club Books in 1982 and 1996. Between 1979 and 1999 it sold nearly thirty thousand copies, a considerable achievement for a climbing guide book.[2]

Reviewing the book in American Alpine Journal, Fred Beckey wrote: "Roper and Steck have presented a profile of what could be considered the Great American Dream climbs with a writing style that provides much Lebensraum for speculation and meditation. While reading, one is tempted to meditate: the challenge of the alpine adventure is always there; the dreams of the various pioneers sometimes filter through the narrative."[4]

Roper and Steck received the American Alpine Club's 1995 Literary Award for the book and for their other works such as The Best of Ascent.[5]

To choose the list of climbs, the coauthors solicited opinions from a number of leading climbers of the era, narrowing a list of more than 100 climbs according to three basic criteria: that the peak or route appear striking from afar, have a noteworthy climbing history, and offer climbing of excellent quality. Precedence was given to climbing quality over appearance, and appearance over historical significance. In order to judge historical significance and continuing popularity, routes were limited for the most part to those first ascended before 1970. A lower limit on the length of the route, at 500 feet, was also established. Steck and Roper had personally ascended or attempted most of the selected routes.[6]

The list of fifty climbs has served as a challenge to climbers, providing them with a "tick list" of challenging routes that span a wide section of western North America. Author Steve Roper has emphasized that the climbs were chosen from a list of about 120 climbs he and Steck considered classic, and are simply '50 classic climbs', not 'the 50 classics'.[2] Nevertheless, the book brought great popularity to many of the routes it featured, and prospective climbers pursuing one of the "fifty classics" often found crowds on the more accessible climbs and unexpected company on the more remote routes, earning them the nickname "Fifty Crowded Climbs".[7]

No one person has yet climbed all fifty routes. This has been attributed to the difficulty of some of the Alaskan and Canadian routes (the Hummingbird Ridge of Mount Logan has never been repeated by the original route[8]).

The Fifty Classics

The fifty climbs included in the book are listed below, along with their grades as given in the first edition, which may differ from those found in a modern guidebook due to changes in climbing standards or route conditions.

Alaska and the Yukon

  1. Mount Saint Elias, Abruzzi Ridge
  2. Mount Fairweather, Carpé Ridge
  3. Mount Hunter, West Ridge
  4. Denali, Cassin Ridge
  5. Moose’s Tooth, West Ridge
  6. Mount Huntington, West Face 5.9 A2 with “severe snow and ice”
  7. Mount Logan, Hummingbird Ridge
  8. Middle Triple Peak, East Buttress VI 5.9 A3

Western Canada

  1. Mount Sir Donald, Northwest Arete III 5.2
  2. Bugaboo Spire, East Ridge III 5.7
  3. South Howser Tower, West Buttress V 5.8 A2 or 5.10
  4. Mount Robson, Wishbone Arete V 5.6
  5. Mount Edith Cavell, North Face IV 5.7
  6. Mount Alberta, Japanese Route V 5.6
  7. Mount Temple, East Ridge IV 5.7
  8. Mount Waddington, South Face V 5.7
  9. Devils Thumb, East Ridge IV 5.6
  10. Lotus Flower Tower V 5.8 A2 or 5.10
  11. Slesse Mountain, Northeast Buttress V 5.9 A2


  1. Mount Rainier, Liberty Ridge
  2. Forbidden Peak, West Ridge II 5.6
  3. Mount Shuksan, Price Glacier
  4. Mount Stuart, North Ridge III 5.9
  5. Liberty Bell Mountain, Liberty Crack V 5.9 A3



Utah & New Mexico



  1. Roper, Steve; Allen Steck (1979). Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. ISBN 0-87156-292-8.
  2. Jonathan Waterman (2002). The Quotable Climber. Globe Pequot. pp. 97–99. ISBN 1-58574-542-1.
  3. Mark Kroese (2001). Fifty Favorite Climbs: The Ultimate North American Tick List. The Mountaineers Books. ISBN 0-89886-728-2.
  4. Fred Beckey (1980). "Fifty Classic Climbs of North America (review)" (PDF). American Alpine Journal: 663–665.
  5. Allen Steck, John Martin Meek (interviewer) (December 3, 1995). Allen Steck: Fifty Classic Climbs.
  6. Fifty Classic Climbs, "Introduction", pp. ix-xi
  7. George Bell. "Fifty Crowded Climbs". Ascent (89).
  8. Dougald MacDonald. "60 British Classics in 36 Days". Climbing. Archived from the original on 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
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