Art Higbee, a great climber, passes on.


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
This thread has been locked
Messages 1 - 53 of total 53 in this topic

Trad climber
Somewhere halfway over the rainbow
Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 19, 2010 - 08:23pm PT

By SeanKuus
From Steamboat Springs
10 minutes ago
Climbing Legend Art Higbee passed away last weekend in Hawaii, where he was working temporarily. Higbee suffered a heart attack. He was 55 years old.

Art was most widely known for his FFA of the most popular route up Half Dome, the Northwest Face. Art was an extremely humble man, and he will be sorely missed in the Steamboat Springs community as well as the greater climbing community.
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Jan 19, 2010 - 08:25pm PT
Sorry to hear about this. Best thoughts to family and friends.

Social climber
Jan 19, 2010 - 08:26pm PT
Way too young. RIP.

Big Wall climber
So Cal
Jan 19, 2010 - 08:43pm PT
Sorry to hear this. He was one of my early heros from the Half Dome exploits w/ Erickson and also from his & Chappy's ascent of Mark of Art, one of the burliest 5.10d's in Yosemite.

He left a lasting impression to be sure. RIP

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Jan 19, 2010 - 08:47pm PT
Sad news.
My condolences to Art's family and friends.


Jan 19, 2010 - 08:53pm PT
Wow, that's sad as that's way too young. My age. The "Higbee-headral" pitch stands out in my mind as one of the more memorable names of a route or a pitch on a route (half dome). Love to see some pictures if any of you old dads have any.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Jan 19, 2010 - 08:56pm PT
The "Higbee" dihedral, that mysterious space out beyond the Regular Route, beyond that area for mere mortals.


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Jan 19, 2010 - 08:58pm PT
Oh Man! Way too young. RIP
Swami Jr.

Trad climber
Bath, NY
Jan 19, 2010 - 09:15pm PT
loving thoughts to his family and friends.

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Jan 19, 2010 - 09:19pm PT
Oh no, that's a shame. He's so youthful in my recollections.

Sincere condolences to Art's family and close friends.
David Wilson

Jan 19, 2010 - 09:55pm PT
very sorry to hear this. condolences to art's family and friends. he was an early hero of mine, freeing routes in colorado and the northwest face...he's passed too young...

climber's near nevada...
Jan 19, 2010 - 09:57pm PT
sad news indeed - my condolences to the family and friends
Iron Mtn.

Trad climber
Corona, Ca.
Jan 19, 2010 - 10:13pm PT
Have fun in the Mountains in the Sky Art

Social climber
Jan 19, 2010 - 10:19pm PT
hey there say, thanks so very much for sharing this... another special piece of rock climbing history and someone's beloved friend and family-memeber...

say, pate: as to this, thanks so very much for the information, all adds up for folks like me to learn more about the man and his life:
Art was a friend of mine. He was crucial in developing the climbs at Dome Rock on Rabbit Ears Pass and other wilderness crags in the area. He also leaves a legacy of great Alpine type routes in the Zirkle Wilderness, including classic Yellow Wall on Mt. Zirkle, deep in the backcountry.

my condolences to his family...
god bless...

oh, last note, too:
(*thanks for the note about a chappy route, too)...

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Jan 19, 2010 - 11:44pm PT

Man, this year is not starting well. . .

My condolences to Art's family and friends.

Jan 19, 2010 - 11:50pm PT
As a KID I think it was National Geographic August 1977? That I stole from the Fullerton public library, this article was a big inspiration to my climbing, I never met him to thank him.
Thank You,
My You Rest In PEACE


Boulder climber
Gilbert, AZ
Jan 19, 2010 - 11:58pm PT
Wow. No kidding, 55 is way to young to keel over from a heart attack. RIP Art.

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jan 19, 2010 - 11:58pm PT
Terrible news.
Art was a truly great climber.

I remember him running up to me in C4 looking for a bolt for Half Dome.
"I know YOU'LL have a bolt!"

