In memoriam: Alpinist Riccardo Cassin dies at 100

Riccardo Cassin, a pioneer in Alpine climbing and founder of the Cassin climbing equipment company, died Aug. 6 at the age of 100.
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Riccardo Cassin, a pioneer in Alpine climbing and founder of the Cassin climbing equipment company, died Aug. 6 at the age of 100.

“You could absolutely make the argument that he was one of the greatest Alpine climbers of all time,” Tommy Knoll, managing director of C.A.M.P. USA, told SNEWS.

Cassin began forging his own pitons in Lecco, Italy, in 1947, and in subsequent years produced hammers, ice axes and carabiners. In 1958, he constructed his first harness, and in 1960, produced titanium crampons. Cassin’s company operated independently until 1997 when CAMP Technical Adventure Equipment purchased the Cassin trademark.

“The Cassin line today is still centered around technical products, and it’s kind of a throwback with a full line of big-wall products that you just don’t see anymore,” said Knoll.

Cassin developed his climbing reputation by making several first ascents in the Italian Alps in the 1930s. He was also known for climbing the technically difficult Walker Spur of the Grand Jorasses, a 4,208-meter rock formation in France that is part of the Mont Blanc massif. In another claim to fame, after completing a new line on Mount McKinley (now a classic route named for Cassin), he received a congratulatory telegram from President John F. Kennedy.

According to a Riccardo Cassin interview on Climbing.com, he kept up a routine of doing 30 minutes of push-ups and sit-ups until his mid 90s, and was climbing routes as difficult as 5.10b at age 85.

“I couldn’t think of another Alpinist who in his fifties, sixties and seventies was climbing big routes like Riccardo was,” said Knoll.

--Marcus Woolf

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