RIP R J Secor


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Messages 1 - 68 of total 68 in this topic

Mountain climber
Park City, Utah
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 6, 2017 - 06:37pm PT
Lots of knowledge and passion for the Sierras and Orizaba.
Solid and old school.

Nov 6, 2017 - 06:45pm PT
Sorry to hear this. He indeed had a passion for the Range of Light.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 6, 2017 - 06:48pm PT
this is sad news

he made a wonderful contribution to the climbing community as a writer of guides, and they will remain a great legacy

Social climber
Nov 6, 2017 - 06:52pm PT
hey there say, choptoe, ed, and all...

my condolences and prayers for his family and loved ones,

say, is this the SAME?? RJ, that posts here???


Sport climber
Sands Motel , Las Vegas
Nov 6, 2017 - 06:56pm PT
neebee...Yeah ...that's the same RJ...He's in a better place...rj

Trad climber
Redwood City, CA
Nov 6, 2017 - 06:59pm PT
This is really sad news. I used to see RJ up on Mt Baldy often (although I wasn't there the day of his unfortunate crash into the rocks at the bottom of the snowfield) and was on various Sierra Club or SCMA trips with him. He was a unique character and completely devoted to the Sierras. His books fueled many adventures for climbers, peak baggers and backpackers. I moved away from LA over 20 years ago, and only saw him once after his accident. He was recovering, but it was sad to see the core focus of his life circumscribed by his injuries.

Sport climber
Sands Motel , Las Vegas
Nov 6, 2017 - 07:04pm PT
neebee...just kidding ..different RJ...Rotbrain is still alive...rjohnny...

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Nov 6, 2017 - 07:15pm PT
RJ was quite a singular character. Had some interesting climbs with him at Tahquitz. He was totally at home in the Sierra.

The accident was bad, it must have something to do with this.

Rest In Peace.

edit: Jody, yeah I saw that photo when he was at the Kaiser facility near MacArthur Park. It was a good thing.

Nov 6, 2017 - 07:23pm PT
Dang... most of my beta in my younger years came from RJ sources! RIP

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Nov 6, 2017 - 07:50pm PT
I saw him quite a while ago at an SCMA Becky show. The effects of his accident were obvious, and he left halfway through. That was a terrible misfortune, he'd probably be going strong if that had not happened.

Having done a guide for a relatively small area, I can attest to the fact that his Sierra guides, and his relentless pursuit to improve them through new editions, represent a monumental effort.

RIP, Good man.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Nov 6, 2017 - 08:31pm PT
The fact that everyone refers to his guide by his name is a fitting honor. His work will live on for generations.


Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
Nov 6, 2017 - 08:50pm PT

The fact that everyone refers to his guide by his name is a fitting honor.


Rest in peace R.J.

beneath the valley of ultravegans
Nov 6, 2017 - 09:00pm PT
I'd been sensing a disturbance in the Force lately, but damn, this has been a heavy fall. See you on the other side, RJ.

Mountain climber
Bishop, CA
Nov 6, 2017 - 09:12pm PT
What is the source of this news?

Mountain climber
Palo Alto, Ca
Nov 6, 2017 - 09:16pm PT
So sorry to hear this. His guidebook on the Sierra is still my first go-to book for Sierra trip. Anybody know how this came to pass? Would someone please post a link to the news?

Mountain climber
Sherman Oaks, CA
Nov 6, 2017 - 09:52pm PT
Sorry to hear about RJ. We could fill this thread with RJ stories. But my most memorable story was driving back from Yosemite late one Sunday night. His van had a flat tire and RJ didn't have a spare. We drove around Bakersfield most of the night looking for a cheap used tire. We got back to LA in time to see sunrise. That trip might be best forgotten but RJ will surely be missed.

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Nov 6, 2017 - 10:19pm PT
The fact that everyone refers to his guide by his name is a fitting honor. His work will live on for generations.

I will be surprised if anyone tries to do another comprehensive guide to the Sierra like Secor's.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Nov 6, 2017 - 10:33pm PT
agree with Kris on that. That's a huge work.

Rest well.

Social climber
Nov 7, 2017 - 12:19am PT
hey there say, rottingjohnny... say, thank you for clearing that up...
that's okay... not to worry, all if fixed now, :)

also, say:
to each and everyone, thank you for sharing about your friend RJ Secor,
and thus, teaching folks like me, about the wonderful things that
folks like him, have shared for the climbing and greatoutdoors...

i'd never know... sharing your friend, keeps his
life'work alive, for his memory, to be honored...

thank, and again, my condolences, to his family and loved ones...

