Layton Kor is Dead

Layton Kor and his son Arlan

Layton Kor and his son Arlan in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado, in 2012. Photo by Cameron Burns

4/22/13 - Layton Kor, one of the most prolific and accomplished American climbers of the 1960s, has died at age 74. Kor had suffered from kidney failure and prostate cancer. A resident of Kingman, Arizona, he died during the night of April 21.

Kor's name was virtually synonymous with Colorado climbing during the late 1950s and ’60s. Starting as a teenager in Eldorado Canyon, he put up many of the sandstone canyon's most famous and enduring classics, both free and aid, including Ruper (5.8+), Rosy Cruxifiction (5.10), The Naked Edge (5.11), and many, many more. He also did dozens of first ascents in Boulder Canyon, the Flatirons, Lumpy Ridge, Glenwood Canyon, and many other crags in Colorado. Original Kor pitons are still discovered today on obscure crags throughout the state.

Kor on the cover of Climbing No. 2 (1970), leading the Salathé Wall in Yosemite.

Branching into the mountains and beyond, Kor did many new routes in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the desert Southwest (Castleton Tower, the Titan, Standing Rock), and Yosemite Valley (south face of Washington Column, West Buttress of El Capitan). He took his skills to foreign mountains on walls like the southeast face of Proboscis in Canada's Northwest Territories and the Harlin Directissima on the north face of the Eiger in Switzerland.

Kor was still climbing into his early 70s, including the first ascent of a 150-foot tower in Arizona with friends Stewart Green, Dennis Jump, and Ed Webster. Cameron Burns, who is writing a biography on Kor, said, "If Layton got a nickel for every person who ever climbed one of his routes, he'd have been a wealthy man."

A new edition of Kor's classic book Beyond the Vertical, edited by Stewart Green with newly scanned photos, will be out in June.

Click here to read a Brendan Leonard guide to seven great Kor routes, both famous and lesser-known, from Climbing 291.

Date of death: April 21, 2013

Sources: Cameron Burns,



I never met Layton, but he was a strong inspiration to me when I started through to my last Thank God hold. I remember to this day the many times I asked "how in the hell did he do this" and "wish I were taller...just a few inches taller" What an amazing ability he had. Rest in Peace, Layton.

Carey Horowitz - 08/17/2013 11:08:24

"Beyond the Vertical" - so powerfull, so beautifull, the one that my son Peter will inherit and pass on to his son, and so on down the line. You gave us all the inspiration to climb for the love of climbing. Just the very mention and sound of your name "Kor" says it all!!!

Martin Veillon - 06/14/2013 1:07:47

What I remember most strongly about climbing with Layton was his grace and elegance on the rock. He looked as though he was born to climb. Climbing with Layton was an aerobic activity. He would also chide me for overprotecting a pitch if I put in more than 2 pieces and if I went off route when following, he had to go back and do that variation. He was a great soul, an amazingly gifted climber and an enthusiastically adventurous partner.

Cindy Pieropan - 05/08/2013 8:31:19

Yesterday my wife and I had a picnic in Eldorado Springs and talking with some climbers, I found out Layton had passed. I knew he had health issues. I met Layton in Eldorado Springs in the late fifties and ran into him off and on through the sixties.Layton was a good person and a friend of mine and always had a little time to talk, but then he had to climb. In the competitive world of climbing, he was not arrogant or bragging, he was just very very good. He was tall, thin, and had a wiry strength and agility that made it possible for him to do things most mortals could not even begin to try. People would ask me, "You climbed with Layton Kor?" and I would have to say no, I was nowhere near his level, I climbed at the same time, but he was my friend. What a gifted free climber! At his prime, it was such a joy just to watch him climb.

Robert Nelson - 05/05/2013 9:44:37

My friend's suffering is over. We can now look back on a truly marvelous life. I will miss that sly mischievous smile and boundless enthusiasm for the heights. He left us with a legacy of classic routes, but even more, a legacy of inspiration. I hope that those that feel it will dig deep to help Layton's widow and son. There will be services in Kingman, but arrangements are already in the works for a celebration of Layton's life in Boulder, Colorado, where the Great One began his climbing career. And for those on the left coast there will be a big blowout party in the desert in October that will also be a fundraiser.

Ron Olevsky - 04/27/2013 11:34:52

Layton passed away with significant medical, funeral, and other expenses. Friends of Layton's have set up a website for donations in Layton's memory to help Layton's wife, Karen Kor, with those expenses. The website address is: All donations go straight to Karen with no intermediaries and no fees. Please give generously and spread the word!

Chris Archer - 04/26/2013 2:53:28

Layton was such an incredible individual that words can hardly describe him. He was a superstar among superstars. I know of no other individual in the climbing community that approached the mountains with such energy and enthusiasm. It didn't make any difference whether he had made an extremely difficult climb the day before, or partied the night before, he was ready to go the next day when most mortals would gladly take a rest day. Having climbed with him, I can attest to this. Practically all climbers who have climbed with him have said the same thing. Further, if you were on his rope and you came to a horrible looking pitch, you would turn to Layton, point upward, and say "go". He would always somehow manage, by scraping, scratching, struggling, clinging to the minutest of holds, to get up that pitch you didn't want to climb. Layton, there will never be another like you and we will miss you.

Ed Cooper - 04/25/2013 11:52:59

I have enjoyed stories of Layton Kor and Steve Komito climbing together. This particularly when Layon needed a climbing partner and Steve was game to go.

Charles fuller - 04/24/2013 10:11:34

Layton was a good friend and a great person. I will miss him. Michael Finley, how are you? My dad and I were talking about you the other day. Hope to cross paths again sometime.

Jody Langford - 04/24/2013 9:01:32

I remember meeting Layton in Camp 4 in the mid 70's and marveling at his height and reach on a boulder that seemed to be made for him as I certainly couldn't reach the same holds. He was soft spoken and understanding. Layton is one of the true immortals who is not forgotten. Keep climbing on my friend.

Michael Finley - 04/24/2013 3:09:24

Such an awe inspiring icon R.I.P.

pkd - 04/24/2013 1:32:38

The climbing community has lost a great pioneer and a person that has influenced anyone that has got into climbing.He has awed us with his accomplishments. To steal a quote from Star Trek Layton's many years of rock climbing mission was to seek out strange new rock formations,to explore new routes and to boldly and I do mean boldly go where no one has gone before. He will be missed but his legend will endure.The young climbers in the future will still be influenced by his accomplishments. They will stand @ the bottom of his routes looking up scratching there heads and say no way he did that. (-: Thanks for your influence. Live long and prosper in your next life.

Brad McCullough - 04/23/2013 5:05:11

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