But he didn't. He just kept going.
And, in fact, at 88, Seattle-based Beckey is still rock climbing.
"I just came back from a trip to the Utah desert and did some climbing there," Beckey said. "We had pretty good weather."
Beckey will talk about his favorite climbs Nov. 12 at the Mountaineers' annual awards banquet the Medallion Hotel at Smokey Point.
The event is open to the public. Register by Wednesday if you want to attend.
Look out at the Cascade Range from Snohomish County and you might be looking at a peak first traveled by Beckey, a man who is nothing short of a legend among climbers not just in the Northwest, where he's been a pioneer of peaks, but around the country.
Beckey is frequently described as a world-record holder for the number of first ascents by a single climber.
He has been revered by local mountaineers for decades for his ability to not only conquer countless peaks, but to also accurately chronicle his routes in detail so that others may quite literally follow in his footsteps.
In his many books, most notably, his three-volume Cascade Alpine Guide, Beckey is the voice of a man who's out there on the peaks in person. But he's also a seasoned author, a historian, a guide.
His succinct Cascades guides, now in third editions with Mountaineers Books, still lead members of the Everett branch of the Mountaineers to safe summits across the state.
Among many climbers, they are called, without irony, bibles.
His latest book, billed as his magnum opus, comes out this month, courtesy of outdoor apparel and gear company Patagonia.
"Fred Beckey's 100 Favorite North American Climbs" includes color photographs, and a mix of natural history, climbing lore and route tips for his top 100 climbs, plus 40 extra climbs of note.
During his talk at the Mountaineers event, Beckey will share some of his favorite climbing stories and slides, including peaks in the Cascades, Canadian Rockies and the Sierra Nevada range.
"It would be nice to put more pictures in of the Cascades," Beckey said. "But I really can't do it until I go to a digital format. I'll probably go to a digital format next year."
When pressed to name his favorite climb of all time after so many years in the mountains, Beckey refused.
"I don't think I've climbed any rock more than four for five times," he said. "I've only climbed Rainier about six times. I like to diversify and go different places.
"It's more about the discovery."
Beckey does have a soft spot for Forbidden Peak.
A sharp, horn-shaped summit strewn with glaciers deep in the Cascades south of Ross Lake, Forbidden was Beckey's first of many first ascents.
Beckey and his partners tried to climb the peak in April 1940, but were thwarted by dangerous cornice formations and snow problems. They tried again that June and succeeded.
Some of his other first ascents in the North Cascades include, to name a few, Nooksack Tower, Liberty Bell, the north ridge of Mount Baker, the complete north ridge of Mount Stuart, the south face of Cathedral Peak and, in Oregon, the Yocum Ridge on Mount Hood, according to his biography on HistoryLink.org.
Beckey has continued to climb over the years often with younger companions who, like him, haven't been too bogged down by spouses or offspring.
And few people his age even want to climb.
Right now, Beckey would really like to check out some peaks in China.
"The climbing opportunities are incredible over there," he said, adding that he'll keep climbing if he can find the time, financing and partners.
"I'll probably just keep at it as long as I can."
Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037; email@example.com.
What: The Everett branch of the Mountaineers will host Fred Beckey as the keynote speaker at their annual banquet and presentation, which is open to the public. Bring copies of your own Beckey books for a signing.
When: Nov. 12. Social hour begins at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m.
Where: Medallion Hotel, 16710 Smokey Point Blvd., Arlington.
Cost: Tickets cost $34. To register go to everettmountaineers.org. Register by 5 p.m. Wednesday if you want to attend. Tickets will not be sold at the door.
Questions? Contact Carrie Strandell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-420-2114.
Read more: See a detailed Beckey biography at www.historylink.org.
"Fred Beckey's 100 Favorite North American Climbs" is due out Nov. 18 from outdoor apparel and gear company Patagonia for $60. Go to www.patagonia.org or tinyurl.com/beckeysbook.
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