Trad climber
Nov 7, 2017 - 12:29am PT
Having done a guide for a relatively small area, I can attest to the fact that his Sierra guides, and his relentless pursuit to improve them through new editions, represent a monumental effort.

Roger that. He put a lot of work into his guide books. Condolences to family and friends. Many a Sierra peak bagger relied on his books to get them up.

Trad climber
No. Tahoe
Nov 7, 2017 - 08:33am PT
So sorry to hear. I’ve used his book as a reference for countless adventures.

Mountain climber
Nov 7, 2017 - 09:02am PT
The accident was bad, it must have something to do with this.

Gary, I heard that he had not been doing well lately.
Before his accident, I would see RJ working out on the Mt. Wilson toll road. He was always training with a huge pack on.
I had been on a couple of trips to the Sierra with him as well.
His accident was bad, and did take a toll on him.
However, the last time I saw him was at a Caltech Alpine Club function. This was probably five years ago. He was looking as well as can be expected. He came up to me, and remembered my name.
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Nov 7, 2017 - 09:09am PT
Roger that. He put a lot of work into his guide books. Condolences to family and friends. Many a Sierra peak bagger relied on his books to get them up.
Agreed. One would see various gripes about his guide on different forums but they always struck me as coming from people who 1) wanted their hand held, 2) probably lacked basic route finding skills, and 3) failed to understand the magnitude of chronicling a place as big as the Sierra. I always appreciated his guide and wish I had more time to get out there and use it. In a different life it would be great to do nothing but wander the range and gather information to share with others, but that's what people like Roper and Secor are for. A dying breed perhaps, no pun intended.

Trad climber
Idyllwild, California
Nov 7, 2017 - 09:10am PT
So very sorry to hear this.

I have known RJ since the mid 70's through the RCS and later SCMA. He was the Honorary Member of SCMA mostly for his huge Sierra, Mexican Volcanoes and Aconcagua guide books. RJ traveled to a lot of places around the world to hike and climb. But Sierra was his place and every summer he did huge month or longer trips there gathering data for his guides.

He knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish regarding the Sierra guide series and would not be derailed from including hikes, cross country routes as well as climbs. He could be pretty stubborn. I think he was in nomination for the Pulitzer for the first edition.

RJ and I spent wonderful 5 weeks in Argentina in 1998. He was very well known in the climbing scene in Mendoza and spoke Spanish well. We tried the seldom attempted but wonderful Ibanez-Marmillod route on Aconcagua, gave up half way up the Grajales Couloir in terrible weather. This was one of the best trips I have ever had outside of the US.

I will miss RJ. He was an individual, doing things his way and seeing things clearly. RIP.

Ken M

Mountain climber
Los Angeles, Ca
Nov 7, 2017 - 10:54am PT
This post on while RJ was recovering warmed my heart and made me feel like I had helped in one small way on his road back.

His mom specifically wanted me to thank for her, Jody Langford and Kurt Wedberg, who both arranged to have beautifully crafted photographs of the Sierra enlarged for RJ's wall. He seems to focus on them specifically!
--Ken Murray, M.D.

Jody, thanks for posting this quote of mine. Your and Kurt's actions meant a lot to him, as was a big contribution to his recovery.

I'd run into RJ from time to time, and talked to him on the phone occasionally. He never seemed to completely recover from his accident, and to my knowledge, never climbed again. His mom and dad, interesting people in their own right, were anchors for him, and their deaths in recent years clearly had a big impact upon him. They were highly religious people, although I did not see that rubbing off on him. Perhaps that gave him some solace with their passing.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Nov 7, 2017 - 11:28am PT
:( RIP and thank you for all the knowledge and work you put into the Sierra Guide.

Nov 7, 2017 - 11:38am PT
Secor's guide to the Sierra is the source of a long running affectionate joke about understatement.

"Ascend the east face"

Whenever we'd be somewhere with maps / topos / beta somewhat less detailed than what would be preferred, we'd joke about this.

That guy was a master of less is more.

Sorry to hear of his passing, what a body of work he left us with. Much appreciated.


Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Nov 7, 2017 - 12:17pm PT
What is the source of this news?

