American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Ray Genet, 1931-1976

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1980

RAY GENET 1931-1979

“What is the source of this man’s energy? He runs everywhere, even at 20,000 feet while I labor over every step. Above Archdeacon’s Tower it occurred to me that if I should stop for some reason, Genet could— and would—carry me up and back.” I made this entry in my journal the day after Genet and I stood together on Mount McKinley’s summit.

Genet’s physical strength and endurance on his McKinley expeditions are legendary. Beginning with the epic first winter ascent in 1967, Genet’s expeditions were a life-style of arduousness and self-discipline. He climbed the mountain three, often four, times every season. Many more times counting the relays. In Talkeetna and Anchorage between expeditions, Genet would not slacken pace. Frame pack on his back, he ran and bicycled on errands with seemingly inexhaustible vigor.

Genet built and maintained a competence with the mountain that matched his pure physical capacity. By specializing on McKinley, he developed an intimate knowledge of its terrain and weather. Genet under-stood McKinley, and with this understanding he attained an extra margin of aptness as a guide. He led scores of people to McKinley’s summits every year with safety and skill.

Beneath this intense and disciplined exterior Genet’s considerable affability was always ready to break out. Plodding up the glacier hour upon hour with what appeared to be mindless silence, Genet would let out a sudden yell, some raucous exhortation that would lift spirits instantly and compel us both onward. On the summit Genet danced with pleasure. Indefatigable, he pulled a Swiss flag out of his pack and thrust it to the wind for a snapshot to send home.

After more than a decade on McKinley, it was entirely reasonable that Genet should go to the summit of Everest. After all, he would say, Everest is shorter than McKinley—it’s just a little higher up. It is not reasonable that he should have perished on the descent, in October, 1979.

Richard Loren Doege

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