Everyone in the Patagonia family is saddened to hear about the passing of Royal Robbins on March 14, 2017. Some in the company knew him personally, many of us did not. But we are, to this day, greatly inspired by his pioneering spirit and commitment to clean climbing. In honor of his friend, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard has compiled the following memories.
Royal was the leading figure in the golden age of American rock climbing. I will remember him as a climbing partner and a dear friend. Everyone who knew him will recall his stubborn, lifelong integrity.
The climbing world will long remember him for promoting a clean climbing ethic that has influenced generations of climbers. But his greatest achievement was his creative intelligence. He would often conceive of routes on the great walls in Yosemite—and, later, many first descents in kayaking—and then assemble his friends to carry forth.
I was fortunate to have been asked by Royal to be on the first ascent of the North America Wall on El Cap, which turned out to be the most difficult big wall climb ever done. That climb was his idea and we all considered him to be “our icy commander.”
In the same spirit, he assembled us for river explorations and taught us how to kayak. Royal, the forerunner of adventure kayaking, influenced all of us to join him on first descents of the great rivers in South America and the United States.