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Jack Fralick, 1919-2001

Jack Fralick 1919 - 2001

Jack Fralick, a 50-year member of the American Alpine Club, passed away in February, 2001 at the age of 81. Jack served on the Club’s Safety Committee, wrote the Committee’s fourth annual Safety Report in 1951, and initiated the process of tabulation and statistical analysis of climbing accidents.

Jack also co-founded the Chicago Mountaineering Club in 1940 with Harold and William Plumley, and served as its first president.

He was certainly among the first to build a “rock gym” when in 1962 he nailed plywood sheets to a scaffold using wood scraps for holds to demonstrate climbing skills at a national Boy Scout Exposition in Detroit.

Jack climbed extensively from 1936 to 1969 throughout Wyoming, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Illinois. He had the great fortune to climb with many of the legends of the sport including Petzoldt, Wiessner, Durrance, and the Stettner brothers—superb climbers and life-long friends, who in the 1930s and 40s were pioneering routes and helping to establish the sport of mountaineering in North America. Jack and his friends have several first ascents to their credit including the east face of Monitor Peak in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. This 1947 climb was at the high end of the difficulty scale for the time in the United States and remained so for several years.

After his active climbing years, Jack’s interest in the history of mountaineering remained keen. He was an encyclopedia of facts, dates, and stories about the great climbs, the great tragedies, and the great controversies that occurred as the sport grew. He loved to swap stories and lectured on mountaineering to within three months of his death. Jack published numerous articles on climbing and was often called on by others to edit or contribute to guide books and articles on the sport. He also established a collection of historical equipment, photographs, books, catalogs, and magazines from the early days of American mountaineering at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming.

Jack had a great love for the mountains and had the greatest affection and highest regard for those whom he met there. Mountaineers were among his closest, life-long friends. In preparing this memoriam, it has been very interesting tracking down my dad’s old mountain companions, many of whom I only knew through stories told around campfires at Jenny Lake a long time ago.

John Fralick