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Stewart Green

Legendary Climber Harvey Carter Dies at Age 81

By March 17, 2012

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Legendary Colorado climber Harvey T. Carter died last Tuesday at the age of 81 at a hospice facility in Colorado Springs from prostate cancer. I visited Harvey at the care facility a few times over the last few weeks before heading over to Joshua Tree National Park in California for this week but was still surprised to have a friend call me Tuesday afternoon to tell me that Harvey passed a couple hours before.

Harvey Carter started climbing in the late 1940s in Colorado Springs, where his mother and father were professors at Colorado College. Over the years he did over 5,000 first ascents. Of course, Harvey's definition of a new route included any section of a route that hadn't been climbed, including variations, direct starts, direct finishes, and boulder problems. Harvey also had a long-time subtle competition with his friend Fred Beckey, another prolific old-timer, to see who could do the most first ascents.

I like to note that Harvey, who was a staunch climbing traditionalist his whole career, ironically created the first sport climbing area in the United States by hammering fixed pitons into holes drilled in the soft sandstone at the Garden of the Gods, a city park in Colorado Springs. Many of those original drilled pitons, all soft-iron Army angles, are still in place and still used by climbers at the Garden.

Harvey, with his background in sandstone climbing, did many first ascents in the canyon country surrounding Moab, Utah as well as on the Navajo Reservation and on the rock mountain of Shiprock in northern New Mexico. In 1962 Harvey did the first ascent of The Priest near Moab and then the next day made the second ascent of Castleton Tower, which Layton Kor and Huntley Ingalls had climbed the day before. He also made the first ascents of all the major towers at the Fisher Towers near Moab, except for The Titan.

Harvey Carter, besides having a world-class climbing career, was also an expert skier and worked on the Aspen Ski Patrol from 1957 to 1979 and later tried to create a downhill ski area on some property behind Pikes Peak that he owned. The U.S. Forest Service, however, said the area didn't receive enough snow and denied permits to build it.

Besides all his first ascents, part of Harvey Carter's legacy is Climbing Magazine, which he founded in 1970 with its first issue coming out in May with an article about his first ascent of The Kingfisher in the Fisher Towers and a cover photo of the North Ridge of White Spire in the Garden of the Gods. He sold the magazine a couple years later.

Harvey T. Carter. He was one of a kind. He was a curmudgeon, a traditionalist, and a bit cranky, but Harvey was always a climber. Rest in peace my friend.

Photograph above: Harvey Carter climbing his route Montezuma Tower North Ridge (5.7) at the Garden of the Gods in 1978. Photograph Ed Webster

Comments

March 17, 2012 at 1:59 am
(1) Dennis says:

I suspect a whole book could be written about Harvey. He was certainly one of the climbing worlds more colourful characters and will be remembered by many, many people for many, many reasons.
Rest in Peace Harvey.

March 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm
(2) Ray says:

Rock on, Harvey.

June 8, 2012 at 12:29 am
(3) Larry Schaller says:

I grew up around this man, my father was on the patrol with him. His children were our best friends. I remember playing with his ropes to make a zip line, and receiving his rath for it to. What a trailblazer. His vision and love for the sport will never be matched. RIP.

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