A report on the SCMA website. There's absolutely nothing else on the Internet. Not that that means much, after the accident RJ became even more of a recluse than before.

If this is true, I wonder who will take on the task of relieving all those JMT hikers of their excess food?

Social climber
NZ -> SB,CA -> Zurich
Nov 7, 2017 - 12:34pm PT
This is sad news. He was a huge influence. I blame his guides for my having spent a bit of time going up and down volcanoes in Mexico. Great times.

Cheers and RIP,

Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Nov 7, 2017 - 01:04pm PT
Not that Orizaba is a difficult peak to figure out, but it was RJ that gave us a clue.

RIP and condolences.

Trad climber
the middle of CA
Nov 7, 2017 - 01:25pm PT
Such a bummer, I always wanted to meet him.

I was hoping for edition after edition and worry there will never be another attempt at a guide like his in my lifetime.

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 7, 2017 - 01:36pm PT
Rest in peace friend.

Hell, seems like not too many left,..

Trad climber
Idyllwild, California
Nov 7, 2017 - 01:49pm PT
When the Sierra Club decided in 1986 to eliminate technical climbing from their outing program, RJ was one of the first people to call for a new club to be set up out of the ashes of RCS. He wanted to name it "Sierra Club My Ass" or SCMA. Cooler heads prevailed and the club was born as Southern California Mountaineers Association. RJ could be very funny at times...

Mountain climber
Colorado Springs, CO
Nov 7, 2017 - 01:49pm PT
[Posting the notice of RJ getting the Sierra Club's Farquhar Award.]
The 2013 Francis P. Farquhar Mountaineering Award Going to Mountaineer & Author R.J. Secor

Mr. Secor is a prolific mountain climber with numerous ascents throughout the American and Canadian mountain West and Mexico, as well as mountain adventures in South America, the Himalayas and the Karakoram. In 1997 he became the second person (now four) to have twice climbed the 247 peaks on the Angeles Chapter’s Sierra Peaks Section’s peaks list. However, his nomination for the Francis Farquhar Mountaineering Award rests principally upon his authorship of “The High Sierra – Peaks, Passes and Trails.”
This massively detailed guidebook, first published in 1992, is now in its third printed edition (2009), plus a Kindle edition. It is the successor to the pioneering work begun by the Sierra Club in the late 1930s, initially under the direction of board member (and later president) Richard Leonard. “A Climber’s Guide to the High Sierra” first appeared in the Feb. 1937 issue of the Sierra Club Bulletin. Part I focused on the Sawtooth Ridge area, and the series continued with various editors covering other high Sierra areas through Part VIII in the May 1951 SCB. R. J. readily acknowledges the subsequent Sierra Club-published high Sierra guidebooks authored by Hervey Voge, Andy Smatko and Steve Roper.
In working on this mammoth project Mr. Secor has made more than 700 Sierra mountain ascents on about 300 different peaks, climbing as many as 60 peaks in one year. The book covers more than 600 Sierra peaks, and it provides a great deal of history and first ascent records, plus a vast number of invaluable photos and many maps.
In addition to his national renown as a guidebook author, Mr. Secor has also earned international recognition for producing three editions of “Mexico’s Volcanoes: a Climbing Guide,” two editions of “Aconcagua: a Climbing Guide,” and one edition of “Denali Climbing Guide.” All four books are still in print and available on Amazon, which has a “R. J. Secor Page.” All his books have a strong statement about minimizing the environmental impact of climbing.
In summary, this nomination is made in grateful recognition of the invaluable service provided by Mr. Secor to countless thousands of mountaineers who have entered the High Sierra far better prepared to contend with and to succeed on its vast array of peaks than otherwise would have been the case. The award honors him, as well as the legacy of this grand effort initiated by the Sierra Club over 75 years ago.

Previous recognition and service:
• 1980-85 - Chair, vice-chair, secretary & treasurer – Angeles Chapter / Ski Mountaineers Section
• 1988 - Angeles Chapter: “Special Service Award”
• 1989-90 – President of the California Mountaineering Club
• 1998 – Chair - Angeles Chapter / Sierra Peaks Section
• 1999 – California Mountaineering Club: “Service Award”
• 2004 - Elected “Honorary Member” of the Southern California Mountaineers Association (the successor to the Angeles Chapter’s famed Rock Climbing Section).

