Bill Forrest, 1939–2012

Bill Forrest topping out after the first solo ascent of the Diamond, Longs Peak, Colorado, in 1970. Forrest Collection

12/28/12 - The Colorado climber and gear innovator Bill Forrest died while snowshoeing on December 21. He was 73.

Forrest was best-known for his big-wall ascents, including the first ascent of the Painted Wall in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the largest cliff in Colorado, with Kris Walker. He also did the first solo ascent of the Diamond on Longs Peak, and in 1979 completed the first ascent of Uli Biaho Tower in Pakistan with Ron Kauk, John Roskelley, and Kim Schmitz.

Forrest developed a wide range of climbing equipment and soft goods, including leg loops for harnesses, ice tools with interchangeable picks, copperheads, daisy chains, durable haul bags, shock-absorbing quickdraws, and, more recently, innovative snowshoes.

In an interview in Climbing last year, Jeff Achey asked Forrest where his best ideas came from. Said Forrest: "From seriously participating in the activity. When you love the activity—and live it—the ideas flow." He was living it in the mountains above his Salida, Colorado, home right until the end.

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As a high school kid, I went into his store in Denver every weekend and would pester him about his big climbs. He was one of the Colorado legends, even in the late 70's. I remember I bought one of his proto haul bags early on, with dreams of using it on Uli Biaho, myself. I drug that thing up El Cap, Half Dome, The Prow and various desert towers and Zion Walls (it was the 80's after all. Aid climbing and bivying still occured on things that people cruise today). I remember using one of his hammocks (that was brutal, compared to a porta ledge!). I also remember taking a huge whipper onto a funky tri cam in Boulder Canyon. To my amazment, it saved my life!

Clay Patton - 01/10/2013 9:33:20