Author and International Mountaineer Nick Clinch Passes Away

Mountaineers Books author and one of America's most successful expedition leaders, Nick Clinch, passed away on June 15, 2016 at the age of 85.
Mountaineers Books Mountaineers Books
June 27, 2016

Mountaineers Books author and international mountaineer Nick Clinch passed away June 15, 2016 in Palo Alto, California at the age of 85.

Our connection with Nick Clinch goes back at least as far as 1982, when Mountaineers Books published Clinch's book about the 1958 first ascent of Hidden Peak (Gasherbrum I). By serving as the expedition leader of the small, self-supported party, Clinch is the only American to have led the first ascent of an 8,000 meter peak.

Along with his wife Elizabeth Clinch, Nick also authored Through a Land of Extremes: The Littledales of Central Asia, published by Mountaineers Books in 2011.

Helen Cherullo, publisher for Mountaineers Books, remarked of "a formality mixed with cheeky devilishness to Nick." She shared an article with Nick found online about his first encounter with fellow mountaineer and lifelong friend Tom Hornbein. He was thirteen at attending Cheley Colorado Camps. “Clinch was three days older than Hornbein. The friendship began as kids doing grunt work (like cleaning toilets) at camp. Less than two decades later in 1960, they would be together in a party that made the first ascent of 25,566-foot Masherbrum, a peak of unusual beauty in the Karakoram.”

Helen told Nick she was charmed by the story—to which Nick responded: “What an outrage!  I am three days younger than Tom, not older.  He is the tired old man. . . I may be more sprung than spring, but I am working on that.”

Nick always made me smile,” Cherullo said.

Donna DeShazo, former publisher at Mountaineers Books, recalls the way “his eyes would light up with the joy of remembrance when we were going over material on the Hidden Peak climb as we worked on A Walk in the Sky. He was quick of mind with an almost magpie-like collection of facts and history on tap. I was fascinated to learn that behind the house in which he lived was another house stuffed with mountaineering books. . . and that he had a standing order with every publisher of mountaineering books to receive a first edition copy of every such book upon publication--in every language, I think! He had a boyish enthusiasm about climbing and especially climbing history . . .”

Senior Editor Mary Metz remembers fondly her first interactions with Nick, concerning the Japanese-language edition of his book. “Nick was so tickled to get these payments —for really tiny amounts— for a foreign-language edition of his book. He always seemed mystified but delighted that there’d be continued interest in his book—which was strange when he was such a book person himself. I’d also consulted him when I needed information or advice about old mountaineering books—a relationship that became a little more formalized (but only a little!) when he became one of the first advisors for the Legends and Lore series. The book he wrote with his wife, Betsy, Through A Land of Extremes, became part of the series early on so I got to know both of them a little better then. Nick had an old-world courtesy to him that was irresistible.”

Regarded as one of America's most successful expedition leaders, Clinch led the first ascent of Hidden Peak (Gasherbrum I, 26,470 feet), as well as the first ascent of Masherbrum (25,660 feet) in 1960 and Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica, along with the other major summits of the Vinson Massif in 1966. Clinch Peak (15,883 ft) in Antarctica was named in his honor in 2006.

His other explorations include numerous ascents and expeditions in the United States, British Columbia, Peru and China. He introduced the ice screw into North American climbing usage, and was a past president of the American Alpine Club.

Read the New York Times about Clinch's life here. 

photo courtesy of the American Alpine Club

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