Bradford Washburn [Photo] Giulio Malfer

Henry Bradford Washburn

Posted on: March 1, 2004


I started climbing in the Alps, in Chamonix, when I was sixteen years old. It was so different back then—we didn't have the telepheriques, [there weren't] the people [there are] today. [But] to me it was never about just the climbing itself. It was the camping, the group of friends you were with. That's what was important to us.

I'm a photographer who climbs, not a climber who photographs. I started out taking pictures of friends in Chamonix. I enjoyed getting good shots, but I had more fun taking pictures of mountains. I've had a pretty good record of taking a picture of something that hasn't been climbed, [indicating] the route that I would do and watching it get climbed right away. That has always made me feel great. My legacy won't be climbing—I haven't climbed since 1953—but hopefully it will be in seeing the possibilities for others.

—Brad Washburn, mountaineer, photographer, scientist, writer, cartographer, pilot.

Recorded by Mark Givens in Boston, Massachusetts, October 4, 2003.

Brad Washburn: curriculum vitae

1921: Mt. Washington, Presidential Range, New Hampshire, first climb.

1926: Mt. Blanc, Matterhorn, Monte Rosa (French, Swiss and Italian Alps), first technical climbs. Trails and Peaks of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, first published book.

1929: North Face, Aiguille Verte, French Alps, first ascent, with guides Alfred Couttet and Georges Charlet. Elected to the French Alpine Club's Groupe de Haute Montagne.

1933: Graduated from Harvard University. Mt. Crillon (12,730'), Fairweather Range, Alaska, first ascent.

1934: Earned pilot's license. Began making aerial photographs.

1935: First to equip planes with skis for glacial landings.

1935-1942: Instructor at Harvard's Institute of Geographical Exploration.

1936: First large-format photographic reconnaissance flights over Mt. McKinley.

1937: Mt. Lucania (17,150'), St. Elias Range, Canada, first ascent, followed by ascent and first traverse of Mt. Steele (16,600') and subsequent hundred- mile trek back to civilization.

1938: Named Director of New England Museum of Natural History (now called the Boston Museum of Science). Mt. St. Agnes (13,250'), Chugach Mountains, Alaska, first ascent. Mt. Sanford (16,208'), Wrangell Mountains, Alaska, first ascent.

1940: Married Barbara Polk. Mt. Bertha (10,182'), Fairweather Range, first ascent, and Barbara's first climb.

1941: Daughter Dorothy born. Mt. Hayes (13,740'), Alaska Range, Alaska, first ascent, with Barbara.

1942: Muldrow Glacier Route, Mt. McKinley, new route and third ascent of mountain. Son Ted born.

1946: Daughter Betsy born.

1947: Muldrow Glacier Route, Mt. McKinley, ascent. Barbara became first woman to summit.

1951: West Buttress, Mt. McKinley, new route.

1953: Mt. Brooks (ca. 11,950'), Alaska Range, Alaska, second ascent. Scott Peak (ca. 8,850'), Alaska Range, Alaska, first ascent. Barbara climbed both mountains.

1957: Writing in Mountain World, suggested a central route up McKinley's south face, calling it "the greatest remaining pioneer ascent in North America." Four years later, The Cassin Ridge was born.

1978: Grand Canyon map published.

1979: Received Gold Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society for "outstanding contributions to cartographic research."

1980: Retired from Boston Museum of Science.

1985: Elected Honorary Director for Life of Boston Museum of Science.

1988: Mt. Everest map published. Presidential Range map published. Recipient, with Barbara, of Centennial Medal from the National Geographic Society "for a lifetime of exploration, discovery and cartography."

1990: Mt. McKinley map published.

1991: Mt. McKinley: The Conquest of Denali published.

1994: Received King Albert Medal of Merit from Belgium's King Albert Foundation in recognition of "his guiding spirit in the ambitious and successful enterprise of making a new large-scale map of the roof of the world from 1982 to 1991."

1999: Coordinated scientific survey of Mt. Everest that resulted in a revised altitude of 8850 meters.

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