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Inside Royal Robbins Our Heritage

Royal Robbins: 1935-2017

March 15, 2017
RR & LR Atop Muir Wall Post-Solo - El Capitan 1968 (Glen Denny #101 Full Usage 2016)

We are deeply saddened to report that our founder and legendary rock climber Royal Robbins’ passed away Tuesday, March 14 after a long illness.

Royal was extremely special to us. He and his wife, Liz, founded Royal Robbins in 1968 as an active lifestyle apparel company for rock climbers, adventurers and travelers. Royal was a leading figure in the Golden Age of Yosemite Valley climbing and was one of the first and most vocal proponents of clean climbing. In 1967, Royal and Liz Robbins made the first ascent of Nutcracker in the Yosemite Valley using only removable nuts for protection. It was the first climb of its kind in the United States and it started a clean climbing revolution.

His environmental advocacy and his love for adventure provide direction for everything we do. Royal was an inspiration to us all and will be greatly missed.

We encourage you to post your own remembrances below. Royal loved, and was loved by, his friends.

 

Michael Millenacker, CEO, Royal Robbins

Royal was a legendary pioneer who approached everything in life with a true spirit of adventure. He gave me my first break in the outdoor industry and set me on the path to meld a passion for the outdoors with a career. He taught me to work with purpose—that the harder we worked, the more we could give back.

His leadership style was unique and uncannily effective. On my very first climb, he tied in, started climbing, and left me with a harness and the end of a rope. As with all outdoor and business pursuits, he led by bold examples.

He also knew how to harness the power of perseverance and courage to influence so many lives – including mine. With tremendous class and a huge heart, he taught me so many the valuable lessons about conviction and grit. Every time I saw him walk into a room, you could feel a shift, as if everyone knew they were in the presence of greatness. Many like me, will always be inspired and guided by his leadership.

For highlights from Royal’s life, enjoy our heritage timeline.

 

If you wish to contact the Robbins family directly, you can reach them at royal@postpro.net.

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51 Comments

  • Reply Patrick davis March 15, 2017 at 4:59 am

    It’s a sad day for the outdoor community. Royal was one it’s founders and greatest stewards. He will be missed but forever remembered. Royal Robbins played a part in my life in getting me outdoors as a child in Boy Scouts. Later, much later on in life I had the honor to represent him in the Rocky Mountains for our outdoor dealers. My thoughts are with Liz and the family. Thank you for all you have done for me and the lifestyle I love.

  • Reply Matt G March 15, 2017 at 5:27 am

    Years ago, I was talking about climbing in Yosemite with a family friend and he mentioned Royal Robbins. I didn’t know who Royal was at the time and after reading and watching about Royal and his accomplishments, I felt quite embarrassed for not knowing. Climbing wouldn’t be where it is today without Royal’s jazz for adventure and seeking the unknown. He paved the path with style, conviction and had the right amount of “umph” to get those crazy bums to rope up with him. Thank you for setting things straight and letting the dreams live on! RIP

  • Reply Andrew March 15, 2017 at 7:12 am

    I knew Royal in brief encounters working as an interpreter and educator in Yosemite Valley. It seems like so long ago, even though it was only 5 years ago. Royal, I’ll never forget, remained faithful to his philosophy of being respectful to the landscape and overcoming obstacles, with as little impact on the landscape as possible. My brief encounters were as he tried to share this with the new generation of climbers. I was never much a climber myself, but always appreciated his role in the place I so loved. While I am no longer in Yosemite, it stays with me, so I know a part of his legacy will too. “Climbing is a great game-great not in spite of the demands it makes, but because of them. Great because it will not let us give half of ourselves-it demands all of us. It demands our best.” – Royal Robbins. If you ever miss Royal, just head to his old stomping grounds of Yosemite, and look up…he will always be there.

