David Roberts, who turned adventure writing into art, dies at 78

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“It didn’t just help my career – it created my career,” Mr. Krakauer said. “He cut the trail and sent me over it.”

David Stuart Roberts was born on May 29, 1943 in Denver. His father, Walter Orr Roberts, one of the first climatologists to study the effects of global warming, was the founder of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. David’s mother, Janet Smock Roberts, served as a city councilor there for nearly two decades.

David graduated from Boulder High School, then studied math at Harvard, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1965. Shortly before leaving for college, he was climbing near Boulder with a childhood friend when the friend died. . While at Harvard, he was climbing Mount Washington in New Hampshire when two nearby climbers were killed in falls.

“At 22, I had witnessed first-hand three fatal accidents, which claimed the lives of four people,” Mr. Roberts wrote in Outside magazine in 1980, adding, “The question ‘Is it worth the risk? ? no one could answer by consulting only himself.

The question of risk weighed on him throughout his career.

Mr. Roberts addressed it directly in a 2006 memoir titled “On the Ridge Between Life and Death: A Climbing Life Reexamined”. He admitted to being “compulsive, motivated, egocentric, competitive and emotionally distant, traits often shared by serious climbers,” Florence Williams wrote in the New York Times Book Review. “Now, in his sixties and more mature, he decides to reckon with the demons of his risky past.”

Mr Roberts and a few other like-minded adventurers from the Harvard Mountaineering Club have planned intimidating pursuits in Alaska, such as a new route up the Wickersham Wall – first climbed a year ago – on the way to the summit of Denali, The highest mountain in North America, in 1963.

“What Dave had was the vision and motivation to do this kind of climb,” said Matt Hale, who was part of the expedition. “It translated – the same reader – to the books he wrote.”


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