Climbers know Tom Higgins for his prolific first ascents across California. Some may recall his seminal article, “Tricksters and Traditionalists,” first published in the 1984 issue of Ascent.

The article first coined the term “traditional” style and pled for adhering to it. “In the traditional style,” Higgins wrote, “climbers do not alter the rock in order to free climb it. Nor do they preview routes on rappel, or fix protection on aid or on rappel with the intention of immediately trying to free climb. Aid climbing is done to get to the top, not to set up a route for free-climb attempts... The traditionalist knows there is a time and place to give up.”




Tom Higgins in Yosemite, 1973. [Photo] Tom Higgins collection