  • Reply Ralfi March 15, 2017 at 9:08 am

    You are not dead, you just changed the room.
    You will live within us and accompany us in our dreams.
    RIP

  • Reply Nathan Durrant March 15, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    We’ve lost a true hero, on and off the stone. I’ve spent 20 years roaming the quiet Hinterlands of Southern Yosemite where he and Liz guided climbers in the 70s, sometimes climbing some of the routes he pioneered and recorded. As I became fascinated with the blurry history of the area, he was kind enough to share with me a few pics and recollections from the area. No single climber has inspired me more, due to his adventurous spirit, ethical stance, but mostly because he was such an all around good person. His remarkable achievements were equalled by his generosity.

    My deepest condolences to Liz and family, and his many close friends.

  • Reply Rosemarie Coulthard March 15, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Spent a lot time shopping & learning at his store here in Fresno -Robbins Mountain Shop . First Gore-Tex jacket, Gregory pack, cross country skis, boots, knickers etc. along with presentations by local climbers, kayakers etc. about their adventures.

  • Reply Carlo Zanussi March 15, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    ho sognato con i tuoi racconti e con le tue avventure. grazie

  • Reply Simon King March 15, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    I crossed paths with Royal several times: Outdoor Retailer shows, the Valley, and at put-ins on several California streams. Each time I was in awe. Not only was he a God of the vertical but he was also humble and willing to chat with a relative noob. I banged my way up the walls he ascended with grace and cut my hands to shreds on cracks he floated. Royal Robbins was more than a legend, he was a true visionary and he will be missed.

  • Reply Alex Moon March 15, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    The world seems like a hollow, dark place without you, my friend. The feeling of emptiness seems like forever. But you are happy now and that is enough to make me feel happy too. RIP

  • Reply Jack Thompson March 15, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    With rememberance of an Icon of the Outdoor Industry, I truly respect the talents and foresight Royal put forth. At the Outdoor Retailer Show, he was one of the pioneers that every Outdoorist knew what Royal Robbins stood for. He left giant foot prints to be followed by all of us. R.I.P Royal.

  • Reply Matt R March 15, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    I met Royal Robbins out at Stoney Point on a weekend in the 1980’s. I was a teenage wide-eyed boulder hound, and even though he was past his big wall days, he gave us a few good words to live by. Royal’s clean climbing ethic lives on in all of us that have ever been on the sharp end of the rope. RIP Royal – you’ve made the world a better place.

  • Reply Keri Green March 15, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    Royal was an inspiration to me when I learned to climb as a teenager in Yosemite Valley in the early 70s. I would never aspire to his legendary accomplishments but it was enough to be just a basic climber. I felt supported and encouraged to love being in the outdoors, to just be and play the adventure. I would look up at El Cap and Half Dome, with a sense of awe and reverence, a quiet appreciation for the majesty of the mountains. Royal taught that, too: reverence and awe for nature’s creation. Down the road in history, he and Liz bought a cabin in Pinecrest just a couple doors down from us. We knew each other in passing to say hello. I enjoyed his story telling when he showed his film at the amphitheater. He was funny. Carloads of young people with climbing ropes and clanking gear would descend on his cabin for “adventure weekends”. He stayed true to his love for sharing and encouraging adventure long into his days. I will miss seeing him around, but grateful to have been alive during his days here on earth.