Co-nominators: Bill Oliver, Dan Richter and Kathy Rich. 9/13/13
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Nov 7, 2017 - 02:20pm PT
Crushing news

Mountain climber
Nov 7, 2017 - 02:51pm PT
My battered, dog-eared, coffee-stained Secor always stays in the box of books I carry with me over the summer. I wish I had made the effort to meet him. Ormes, Ortenburger, Beckey, now Secor... few of the Old Ones remain.

Social climber
Nov 7, 2017 - 04:42pm PT
The guide referred to is "The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails", a climber’s guide. He made at least 4 ascents of Mt Starr King and wrote nothing boastful in the register other than 4X!
Lynne Leichtfuss

Trad climber
Will know soon
Nov 7, 2017 - 04:52pm PT
A life well lived. An honorable work to send to future generations. May our own quest be as wonderfully lived out. Cheers! Lynne
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Lassitude 33
Nov 7, 2017 - 05:13pm PT
My hats off to R.J. He not only pursued climbing and peak bagging with a passion, he channeled that drive into some very fine guidebooks, sharing that hard won knowledge with everyone.
Delhi Dog

Good Question...
Nov 7, 2017 - 05:34pm PT
One of only a few books I brought when I first moved overseas going on 19 years now.
And, one of only 2 that I regularly haul back and forth when I go home each summer.

Thank you for all the dreams and adventures you help make happen for me RJ.

Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Nov 7, 2017 - 09:10pm PT
RJ was an interesting character. The end pretty much came with the accident. This is a suprise though since we are about the same age. (60ish)

I met RJ in the SCMA and we climbed together once. I also assisted in an annual Eaton Canyon Crevase Rescue Seminar we put on together a few times.

And we hung out together at SCMA slides shows; sitting in the front row and making fun comments.

Dude was excentric. Here are some trivia bits from my time with him.

Claimed he had never been kissed by a girl but that a few had tried. Guidebook authoring had attracted groupies or something.

Loved to go sailing and regularly did.

Pretty much lived at home with parents his whole life.

Wore funny clothes sometimes, like a black and white referee shirt when he went rock climbing at Tahquitz, or that fateful rain slicker the day of the accident.

He went out of his way to find the weirdest looking car possible. I think it was 1980's Nissan or something.

I have been missing him for years. So long old buddy. :-(

Nov 8, 2017 - 03:49am PT
No word of a memorial yet. Please post if you hear. RJ had many friends in and out of the Sierra Club. His presence after the accident on Baldy was a loss for anyone climbing, and a wake-up call. Be safe out there. If can happen to anyone.

Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
Nov 8, 2017 - 04:21am PT
2 From the origanal 6 post thread;

Dingus Milktoast, climber, NorCal
,Apr 18, 2005 - 02:28pm PT

Check out this thread on summit post if you're interested:

Seems like a glissade got away from him.

??- I'm not familiar with the search function on Summitpost. . .

TioTony, Big Wall climber
Yorba Linda, CA
,Apr 18, 2005 - 11:08pm PT

Hi everyone,
I was skiing Baldy Saturday and stayed at the hut Friday night. I assisted with the rescue and can confirm it was R.J. that was injured. Here are the facts.

He slid at least 1000 feet as best we can tell, from in or near the bottom of one of the chutes to within about 200 yards of the ski hut.

He was hiking with some one he just met that day at the hut, it wasn't a pre-arranged thing.

He had severe head injuries, possibly other injuries.

He was conscious the whole time and was slightly confused (understandably).
He knew a few of his rescuers which I think helped calm him down.

A few members from the Mt. Baldy Ski Patrol happened to be at the hut at the time.
They coordinated the rescue and administered first aid. A nurse also happened to be at the hut.
There was probably less then 5 minutes from the time he stopped sliding to the time the first people reached him.

The rest of us were just runners and muscle, hauling first aid supplies back and forth, as well as moving R.J. on a litter which we keep in the ski hut.
Two people headed down to call 911,
they got them on a cell phone at about 1/2 way rock and the helicopter was on the way.
The air medics and helicopter arrived shortly there after. Sorry I don't know the exact times.

It was amazing to watch the pilot manuever since he couldn't land.

Everyone did a great job to get him to evaced from the mountain as quickly as could be expected. Everyting was executed like it had been scripted. I have only met R.J. a few times. He is a true mountaineer and is tough as steel. I expect he will recover fully (but I'm not a doctor).