I thought the sad sequence of '09 was done.
Gather ye rosebuds,..

Mountain climber
hanging from a crimp and crying for my mama.
Jan 20, 2010 - 12:04am PT
I am so sorry for this tragic and unexpected loss. My condolences.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Jan 20, 2010 - 12:42am PT
Art was a pioneer and a true talent and had many friends. Paz.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 20, 2010 - 01:50am PT
sad news indeed. I never met Art Higbee, my only familiarity with him is through the Robert Godfrey documentary Free Climb where Higbee and Erickson make their audacious attempt to free the NW Face of Half Dome, swami belts, nuts and hexes, EBs... a lot of grit and heart.

You get some idea of both Art and Jim from that film.

"You pick your own goals by your own means, and then you try to go out and do it.
You're not sure that its possible, every move you have the doubt, but you push yourself through the doubt."
Higbee inteview.

Art is such a pure spirit in that documentary... it would have been great to have known him.


Trad climber
Fresno CA
Jan 20, 2010 - 02:37am PT
Terribly sad news. I have him perpetually in my mind in his early 20's (I'm three years older than he). It doesn't seem possible that he could have aged, much less passed on. My best thoughts and prayers for his family and friends.


Trad climber
The Tilted World
Jan 20, 2010 - 09:13am PT
Oh man…that is so sad…

I met Art Higbee at Devils Tower during my first climbing road trip back in 1993.

My friend John and I had climbed to the summit via the Durrance Route and Art and his partner (a cabinetmaker from CO, the name escapes me now) came up “some 5.10 on the other side.” We rappelled down as a whole group swapping jokes and stories and just generally laughing ourselves silly. After the second rappel, the cabinetmaker turned to me and said “You know who that is, don’t you?” I had only been climbing for about a year and did not know much. “That’s Art Higbee!” And then he proceeded to give me a quick history lesson. When we got to the ground, Art turned to us and said “If you dig this stuff, you really need to go check out Mt. Moran. That will wake you up.”

I remember Art as being humble and low key with a great sense of humor. This is a huge loss to our community.

Much love to his friends and family.

Trad climber
North Carolina
Jan 20, 2010 - 09:20am PT
RIP, Art.

Trad climber
Jan 20, 2010 - 11:32am PT
Art was a friend and a lasting inspiration to me ! RIP Art

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Jan 20, 2010 - 12:30pm PT
Back in the mid 70's, as a new climber, I was getting pumped and spanked regularly on 5.7's and 5.8's in the usual Boulder haunts. What I didn't realize at the time was that many of those late summer afternoons in Eldo were basically a red carpet viewing of what were to become some of the most famous climbers of that era. Wunsch, Erickson, Briggs, and the like were all crawling around those beautiful red behemoths almost every time I was up there. Of all of those hardmen, Art was the one that stood out, even just walking down the road. His easy smile and movie star good looks (that's what my girlfriend at the time thought) made him stand out in a crowd. His climbing, which I watched several times, can only be described as beautiful, confident, fluid strength.

I am the same age; early heroes that are of your same generation always hold a special place in your heart, allowing you to aspire to things above your current abilities and goals. I can't believe that he's gone.
ron gomez

Trad climber
Jan 20, 2010 - 01:26pm PT
A sad passing of yet another legend. Remember to stay in touch with those close to you, you never know when that opportunity will be gone in the physical world! Prayers and good Karma to his friends and family!
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jan 20, 2010 - 02:50pm PT
Anybody have any photos?

Art was a good guy. The Taco really comes into its own when it celebrates those individuals who, though obscure to most, serve as heroic examples in our small community. I hope Chris is not offended by my saying that gear reviews, flame fests, topos etc., pale in value compared to the content that holds forth appreciation of those who's passing leaves us with examples to aspire to.

My condolences to those close to Art.