  • Reply Julia Metz March 16, 2017 at 1:48 am

    Royal Robbins was truly a legend that has impacted my life indirectly and directly in so many ways. Royal played a large role in laying the foundation for climbing as we know it today – and was someone my father always admired. It is largely in part because of his influence that my dad got into climbing and eventually raised me to be a climber as well. The lessons my dad taught me in terms of respecting the rock and the beautiful environment we climbed in (all part of the gospel of Royal Robbins) influenced much of how I interact with nature still today. This activity also provided incredible shared experiences between me and my dad that I will be forever grateful for. It gave me the grounding, essential connection I have with the outdoors to this day. I also had the great pleasure of getting to meet Royal Robbins several years in a row for a climb in that he would host every year at Pinecrest – and after a day of climbing he and his wife Liz would open their home to a bunch of dirty climbers eager to eat and drink everything the Robbins couple had to offer and they did it with so much joy, grace, and sincerity. I particularly remember one year when I was an aspiring architecture student and I was expressing my admiration for their beautiful cabin on the lake there. Royal and Liz invited me to come back in the morning to sketch the cabin, and I vividly remember sitting in their home with Paul Simon playing in the background and Liz sweetly checking in on me every so often to see if I needed anything. I’ll never forget these moments. RIP Royal – you will be missed, and Liz, sending you all the best in this time. Thank you both for sharing your passions with the world and inspiring so many people to adventure as hard and as much as they can! <3

  • Reply Judy Miller March 16, 2017 at 4:05 am

    Our family has been climbing rocks for a few decades and always respected the legacy of Royal Robbins. From Robbins Mountaineering in Fresno to the ropes of the Sierras, the Robbins affect has made a challenge for our adventures. Amen to the previous comments and may more young people enjoy the love of climbing that your family instilled as time goes forth. RIP Royally.

  • Reply Sek March 16, 2017 at 6:57 am

    May all the sweet memories of Michael Millenacker bring you solace during this time. I hope that all the great moments that you were able to have with him/her before she/he passed away brings you comfort.

    RIP

  • Reply Peter Woerner March 16, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Royal, although I never met you, you were always – and will always – be a legend to all of us. You are not dead – a bit of your spirit lives within any of us climbers. You are not gone. You are just around the edge, we can’t see you anymore. You are leading – as you always did when it came to longing upwards. And I can hear you shouting from up there: “I’m safe”.

  • Reply Paul Landon March 16, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    Royal Robbins was why I got into climbing. I wanted to be like him. I still do. His values give me hope for the future. He will be greatly missed.

  • Reply Joe Coates March 16, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Royal was a great man and a great friend. Memories of time spent with him are some of the best. Love, thoughts, and prayers go out to Liz, Tamara, and Damon

  • Reply Larry Floyd March 16, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Royal was such a great influence on an entire generation of climbers. He will be greatly missed.

  • Reply Lehman Holder March 16, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    I met Royal Robbins a few years ago at a Mazamas Mountaineering Club banquet in Portland, OR. It was an incredible honor to chat with him for a few minutes. I was very aware of his background, what he had accomplished, and the examples he had set. Royal was a true leader and a climbing icon. He will be truly missed.

  • Reply Anonymous March 16, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    RIP

  • Reply Marie March 16, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    RIP

  • Reply Steve March 16, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu.

    Thank you for showing us a way to do things better.

  • Reply Clara González-Miller March 16, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    Thank you for sharing the sad news. RIP Royal, you were a great inspiration to a lot of us, walkers, climbers, skiers, kayakers, etc.

  • Reply steven ford March 16, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    I only had the pleasure of meeting Royal once, at an AAC event he used to host in the early 2000’s at some crags local to his cabin. I had recently moved down from Canada and was talking with him about traveling, climbing….what he explained was that for all the wonderful climbing he did in far flung places on the earth, he was most content and in awe of the vast expanse of adventures that the Sierra Nevada had to offer….lifetimes worth….said with a great intense twinkle in his eye. I took that moment to heart, and in the end can now call California. I hope to have many more adventures in the Sierras he called home and hope that now not bound by gravity that each hold he squints and in an upward gaze is a piece of cake. Rest in peace Royal, and thank you for all you’ve done for the climbing community.

  • Reply John Cioffi March 16, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    I really liked this guy. He was a client, a friend, and an inspiration to me. We shared cooking duties, business plans, and the ideas that sprung from his ambition, creativity, and quest for excellence. He was driven to succeed in all that he did, and everyone he touched walked away with a cherished gift of his vision, enthusiasm, and wonderful outlook. He was a great leader – everyone simply wanted to follow him and be around him. I’m really happy to have met him, and I’ll continue to think of him and the great example he set. What a story.