It was incredibly fortunate there were so many trained people around that day, the hut was open, and we got to him right away.
It could have turned out much worse. I've been up there other times and not seen another human all day.

As a side note, we also escorted 4 asian students down the mountain Saturday evening. They had hiked up from the ski lifts wearing sweat pants, tennis shoes, and wind breakers.
No hats, gloves, crampons, ice axes, boots, or other winter gear. They managed to summit but 1 of them was really having problems getting down. We got them in the hut, warmed them up, and walked out with them to make sure they got back to their car.

Way too much excitement for a day on Baldy.

BTW, the corn was excellent. I got the first tracks of the day!

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Nov 8, 2017 - 07:01am PT a black and white referee shirt when he went rock climbing at Tahquitz,

RJ in happier times signing the register after climbing the White Maiden in 2004.

Note the cheap Carl's Jr sunglasses he got for free.

Most of his gear came from garage sales. They did an article on him in the LA Times outdoors section, it seems like his whole backpacking kit added up to $7.34.

It was that cheap ass yellow slicker that he glissaded in that got him, IMO. Folks on the scene said the snow was just a thin layer over ice.

He traveled very light. I dropped him off once at Tuolumne for what he called "Vision Quest". His plan was to head down the JMT, bag some peaks and take photos for the third edition of the book. One reason he was able to travel so lightly was he didn't carry much food. JMTers, he said, always carry too much food and they are always happy to unload some. That's the trip, I believe, where he rendezvoused with Reiner Stenzel to climb Devil's Crag.

Somehow his camera was stolen. He wasn't so mad about the camera, but losing all those images for the book.

Spider is right, he was eccentric. He came from a family of eccentrics.

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Nov 8, 2017 - 09:00am PT
This is Sad....

Only got to meet him at SCMA Slideshows... I always loved and used his fine books to map out the next adventure.

Thank you for doing all the hard work - so I can dream of bigger adventures.

I offer my sincere condolences to RJ Secor's Family and many Friends.

Rest in Peace


Mountain climber
Nov 8, 2017 - 09:14am PT
Thanks for the photo of RJ and your post, Gary.

I never managed to meet RJ, but his Sierra guides were an essential part of most of my California mountain adventures. What a phenomenal amount of work was involved in putting those together.

Rest in Peace, RJ. Thank you for all your work on documenting so many routes in the Sierra.

A report on his Vision Quest from 2001, that Gary mentions, is at

Quite a list of peaks he climbed during that trip!

Arrow Peak, Mt Barnard, Mt Carl Heller, Devils Crags, East Vidette, Mt Hilgard, Junction Peak, Mt Julius Caesar, Merriam Peak, Norman Clyde Peak, Pilot Knob N, Pyramid Peak S, Red and White Mtn, Rodgers Peak, Royce Peak, Mt Ruskin, Trojan Peak, Tunnabora Peak, Wheel Mtn

Nov 8, 2017 - 09:29am PT
I met RJ a few times up on Baldy, but cannot claim to know him. From what I can see he was an interesting guy - wired differently than most.
I always enjoyed reading through his Sierra guide. It was like walking through the history of the range.
The last time I spoke to him I told him I was thinking about sending him a write up of an ascent some friends and I had made of an obscure Sierra peak. He was very interested and encouraged me to do so. I expected no reply, but was looking forward to the 4th edition, hoping to see the entry.
About a week after , I received a note back thanking me for my submission, but stating he would not be including it.
I smiled.
RIP RJ. You were unique and will be missed.
Ken M

Mountain climber
Los Angeles, Ca
Nov 8, 2017 - 11:44am PT
I had the pleasure of giving a talk to a Sierra Club group last night, on the topic of the "Theodore Solomons Trail", and dedicated the talk to RJ. Quite a few people there had known him, and quite a few had not heard the news.

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Nov 8, 2017 - 11:53am PT
That's because there is no news, only this thread and a post at the SCMA website.
the museum

Trad climber
Nov 8, 2017 - 12:21pm PT
Here's the ST original injury post from back in the day:

the museum
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Nov 8, 2017 - 02:30pm PT
Arrow Peak, Mt Barnard, Mt Carl Heller, Devils Crags, East Vidette, Mt Hilgard, Junction Peak, Mt Julius Caesar, Merriam Peak, Norman Clyde Peak, Pilot Knob N, Pyramid Peak S, Red and White Mtn, Rodgers Peak, Royce Peak, Mt Ruskin, Trojan Peak, Tunnabora Peak, Wheel Mtn
Wow, that's quite a list. I get a couple summits when I'm in the backcountry and it's been a productive trip. I only have a couple of those summits under my belt.

