The climbing world, photography world, and adventure world lost a legend recently when Tom Frost passed. Our own adventure photography maven, Corey Rich, wanted to share some words about Tom.
Descriptions like pioneer, legend, hero, giant, and polymath are pretty bold descriptions that often get tossed around. Tom Frost truly lived up to each of those descriptions.
On August 24, Tom lost his battle with cancer at a hospice near his home in Oakdale, California.
Tom was a friend, mentor, and giant in both the climbing and photography worlds. He was a pioneer during Yosemite’s Golden Age of climbing.He began climbing in Yosemite with the Stanford Alpine Club, and graduated from the prestigious university in 1958. That same year, Warren Harding had just completed the first ascent of El Capitan via the Nose. In 1960, Frost became part of the team that made the second ascent of the Nose.Frost went on to complete two more noteworthy ascents of El Capitan. In 1961, he joined up with Royal Robbins and Chuck Pratt and achieved the first ascent of the Salathé Wall, El Cap’s second route. In 1964, this same trio as well as Yvon Chouinard completed the first ascent of the North America Wall over nine days. This was considered El Capitan’s most difficult climb to date.His photography documented this era and these remarkable ascents with a preternatural ability for photographic storytelling unlike any I’ve ever seen in any photographer before or since. In my opinion, he was the most gifted adventure photographer in the world.Frost also had a background as an inventor, engineer, and businessman. In 1972 when he and Chouinard founded Great Pacific Ironworks and started to manufacture climbing gear. This company would ultimately give birth to both Patagonia and Black Diamond Equipment, the successful apparel and climbing-gear companies that we now know today. Later, he co-founded Chimera Lighting, based in Boulder, Colorado.What made Tom so remarkable, however, was undoubtedly his humility. He was an absolutely incredible human, as humble as they come, as caring and as genuine a person as I've ever met. Tom had a huge effect on me as a person. Calling Tom both a friend and a mentor has been one of the great honors of my life. He'll be missed by me and by many, many more.We'll miss you Tom.-Corey Rich
In the 100 years the National Park Service has been in existence, they’ve created 58 parks as well as 82 national monuments, providing a place for both recreation and conservation. In this homage to one of our greatest national resources, we explore the magnificent National Park system, which enables some truly spectacular and unique interactions between visitors and nature. Each park has it’s own story, and our photographers embrace them all, from icy glaciers in Alaska to fiery volcanoes in Hawaii.
Aurora contributor Tom Frost will be inducted into The American Alpine Club's 2016 Hall of Mountaineering Excellence during the Club's Inaugural Awards Dinner on May 7th, 2016. This prestigious accolade is given to those who have made lasting contributions both on and off the mountain. Climbers awarded have inspired a legacy for future climbers, positively impacted the environment, and advanced the fields of science and medicine, all while accomplishing incredible climbing feats.
Frost is being recognized for his efforts in saving Yosemite's iconic Camp 4 and his many first ascents in Yosemite including the Salathé Wall. The other inductees this year include Geoff Tabin, John Roskelley, Hugh Herr and Libby Sauter.
About Tom Frost
Tom Frost is an accomplished climber and photographer. He began making first ascents in Yosemite in the late 1950's climbing with American rock-climbing pioneers like Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt and Joe Fitschen. In 1961, Frost and Yvon Chouinard, one of the leading climbers of the 'Golden Age of Yosemite Climbing', visited Grand Teton National Park and made the first ascent of the northeast face of Disappointment Peak. That same year Frost, along with Robbins and Pratt, began the first ascent of the Salathé Wall on El Capitan. It took them a total of 11 days and 36 pitches of vertical climbing to finish the route. In October of 1964, with Robbins, Pratt and Chouinard, Frost made the first ascent of the North America Wall on El Capitan.
Frost is a longtime advocate of environmental ethics in climbing, using natural protection whenever possible, guided by respect for tradition and a desire to "leave no trace." He opposes what he believes to be excessive use of bolts by sport climbers, especially the altering of traditional climbing routes previously completed without such aids.
Frost played a critical role in the fight to save Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley, starting in 1997. He filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service to save the historic rock climbers' campsite with the support of the American Alpine Club. The effort was ultimately successful and Camp 4 was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Frost photographed many of his first ascents. Glen Denny, a mountaineering photographer and author of the book Yosemite in the Sixties, wrote of Frost's photographic achievements saying, "Most of the climbing photos you see now are prearranged setups for the camera on much-traveled routes. The impressive thing about Frost is that his classic images were seen, and photographed, during major first ascents. In those awesome situations he led, cleaned, hauled, day after day and--somehow--used his camera with the acuity of a Cartier-Bresson strolling about a piazza. Extremes of heat and cold, storm and high altitude, fear and exhaustion . . . it didn't matter. He didn't seem to feel the pressure."
In 1979, Frost co-founded Chimera Photographic Lighting with Gary Regester. The company, based in Boulder, CO, manufactures lighting products for photography and filming.
Royal Robbins offered the following description of Frost: "Tom is the kindest and gentlest and most generous person I have ever met, with never an ill word to say of anyone. He is also a man of courage and leadership, as witness his recent vanguard role in the effort to save Camp 4 in Yosemite. And he continues to possess the true spirit of climbing. Just a couple of years ago, at age 60, with his son, he climbed three big El Capitan routes, one of them the North American Wall."
The American Alpine club will be hosting the Excellence in Climbing Awards Dinner, presented by Adidas Outdoor, on May 7, 2016 at the History Colorado Center. To go along with the keynote and induction ceremony, attendees will enjoy a cocktail reception, live and silent auctions, libations and fine dining. All proceeds benefit The American Alpine Club Library and The Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum.
Tickets are limited for this event. For more information and to reserve your spot, head over to The American Alpine Club's website.
See more of Tom Frost's work here.
Kevin Brown, a gifted climber, Olympic level athletic trainer and veteran of Yosemite Big Walls recently passed away from an aggressive cancer at age 50. A man with a heart of gold, he left behind his wife Lori, two young children (Rachel 13 and Ryan 11 yrs) and countless friends. Recently, his climbing partners’ families gathered at the house of El Capitan speed ascent record holder Hans Florine in Yosemite National Park to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the place that Kevin loved so deeply. A highlight of the gathering was young Ryan’s first multi-pitch climb on the 5 pitch classic line "Nutcracker". He was led up the route by his Dad's three close climbing partners, Mike Carville, Christian Santelices and photographer Kevin Steele. Ryan is certainly following in his father's footsteps.
Click here to see the a selection of photos from Ryan's ascent.