  • Reply William A. Nunez March 17, 2017 at 12:25 am

    Mr Robins,
    I never was graced to know you but I read about your exploits in the seventies as a teen and burgeoning climber. I wear your 5,11 pants every day and love to explain to people of their origin and of your legacy. Resiquate in Pace Royal..Pax et dios vobiscum..I will wear one of your shirts tomorrow in your honor….
    Maximus amore
    Capt. Bill Nunez

  • Reply Beryl Knauth March 17, 2017 at 12:30 am

    I’m so terribly sorry to hear of Royal Robbins’ passing! My heart goes out to Liz and their children as they deal with the loss of a rock climbing legend, but mostly a much loved husband and father. I was so glad to be re-acquainted with Royal and Liz after the the death of my long time friend and companion, Warren Harding. Royal had clearly evolved into a kinder, wiser and profoundly introspective man. It was clear that we had all outgrown “the feud.” It all seems rather humorous and even a little ridiculous now, but it was the the stuff of many entertaining stories in the history of rock climbing in America. I’m looking forward to reading Royal’s series of books for a better understanding of his personal journey as a rock climber and a seeker.
    Liz, in the last year I heard unverified stories about Royal’s illness and thought about trying to get in touch with you to learn more. Now that Royal has left this world, I offer my deepest condolences to you and your family. I am also struggling with grief over the loss of my only sibling to a hospital acquired infection. So I am acutely empathetic at this time. Royal with be missed and honored by the many people who admired and loved him.

  • Reply Brent Payne March 17, 2017 at 1:10 am

    I’m an Okie that learned to climb nearly 40 years ago from Dick and Jack Cain who worked at the Robbins Shop in Modesto and learned to climb themselves from Royal. His “Basic Rockcraft” and “Advanced Rockcraft” were my textbooks. I spent a summer in Yosemite climbing during my incandescent youth, in part, because of Royal Robbins. Thank you Royal for your incredible vision and guidance, you will never be forgotten.

  • Reply Barney Anderson March 17, 2017 at 2:24 am

    I was born and raised in Modesto. Close to where I lived on Magnolia Florance (Liz) was raised. My family knew her family and we had several social gatherings. Eventually I lost knowledge of the family, especially after I moved to Arizona and Colorado in the late 50’s. I lived in Durango Colorado and had many friends who were rick climbers of various levels of proficiency. All of hem knew of Royal Robbins. He was a God to all of them. One day much to my surprise I received a call from Liz saying her father wanted to attend Rotary meetings in Durango. I asked her what she had been doing all these years and she said she married a guy by the name of Royal Robbins. My response was WHAT, The Royal Robbins? She said yes and told me of her climbing experience. I was invited to there home in Telluride where I met Royal. What a gracious person, He shared his experiences with me and then we went outside where he had some climbing boulders and preceeded to show me what to do. What a wonderful guy – he knew that I knew little or nothing about serious climbing but he took the time to show me a few techniques.

    I have never forgotten about that experience and will never forget it. Liz, stay strong, We all love you. Phyllis and I were shocked to hear of Royal’s passing.

    Love, Love, Love from La Paz, Baja, Mexico

  • Reply Michael Henderson March 17, 2017 at 4:21 am

    It’s been nearly a quarter century since I interned at Royal Robbins while in grad school. But Royal was instantly recognizable as a special leader, simply being around him was uplifting and motivating. I spent four years at the company learning from Royal, mostly in awe of the enthusiasm and excitement he could inspire with nothing more than his grace, gentleness and conviction. Royal’s legacy in his many endeavors is immense, and while I can’t hope to match his accomplishments, I can honor his life and spirit by striving to emulate his passion. That, and the memory of his smile, will help fill the emptiness.