Mountain climber
there and back again
Nov 8, 2017 - 08:56pm PT
I met him a couple of times and liked him immediately. I don't think he ever really recovered from his accident. His guide book is an inspiration and well love by me. Sorry to hear of his passing. We've lost a bunch of folks this year. Guess I should check in to ST more often.

Camster (Rhymes with Hamster)

Social climber
Nov 8, 2017 - 09:16pm PT
Wow! I'm so sorry to hear this. RJ was a good friend...or rather, a really, really good acquaintance. I saw him mostly at AAC events, and he often brought his father along, so my wife and I would have dinner with the two of them.
He was an heir of sorts, didn't have a regular job, and he used to complain to that managing all his money was really hard, time-consuming work. I'd scoff at that and get some very RJ-esque glares. You guys know the look.
I kept writing to RJ after his accident, over and over and over. Never got a response. Now I understand a bit more why.
Rest in peace old friend.
Delhi Dog

Good Question...
Nov 8, 2017 - 09:40pm PT
I had the pleasure of giving a talk to a Sierra Club group last night, on the topic of the "Theodore Solomons Trail"

Had no idea about that trail and had to look it up-thanks!

Sounds like a fun adventure though I am partial to the higher country.

Indirectly RJ just keeps on sharing...


Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Nov 9, 2017 - 05:46am PT
...and he often brought his father along, so my wife and I would have dinner with the two of them.

John, his father, was quite a character. Only had the pleasure of his acquaintance a few times but enjoyed talking with him. RIP

And yes, the glare. RJ, my wife and I were climbing Angel's Fright. The little woman had taken the sharp end and was somewhere above us. We hear, "Oooh... ooooh... 'biner!" At that same moment a carabiner bounces off RJ's shoulder. He turned and gave me this dead pan look that was classic! I couldn't help laughing.

While he knew the systems inside out, he wasn't much of a technical climber, so he declared 2003 the Year of the Rock. We did lots of climbing that year at Josh and Tahquitz. RJ being RJ there was always something to remember about each day out.

The accident ended all that.

Trad climber
tahoe city
Nov 10, 2017 - 05:33am PT
I first met RJ at an outdoor retail trade show in the late 80's... this quiet guys sort of shuffles up to me with a white collar shirt and pocket protector and says, "I hear you've been doing some climbs in the Sierra? can you look at this map and confirm the location of a few peaks?" That started many years of friendship and swapping info. I would receive a letter with a section of a topographic map, a few notes and a series of questions about routes.

One of the more amusing elements of our friendship over the years was how he would take the topos I'd send to him of routes and "translate" it into a narrative description...often summing up several pitches (or a whole route!) into a short sentence...and do it well He was always very clear about not wanting to add drawings into his book, but to keep it in the traditional format he enjoyed.

One summer in the mid 90's I was hiking out from Little Slide Canyon and came across RJ a bit off route mucking around in the underbrush... he was hiking up to see what all the fuss was about the Incredible Hulk and admitted to being "lost"...after a good laugh together and setting him on the right path (there was no trail back then) he pointed out the irony of a guidebook author having trouble locating a peak by using his own book!



Nov 11, 2017 - 10:44am PT
Sad News :(

In the early 80’s, I was at Plaza de Mulas Camp, one of the busiest base camps on Aconcagua; lots of people and activity about. It was excessively windy and cold and damn near impossible to recognize anyone there all bundled up. This guy walks-up outta the blue and introduces himself to me. His sharp eyes saw my initials that I had sharpied onto a cuff of my jkt. A meeting of probably the only two guys there that went by 2 initials, “Hey, EC Joe, I’m RJ Secor.” Sporadically throughout the years following, we exchanged info about the Sierra. Sorry to have you leave us...


