Todd Skinner, one of the great American free-climbing pioneers of the late 20th century, has been killed on Leaning Tower in Yosemite Valley. Many details about the accident are not yet known, but a park spokeswoman said he died while descending from the tower. Skinner’s climbing partner, Jim Hewett, was unharmed in the accident.
Highly motivated and widely traveled, Skinner pushed free standards around the world, from his home in Wyoming to Nameless Tower in Pakistan. A pioneer of big-wall free climbing, Skinner was perhaps most famous for his first free ascent of the Salathé Wall (VI 5.13b) on El Capitan, a team-free ascent with Paul Piana in 1988 that opened the door to many other El Cap free routes. Skinner’s “hang dogging” tactics and early embrace of bolt-protected sport climbing earned him vitriolic enemies in California and elsewhere, but over time most critics were silenced by his consistently positive attitude and the quality of his climbs. Skinner, 47, leaves a wife, Amy, and three children at his Lander, Wyoming, home.
A memorial gathering will be held on Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Sinks Canyon Center outside of Lander. Contributions to a fund to support Skinner’s family can be made to:
Skinner Memorial Fund Atlantic City Federal Credit Union 704 West Main St. Lander, WY 82520