Art Higbee, a great climber, passes on.


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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.


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