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Clinton M. Kelley, 1913-1982



Clint Kelley, 69, fell to his death June 20, 1982 while climbing with friends on Mount Shuskan. Clint had first climbed Shuskan in 1938 while working on his Ph.D. at the University of Washington. He had started climbing in 1937 and in 1939 was in the first-ascent party of Sinister Peak, a classic climb near Dome Peak in the North Cascades. His love of mountains, his enthusiasm and his energy were legend and seemed only to grow through the years.

Clint had retired in 1973 as chairman of the chemistry department at the University of Denver, probably to have more time for mountaineering. Wherever his academic sojourns took him, he had found time for the mountains. While at M.I.T. in 1946, he was active with the Appalachian Mountain Club; while at Denver, he climbed with the Colorado Mountain Club and from 1950 to 1962, while at the Stanford Research Institute, he participated with the Sierra Club’s climbing and conservation activities. In 1968 he was elected to the American Alpine Club.

In addition to being an active climber, Clint was an effective conservationist. He and his wife, Virginia (Jinks), whom he had first met on a climb in Colorado, worked tirelessly on significant conservation issues in the Pacific Northwest. Clint’s effectiveness in whatever endeavor he was about was always enhanced by the calm, patient reasoning he would bring to any matter. It was, perhaps, this trait that made him an outstanding teacher of neophyte mountaineers. His fondness for working with students must have rivaled his love of the mountains and of climbing.

For many years Clint was active with The Mountaineers in Seattle, serving on their climbing committee first in 1939. He was a member of numerous committees and served as club secretary in 1980 and 1981. In 1981 he was voted The Mountaineers’ Service Award, the highest honor that organization can bestow.

Clint Kelley climbed American mountains. He climbed many and he climbed well. It is perhaps a strange stroke of irony that one of the most considerate and careful climbers should die in a fall on a mountain he loved perhaps most of all, but Clint would have understood that.

James S. Sanford