Pioneer, Legend Harvey T. Carter Dies


3/14/12 - Harvey Carter—climbing icon and legend—passed away Tuesday, March 13, at the age of 83. With a climbing career lasting more than 60 years, Carter pioneered and discovered many of the well-known climbing areas in the four-corners area, including the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, and is rumored to have made over 5,000 first ascents.

In those 60 years, Carter organized the first formal bouldering competition in the Garden of the Gods in 1956; he completed the then-hardest climb in Colorado in 1956, an 800-foot buttress on Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park that was long considered one of the classic climbs of North America; he saved numerous lives in the Aspen ski patrol, some of them his close friends; and he founded Climbing magazine, in his basement, with $900, in 1970.

“The editors of Climbing claim no authority for assuming this task other than the fact that we believe the magazine is needed and we have the desire and the capacity to supply it,” wrote Carter in the first issue of Climbing. “Being climbers ourselves, we relish the task and will do our best to serve satisfactorily.” One of Carter’s long-term goals was to open a ski resort on Pikes Peak, where he learned to ski growing up in Colorado Springs. "The people of Colorado Springs deserve a place to ski, just like I had growing up," he said. Carter owned around 320 acres of land on the west side of Pikes Peak, and worked since 1957 to turn the land into a ski area. At times, he even cut the ski runs by hand when developing investors backed out of the deal.

Developers and real estate agents had made numerous offers to Carter for his 320 acres, as one of the few remaining large, undeveloped properties in the county. Back in the day, friends sometimes told Carter that if he sold the land, he would have enough money to climb every day for the rest of his life. But Carter was dedicated to his dream, and refused all offers. “So I tell them all to go to hell,” Carter said about the agents.

Carter’s stubborn attitude was standard for the legendary climber, who climbed with a rope around his waist instead of a harness, never used chalk to improve his grip, and condemned people who bolted routes unnecessarily. Carter reportedly had a sizeable collection of cut bolts in his cabin on Pike’s Peak.

"He likes to have things his way, that's for sure," said local climbing author Stewart Green. "But I suppose that single-mindedness allowed him to do all that he did." 

Carter used this attitude in opening much of the area west of the Rockies for climbers. The sandstone spires of the Colorado Plateau the rock was unsafe; it was too soft to their expansion bolts. But Carter just hammered in a steel Army surplus piton and began bagging first ascents throughout the '60s and '70s. He was joined by group of climbers for his first ascents, some of which would go on to become famous climbers. They became known as Harvey’s Raiders.

In 2007, Carter was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and it was only then that he slowed down and stopped climbing. "It keeps me from climbing," he said. "Of course, I climbed for 60 years on some bad stuff without hurting myself, so I guess I can't complain," he said with a smile.

Harvey remained stubbornly optimistic throughout his latter years. "When I lick this cancer thing, I'll be climbing again," he said one morning. "There are still some crags near Blue Mountain that no one's ever climbed. They're a ways in there, but, hell, they're good rock."

A memorial for Carter will be held in Garden of the Gods—where Carter established many bouldering problems and spent much of his time while sick—in April.

Quotes sourced from