Steamboat, CO
Jan 20, 2010 - 06:00pm PT
Hello all-

Marsh Gooding here- out in HI with Art's son, Tim. I grew up playing around in the mountains with Art. He was an incredible man and I learned a lot from him over the years. Any old pictures or stories about Art would be greatly appreciated. Tim is grateful for all of your kind words. Thanks.

We'll all see Art in the high country. RIP


Social climber
Jan 20, 2010 - 10:48pm PT
To Art's son Tim and his many friends I would like to say Art and I had a few great moments in the sun together. Our lives crossed, if ever so briefly, leaving me some great memories that shall endure until I too pass on into the "high country". I can hardly say we were close as our connection, with me living in the Valley and he from Colorado, never had the required time to mature into a more complete friendship. However, we did have that timeless bond of having shared a rope together on a few classic climbs that would have allowed us, had we had a chance to reconnect later in life, to recollect and laugh together as if we were best friends. Such is the magic of climbing. We met in the Mountain Room Bar I believe it was February 1974. He wanted to try and do some ice climbing. The weather wasn't cooperating so that led us to seek out the sun and do some rock climbing instead. What better place on a winter day than the base of El Cap? As eager as I to climb on new ground our ascent of Sacherer Cracker morphed into an attempt of the thin lieback flake that splits off it half way up. Paralel and hard to protect with nuts we both had a go at it before I finaly met with success. Thus was born The Mark of Art. Two climbers climbing as one with a shared goal. Each only as good as the other. We contemplated the Art of Mark but that seemed to pretentious. We then turned our attention to the Slab Happy Pinnacle. The right side had been freed of coarse by Sacherer and yielded a classic. Why not the left side? Perhaps another classic in waiting. If nothing else it is a compelling and beautiful feature of rock basking in the winter sun--a great place to explore. After dispensing an approach pitch or two I had the first crack at the crux pitch. I didn't make it and lowered off. In an inspired effort Art finished it. Two climbers again climbing as one. I launched out the roof of the final pitch clipping an old fixed angle for pro. It promptly fell out but I just kept jamming. The summit was ours. This was one of my all time favorite climbs. It was just Art and I, our swamis, two ropes and a rack off nuts off on an adventure with no idea what to expect. It couldn't have been any better. It seemed like a simpler time. I wish I would have had the chance to relive it with Art. I'll always cherish the memories...All the best Art.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 20, 2010 - 11:23pm PT
Art's FAs and FFAs in Yosemite Valley, some proud lines

The Mark of Art 5.10d FA 1974 Mark Chapman Art Higbee
Half Dome, Regular Northwest Face 5.9 C1 VI FA 1957 Royal Robbins Jerry Gallwas Mike Sherrick FFA 5.12 1976 Jim Erickson Art Higbee
Slab Happy Pinnacle, Left 5.8 A3 III FA 1962 Royal Robbins Jack Turner FFA 5.10d 1974 Mark Chapman Art Higbee
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Jan 21, 2010 - 03:58am PT
I used to boulder regularly with Art Higbee, Dave Breashears and Pat Adams on the sandstone walls of the Chamberlin Observatory near the University of Denver campus in the mid-70s just before Art and Erickson went out to the Valley for their Half Dome ascent. Remember him as very strong and motivated boulderer who was not afraid to go quite high above the nasty cement landings. We seemed to be of about the same level of ability, but I was way more c.s. about crash landing off the building.

It gets kinda uncomfortable when your contempories start fading out of the light. I guess I'll always remember Art as strong and young. That's the way memory is.

Social climber
Jan 21, 2010 - 04:23am PT
hey there mark/chappy... say, as to this part of all that wonderful shared adventure of you and art, this part is very sweet and special:
The summit was ours. This was one of my all time favorite climbs. It was just Art and I, our swamis, two ropes and a rack off nuts off on an adventure with no idea what to expect. It couldn't have been any better. It seemed like a simpler time. I wish I would have had the chance to relive it with Art. I'll always cherish the memories...All the best Art.

thanks for the share... and the kind rememberance of time well spent with a wonderful friend...

wow, very happy to see you here... tonight :)

Trad climber
Somewhere halfway over the rainbow
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 21, 2010 - 10:40am PT
Like YDPL8S as a young Colorado climber I grew up in the rarified air of the climbing luminaries of the 70s. Watching their accomplishments with slack jawed disbelief I learned how I wanted to climb. Art Higbee was an inspiration to me and countless other aspiring climbers. Rest in Peace.

