Todd Skinner, the Lander, Wyoming-based climber whose free climbing accomplishments spanned more than twenty years and two dozen countries, was killed yesterday, October 23, while descending fixed ropes on the Leaning Tower in Yosemite Valley. The accident occurred in the company of partner Jim Hewitt. Further details are lacking as we go to press.
One of the best-traveled American free climbing pioneers in history, Skinner established more than 300 first ascents in twenty-six countries, including countless Hueco Tanks classics, where he was a fixture in the early 1990s, and sport routes on the dolomite limestone of his home in the high-desert cowtown of Lander, including Wild Iris’s Throwin’ the Houlihan (5.14a). But it was on the walls of the world that Skinner left his biggest mark. With frequent partner Paul Piana, he made the free ascent of El Cap’s Salathe Wall (VI 5.13b) in 1988, initiating Yosemite Valley’s Golden Era of big-wall free climbing. His 1995 route, Cowboy Direct (VII 5.13a), on Pakistan’s Trango Tower, was the first Grade VII free climb in the world. Other significant first free ascents included The Great Canadian Knife (VI 5.13b, 1992) on Proboscis in the Yukon Territory; the Northwest Direct Route (VI 5.13b, 1993) on Half Dome; War and Poetry (VI 5.12c, 1998) on Greenland’s Ulamertorsuaq; and True at First Light (VI 5.13b, 1999) on the east face of Poi in the Ndoto Mtns of Northern Kenya.
Skinner leaves behind a wife, Amy, and three children, Hannah, Jake and Sarah.