Social climber
State of decay
Nov 12, 2017 - 09:12pm PT
So long buddy. You were one of a kind.
One night after an SCMA meeting a bunch of us, including RJ, retired to the Tam for drinks as was per usual. Being that RJ had always been a bit of an enigma to me, I decided after lubricating my tongue with a few Black and Tans, that I should engage him in conversation, hoping to divine a fuller understanding of the man. RJ was a mountaineer, guide book author, occasional climbing partner and respected fellow member of the AAC, but RJ the man remained much a blank area on the map for me.
After an hour of talking climbing, writing, and the hardships of collecting accurate information on climbing routes and first ascents, I felt I was no where closer to a deeper understanding of R J. Finally, in a bit of frustration, I asked RJ what he really did for a living. I mean, like, what did he really do beside write guide books? RJ took a long, even draw from his Black and Tan and matter of factually said, “ I'm an international playboy.” I smiled and said, “Right RJ, what do you really do?” He looked me straight in the eye and said rather smugly,” I am an international playboy.” Then the conversation returned to my climb of Aconcagua without skipping a beat. What a character! If you knew RJ, you knew that being an international playboy was about 180 degrees out from who he really was. I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants but I think RJ was serious!

Trad climber
Idyllwild, California
Nov 13, 2017 - 08:06am PT

From my experience, it took years to get anything personal out of RJ.

He was extremely reluctant to talk about those things. When he did open up, it was with almost embarassment about his family business etc.

He had a PhD (I don't know what discipline) but his family had large Real Estate holdings in Pasadena which he co-managed.

Over the years,I know of many girlfriends, a few of them long term. He never married. He was extremely loyal and friendly if he knew people well.

His weird sense of humor was legendary.


Trad climber
Idyllwild, California
Nov 13, 2017 - 08:53am PT
A bit more from the Sierra Club LA

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Nov 13, 2017 - 10:28am PT
Alois, thanks for posting that.

I always liked this quote from the book:
“One of my goals in life is to go around the world three times and visit every mountain range twice. But whenever I have wandered other mountains, I have been homesick for the High Sierra. I am a hopeless romantic, and therefore my opinions cannot be regarded as objective. But how can I be objective while discussing the mountains I love?”


Trad climber
Idyllwild, California
Nov 13, 2017 - 05:25pm PT
Gary and all

With RJ, it was all about mountains. He was on north side of Everest in 1986, one of the first trips there after China opened Tibet to climbing. He was on Cho Oyu a few years later. I remember trips to Alaska, several to South America (one of them with me) and the one we almost did to Ruwenzori Mountains in Congo. He loved the mountains more than anything. As someone said long time ago, he usually was "the sharpest person in the room" as well. The quote you mention describes the man perfectly.

Mountain climber
Nov 13, 2017 - 06:27pm PT
He had a PhD (I don't know what discipline).

Somewhere I read that it was in International relations(not joking).
Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
Dec 13, 2017 - 06:50am PT
Sorry to learn of RJ's passing. Did he suffer a second accident more recently? There seems to be a reference to that on a Sierra Club page.

International playboy indeed--but without the motor yacht overloaded with babes.

RJ's eccentricity extended to shabby mountaineering equipment. I wondered whether he was sometimes trying to see how little he could get away with in the mountains.

I admired his long-billed caps and often wondered where he procured them.

PhD in international relations? Now that's a surprise.

I should mention that he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention of 1988, which nominated George H.W. Bush, and that he told me the highlight, for him, was sitting in a bar, I believe it was in Detroit, when Bush walked in with his entourage. But if RJ was political, he certainly managed to keep his opinions mum, as so much else about himself.

I wonder if he ever kissed any of those longtime girlfriends.

I don't think I've ever known a person who seemed so aloof and yet would come across with genuine warmth and friendliness.
unlocked gait

Gym climber
the range
Dec 13, 2017 - 07:02am PT
i've spent few long nights studying where i went wrong on his topo.

thanks for the yarn, RJ.

i've much gratitude and respect for the man.

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Dec 13, 2017 - 08:32am PT
There's some plans afoot to hold a memorial hike to Henninger Flats April 15.
Ken M

Mountain climber
Los Angeles, Ca
Jan 4, 2018 - 10:46pm PT
SMS obit and pictures. Nice.
Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
Apr 27, 2019 - 08:54am PT
RJ told me a rather amusing story about of his ascent of Mt. Aconcagua. He said that when he got to a certain point, he had a hallucination. He saw a Dairy Queen drive-in.

"I knew it was a hallucination because the Dairy Queen sign was green, and I knew Dairy Queen signs are red."

So he hiked on. As he approached the summit, he smelled strong, fresh coffee. He thought it was his mind playing another trick, but when he got to the top, he found a fellow making coffee on a small stove and giving a fresh cup to everyone who summitted that day.
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