Trad climber
san diego
Jan 21, 2010 - 11:58am PT
Sad to here he is gone so soon, to soon. It seems like yesterday, the HD achievement, shortly thereafter stopping to say hello/have-fun. To a rag-tag crew in the TM parking lot, on his way home to CO. Your father was a good man Tim. God Bless you!

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jan 21, 2010 - 01:01pm PT
This is sad news.

When Art and Jim Erickson were in the Valley in 1974, I got to know him a little. He was very engaging. The only climbing the three of us did together was trying to work out how to get started up "Crack-a-go-go." We each had different ways of using the holds and fed off each other's successes. Fun day. I had to leave the Valley for my teaching gig at RockCraft. I don't think I saw Art again after that. It seemed both impossible and inevitable that he and Jim climbed Half Dome free a few years later. Brought a big smile to my face.

Art was a very cool guy. My condolences to his family and friends.

Social climber
Steamboat Springs, Co
Jan 21, 2010 - 01:16pm PT
Hey guys, sorry to read about the loss in your community.

My name is Joel Reichenberger. I'm a sports reporter in Steamboat Springs and I'm trying to piece together a story about Art. I'd really like to track down some people that knew Art and climbed with him. If there's anyone here that knew him, I'd love to talk to you about the guy and all he was able to accomplish.

You can reach me at my office at 970-871-4253, or on my cell phone at 316-204-4094. Or, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at

Thank you very much for your help.
Joel Reichenberger

Gym climber
Steamboat Springs
Jan 21, 2010 - 01:16pm PT
Howdy Guys,

I live in Steamboat and was a good friend of Art. It is all so tragic that Art was really on the path to a better life and then this happened.

I am posting this in an attempt to find Mike Covington to make sure he knows of Art's death. Does anyone know where he is and how to make contact with him?

Thanks for your help.

Scott Berry
Double D

Jan 21, 2010 - 01:49pm PT
My condolences to all of Art’s family and friends. He was an inspiration to many and truly way ahead of his time.

Anne-Marie Rizzi

Jan 21, 2010 - 02:41pm PT
Art, Jim Erickson and brother Dave Erickson and I hung out quite a bit during their Valley trips. When Dave took a very bad fall and was hospitalized, Art and I shared Jim's Fresno motel room, in order to visit Dave. So many of the details of those adventures have faded, but I've always felt fondness for Art, Jim, and Dave.

What a shame. Hope he had a great life.


Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jan 21, 2010 - 10:06pm PT
got a hold of LK.
He says Mike is living in a teepee with an email address that he checks periodically.
Will send it if he finds it.

Social climber
Newport, OR
Jan 21, 2010 - 10:20pm PT
Gods be blessed, RIP ART.

Steamboat, CO
Jan 23, 2010 - 10:33am PT
Memorial service to be held from 4-7 PM on Saturday the 30th at the Community Center in Steamboat Springs. All are welcome.
Mike S

Social climber
Boulder, CO
Jan 29, 2010 - 01:39pm PT
… I lived with Art for years in the 70’s. Thanks for the post about his passing. - I’m just now beginning to learn about building websites, and so much came up for me, thought I might just build one around my memories of him. Got a little carried away, but thought some might find it interesting to learn of his early years and life outside of climbing - Mike Schnatz. http://www.

Still fixing some typos, etc. , but you can find it at :

Trad climber
Slartibartfasts Newest Fjiord
Jan 29, 2010 - 01:48pm PT

Proof once again that the good die young. RIP Art.

