David Roberts, who turned adventure writing into art, dies at 78


“He not only helped my career, he created my career,” Mr. Krakauer said. “He cut his trail and sent me downstairs.”

David Stuart Roberts was born on May 29, 1943 in Denver. His father, Walter Orr RobertsAn early climatologist who studied the effects of global warming, he was the founder of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. David’s mother, Janet Smock Roberts, was a city councilor there for nearly two decades.

David graduated from Boulder High, then studied mathematics at Harvard and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1965. Shortly before he went to college, his friend fell and was climbing near Boulder with a childhood friend. While at Harvard, two nearby climbers died in falls while climbing Mount Washington in New Hampshire.

“At the age of 22, I witnessed firsthand three fatal accidents that claimed four lives,” he said. Roberts wrote for Outside magazine in 1980., “’Is it worth the risk?’ It was not something anyone could answer simply by consulting himself.”

The subject of risk has weighed on him throughout his career.

Mr. Roberts addressed it directly in a 2006 memoir titled “On the Ridge Between Life and Death: A Climbing Life Reexamined.” He acknowledged that there are “characteristics that are often shared by serious climbers that are challenging, driven, selfish, competitive, and emotionally distant.” Florence Williams wrote In The New York Times Book Review. “Now, in his 60s and more mature, he decides to reckon with the demons of his risky past.”

Roberts and several other like-minded adventurers at the Harvard Mountaineering Club have planned daunting pursuits in Alaska, such as a new route to the steep Wickersham Wall, first climbed a year ago, on the way to the summit of Denali. Highest mountain in North America in 1963.

“It was the vision Dave had and the urge to do this kind of climbing,” said Matt Hale, who was part of the expedition. “This – the same impulse – translated into the books he wrote.”



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