  • Reply Scott March 17, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    RR RIP

  • Reply Stephen Sherrill March 17, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    Though I never knew Royal himself, I never ceased to be amazed by the way that those who knew him speak of him. Every single person – whether peers like Tom Frost, former employees, friends or just people who met him once – every single one has a tone of reverence. His integrity and leadership lives on as a model for all of us.

  • Reply Chuck Schultz March 17, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    RIP Royal. We have lost a one-of-a-kind. I was fortunate enough to work for Royal and Liz in the 70’s, at all of their venues, and have nothing but great memories of that experience. Royal was far more than the adventure legend, he was a Philosopher. A wise man of few words but always pithy when he spoke. Royal was always slow and methodical, never in a hurry. I’ll cherish my time spent with such a great man. You are in my prayers Liz, Tamara, and Damon in this sad time.

    • Reply Loren White March 25, 2017 at 12:42 am

      Chuck, it would surely be great to see you again. Where are you? Garry Pollard contacted us the other day too. I have great memories of all you guys back in the 70’s. I never could leave this company Royal and Liz worked so hard to build. I’m headed for 50 years now!
      Loren

  • Reply Wade Tarzia March 17, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    I was only a casual rock climber in my U.Mass. days, and was introduced to the sport in a one-credit course r(which was all in the classroom), in which the teacher waxed poetic about Royal Robbins. He recommended I buy his two iconic books, and I did, and enjoyed them thoroughly for both their ethos and their clarity. I loaned them to someone who never gave them back, then disappeared, and have been seeking affordable used copies recently. In any event, I still have my dusty, battered second-hand gear hanging in the closet, and the remains of an ancient Goldline rope, and I think of Royal Robbins and my stolen books when I look at them. I happy to know he lived a full life, and when his arthritis told him “No,” he found a way to answer back, “Yes.” –wt

  • Reply Peter Campa March 17, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    Not enough words will describe my interest in Royal’s Legacy. I was fascinated through out the early 70’s of His Accomplishments. Growing up as a native of Souther Angeleno, I spent many a day climbing at stony point and Tahquitz always in Awe of his exploits. Truly Sad RIP Royal

  • Reply Dennis Kornbluh March 18, 2017 at 2:59 am

    I got to know Royal through his work. My introduction began with Basic Rockcraft, a delightful guide to climbing that compelled me to take up the sport. Then I climbed in Yosemite, where stories of his exploits pervaded the place. I even climbed a few pitches of the historic Nose route. Now I just wear his clothes, which are made to last, just as I hope his legend will endure.

  • Reply Vaughn Clark March 18, 2017 at 3:55 am

    Learned of RR’s death on NPR today. Truly an outstanding man in a wonderful time and place, a leader in the life when I took up rock climbing in the mid-seventies to 1980s. I have at my desk now beat-up first editions of Basic Rockcraft and Advanced Rockcraft that climbed the walls with me and slept in my tent at Sunnyside. His climbs climbed with me, his spirit rises through eternity.

  • Reply Keith Baker March 19, 2017 at 12:46 am

    Farewell to a giant of the outdoors community. I bought a pair of early Billy Goat shorts (that I still have) as a young Navy officer at the old Stanley Andrews store in downtown San Diego. Later, after my retirement from the Navy, I entered the outdoor business and became a Royal Robbins dealer. My wife and I had the honor of meeting Royal and Liz about ten years ago and found them both to be genuine and down-to-earth people. It’s often said meeting one’s heroes leads to disappointment, but in this case, my impressions were not only confirmed but well exceeded. I’ve been wearing a lot of Royal the past couple of days in his honor.

  • Reply Bruce March 19, 2017 at 6:17 am

    His first book was very important to me in learning the techniques of climbing. Only later I put two and two together and realized who he was. And later than that I discovered he had climbed on some of the same Southern California areas I was learning at, including Tahquitz Rock, Joshua Tree, and even my backyard crag of Mt. Woodson, where there are two or three climbs that bear his name to this day.

