RIP R J Secor


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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...


climber a single wide......
Nov 11, 2017 - 11:07am PT
A familiar presence weekday afternoons on the Mt Wilson Toll Road during the 80's and 90's. Don't know how I ever made the connection that he was RJ, but after years of nodding as I ran or biked past- we became acquaintances.

What a legacy he leaves with his High Sierra guidebook.

Social climber
State of decay
Nov 12, 2017 - 09:12pm PT
RJ at the Baldy Sierra Club Hut.
RJ at the Baldy Sierra Club Hut.
Credit: TYeary
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.
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