Sincere condolences to family and friends.

And listen to Tami!

Steamboat Springs, CO
Jan 29, 2010 - 09:43pm PT
Wow, Arthur, I miss your unique self!

Thanks Marsh for keeping us up to date. Sending love to Tim.

Thanks for the wonderful article in the paper Joel.

And thanks for the website Mike, I am laughing and crying about the stories. I hope folks keep adding to it!

See you tomorrow,
WZ Luna

Social climber
Steamboat to the WORLD
Jan 30, 2010 - 01:34am PT

It's hard to imagine Steamboat - or Alaska or Moab or Mexico without Art in them. He couldn't spell, but he sure could cast a spell over each of us.

Tim, I am deeply sorry. Thanks for all the great times with Art - and you.
Do you remember ... ?

Thanks to all for the photos and stories.

Rest in peace, Art.
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Jan 30, 2010 - 11:18am PT

I met Art only once, but knew him by his climbs and reputation in the 70’s. I don’t think it’s been mentioned yet that he pioneered some of the early hard free climbs in the Bugaboos.

I am very sorry to hear of his death and offer my condolences to his family and friends.

Rick Accomazzo

Mountain climber
Jan 31, 2010 - 08:04pm PT
I know I'm coming in late in the game here but I just found out about this site. I climbed with Art in the 70's along with Brian Daniell, Al Johnson, and many others. Brian, Art and I went up to Mt. Robson in 77(?) to attempt the Emperor Face( then unclimbed) but were met with fresh snowfall and
hourly avalanches. We did, however summit one of the satellite peaks and spent a glorious bivy under the aurora. The next day on the way down the glacier, Art as the third guy on the rope stopped me twice in one hour from sliding into the crevasses. Brian would go first as the lightweight and I was next. Brian would make it across then I'd fall in. Thank God for Art's 6"2" and 200 lbs. You felt safe with Art on the other end of the rope. Your gear, however wasn't always safe and you kinda had to take an inventory at the end of the climb. A minor glitch for a solid partner. The dome near Steamboat that was mentioned was first discovered by a pilot friend of ours named Jim McGee who was actually on his first solo flight and spotted it from the air. Later he asked us why we didn't climb on that big rock up there. We said, what rock. So he took us up when he got his license. Next day Art, me, Brian, A.J. and Jim hiked in and there it was, the best rock in the area. I wonder if anybody is climbing the 250' tower south of the dome near the bottom of Silver Creek canyon? I called it Godzilla rock because of it's shape from above and we hardly put up any routes on it before I moved out to CA. Art would have loved this attention and these many tributes and thank you all for bringing back those great memories. CBC
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Feb 1, 2010 - 10:36pm PT
Art and I climbed some but not as much as we should have. I knew
him better in spirit than in the flesh of actual climbs. The memory
is of a happy smile, a lot of energy, a climber who -- by sheer love
and desire -- transcended his own levels of ability. He and Erickson
were a perfect team, because they both have always had some type of
twisted smile fixed in their countenance, a smile that speaks of how
much they enjoyed each other and enjoyed life. Art. What a name. He was
an artist. He had everything he needed and he didn't look back.

right here, right now
Jul 21, 2012 - 12:57pm PT
Bump for more stories about Art Higbee!

Boulder climber
Oct 8, 2012 - 05:39pm PT
Sad to learn of Art's passing so long afterwards. Art was my brother-in-law for a few years & introduced me to ice climbing at Fish Creek Falls. He led wearing tennis shoes as he had loaned me his crampons. We skiied Howelson and Steamboat...many good memories. RIP Art.

Oct 9, 2012 - 10:16pm PT
Watched the video of the NW Regular route on Half Dome with Robert Redford narrating too many times to count. Really enjoyed Art's commentary, he seemed totally laid back and well just a climber.

My condolences to his family and Jim Erikson.

~Tony Mayse
Messages 1 - 53 of total 53 in this topic
Return to Forum List
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Route Beta