Desert Climbing Legend Eric Bjornstad Has Died

The prolific first ascentionist and guidebook author Eric Bjornstad has passed away.

By Rock and Ice | December 17th, 2014

Fred Beckey    (left) and Bjornstad in Monument Valley.    The prolific first ascentionist and guidebook author Eric Bjornstad has passed away. Bjornstad is perhaps best known for his guidebook contributions to the sandstone climbing of the American desert Southwest, publishing the area’s first comprehensive guidebook, Desert Rock, in 1988.  

Bjornstad began climbing as a teenager in the mountains around Bishop, California. After moving to Seattle, Washington, in 1959, Bjornstad befriended Fred Beckey and the two formed a strong partnership that would spawn first ascents across the country for the next 30-plus years. The team put up major lines everywhere they could, establishing routes on formations such as Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower, The Chief in Squamish, as well as a plethora of desert formations from Arizona to Utah.  

On top of having a voracious appetite for first ascents, Bjornstad also began compiling and completing guidebooks early in his career. In 1965, Bjornstad and Beckey completed the first rock climbing guidebook to the Leavenworth, Washington, area. Bjornstad’s seminal Desert Rock introduced the unique sandstone formations of the American Southwest to the world. 

Bjornstad died in a care center in Moab, Utah. He was 79.

Listen to an in-depth interview with Bjornstad on the Enormocast.   

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