    So, although I never met him, I felt he was kind of a guide in spirit, and it’s always endearing when you think as you jam on Robbins Crack that the legend’s hands touched those same places. This is one of the things that really seperates climbing from many other “sports” …anyone can try the same climbs that even the greatest climbed on. Can’t really say that about something like baseball, can you?

    Anyways, R.I.P. Royal, and thanks for all your inspiration, your books, and for the first 5.9 in the country at Tahquitz, which I have climbed, imagining you up there too.

  • Reply Michael March 19, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    I just heard about this today and started to tear up. I climbed in the 70’s and 80’s and Royal, Yvon, and Warren were always my hero’s, even if they didn’t always get along. I just turned 60, and I’m going thru that sad part of life where the icons you grew up with pass along. Rest in piece, I will always remember your accomplishments.

  • Reply Bob Hartunian March 20, 2017 at 2:44 am

    Met Royal and Chouinard at Big Rock at Lake Perris around 1980. Both were legends back then and competed as to who could climb the Trough more elegantly; Robbins won.

  • Reply Susan Iwamoto March 20, 2017 at 4:57 am

    I had the great pleasure to climb Cathedral Peak with Royal when he was 62 years old…what a great adventurer! So wise, full of curiosity and enthusiasm for life and the outdoors… always a philosopher and great story-teller. What a difference he made in the world! Well Done Royal! Thank you. My sincerest condolences to his family during this very difficult time.

  • Reply Sean Caulfield March 20, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Dear Liz, I was just sitting down to write Royal a thank you note for all that he has given me and the climbing community. I still treasure a signed copy of Basic Rockcraft. His words, such as “There is no merit in succeeding through luck” formed the bedrock of my approach to climbing. Forty years later they are every bit as valid. My sincere condolences to you in this time of sadness.

  • Reply Garry Pollard March 21, 2017 at 4:16 am

    Liz, Tamara, Damon
    you lost a very loved man by all. I loved him a lot even though he fired me twice. But he was always a friend to me and always received me back. I miss hi so much and have cried a lot over him. He was always a hero to me. Is there going to be a funeral or memorial. I want to come.

    Love
    Garry Pollard

  • Reply Dave O March 21, 2017 at 4:56 am

    How many of us have been indelibly formed, by the crucible of Yosemite adventure ? How many of us carry that that spirit to this day, in our actions and how we hold ourselves in the world ? How many of us owe, not only these memories, but also dreams of future worlds, to this philosophy ? These and more, are in no small way a priceless gift, that Royal helped instill with passion and boldness. Whether you personally knew Royal or not, matters not. What does matter is the common bond we all share and continue. Bravo Royal !

  • Reply VAUGHN CLARK March 22, 2017 at 5:39 am

    I did not know the man personally, but his life and death affected me deeply.

  • Reply Skip Davis March 22, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    I never met Royal Robbins, but I did know Jerry Galwas. In 1957 I was asked to join a work party at Bud Bernard’s shop in Coronado, Ca. It turned out that we were going to make hand forge pitons for the Half Doom climb. I had made some spoon shape pitons that Jerry liked the shape of and asked if I could make several more. I was 17 years old and new to climbing then. I still have fond memories of learning how to climb with the old Sierra Club rock climbing section of that time. Royal will be missed by many climbers that he never knew, but because of his fine books on climbing so many of us were able to experience the sport.

  • Reply sandman March 23, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    I’m a green hand in rock climbing, It is the movie ‘Valley Uprising’ inspires me to pursue a new life style. I love rock climbing and I hope one day I can go to Yosemite to climb the beautiful mountain. Thank you Robbins, I hope you can climb in the heaven with Harding. You will live in my heart forever.

  • Reply Jo Aiders March 28, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    I remember seeing Royal’s cotton ‘climbing’ sneakers at the Yosemite Mountaineering shop. I think they were Tretorns…

    Until that moment, I thought that climbing (and mountaineering and even back country camping) were out of my reach. That image inspired me, and continues to inspire me.

    Thank you, Royal.

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