American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

William D. Hackett, 1918-1999

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

WILLIAM D. HACKETT 1918–1999

Bill Hackett died in Portland from complications following heart surgery. Bill had a distinguished military career, a successful business career and a lifelong career of worldwide mountaineering, skiing, travel, and exploration. He combined his careers in interesting and fruitful ways. Growing up in Portland, OR, he began climbing at age 14. By age 22, when he entered the U.S. Army, he had made 50 ascents of Mt. Hood by 11 different routes, including three first ascents and two second ascents. In the Army in WWII, he served more than three years in the 10th Mountain Division, first as an instructor and then as a combat infantry unit commander in the Appenines and the Julian Alps. He was promoted to First Lieutenant of Infantry and awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, two Bronze Stars and the Silver Star for gallantry in action. After WWII, he remained in regular Army for 21 years. He served as an intelligence officer in Korea and in Vietnam. Following WWII, he served four years as a research and development field test officer for equipment and clothing. In that duty, he made many cold-weather ascents in Canada and Alaska, and his efforts helped in the improvement of various cold-weather gear (e.g., streamlining the arctic uniform from 23 to 14 pounds.)

Bill served as chief of training at the Mountain and Cold Weather Training Command at Fort Carson, CO, and as environmental training general staff officer at Fort Monroe, VA. He also served in Europe in a variety of posts. In 1963, with the rank of major, he took a disability retirement.

After leaving the Army, he returned to Portland and formed the Bill Hackett Company, a sporting goods manufacturers’ representative organization. This proved to be a successful enterprise.

Bill made many ascents in the Cascades, Colorado, Canada, Mexico and the Alps. In five expeditions to Mt. McKinley, he ascended the South Peak four times and the North Peak twice, making first ascents of the West Buttress from Kahiltna Glacier and the Northwest Buttress via Peters Glacier. Two of these expeditions, with Bradford Washburn, accomplished survey work that fixed the elevation of the summit at 20,320 feet.

Bill Hackett was the first person to reach the summits of both McKinley and Logan. He was the first American to climb Aconcagua and the first American to climb Mt. Kenya. He was the first person to reach the summits of five continents. In 1960, he organized and led an American-German expedition to K2 that reached 25,000 feet. In 1985, at age 67, he joined a Canadian-American expedition to Antarctica to climb Mt. Vinson.

Miscellaneous travel included trips to both the North and South Poles, two journeys around the world and a voyage on a Russian icebreaker. Miscellaneous honors include the Army Commendation Medal for meritorious achievement in the field of expeditionary mountaineering.

The foregoing is only a brief summary of a rich life. A full-length biography is currently being written by June Hackett and Thorn Bacon. The title is Climb to Glory and publication is set for Fall, 2000.

David Harrah

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