tributes from mountaineers


Stim Bullitt was born with a “silver spoon in his mouth,” by his own admission, and he spent the rest of his life trying to live it down.  Early on, when he would be delivered to school in his mother’s Rolls Royce, he would lie on the floor and beg the chauffeur to drop him off at least a block away so that his classmates would not see him arrive in this ostentatious manner.  While a student at Yale he joined the varsity boxing team, “so that I could compete with the poor black boys from Harlem, man to man.”  He did not always win the bouts, but he did remarkably well, considering his sheltered upbringing.  When going home to Seattle, he declined his mother’s offer to take the Pullman car of the transcontinental train.  Instead, he would “ride the rails” in cold and dirty cattle cars with bands of hobos, whom he respected. “They were not bums, they were hobos!”

It is small wonder that his love of nature, combined with his spirit of independence, resulted in unbounded enthusiasm for mountain climbing.  Stim’s exposure to the outdoors of the Pacific Northwest started with family outings and the Boy Scouts.  Later, he would take his own children on hiking trips.  It wasn’t until he turned 50 that he discovered the joy of actual mountaineering.  Still later came the thrill of climbing hard rock – which eventually made him a legend. 

He was in his sixties when he climbed Denali - on his third attempt.  Having finally succeeded, he realized that high altitude peaks were not his thing.  He delighted in low level alpine climbs and steep rock.  He teamed up with Fred Beckey for some first ascents of peaks in the Coast Range of British Columbia.  The two “dirt-bag” climbers could not have been better matched.  When he couldn’t find climbing partners to join him he would not hesitate to solo routes - routes that were normally done by roped teams.  He did not gloat about these exploits, it was just the expedient thing to do. 

He found his true passion in climbing hard rock.  He savored multi-pitched routes on Liberty Bell Mountain, Slesse Peak, The Squamish Chief, West Ridge of Mt. Sir Donald, to mention but a few.  During wet winter days he could be found in the local climbing gym.  If regular climbing partners could not be had, his wife Tina would patiently belay him.  During one indoor climbing competition the “Masters” division included anyone over fifty years old.  I was 54 at that time and was proud to get third place.  Stim got first place; he was 74.

When his stamina for carrying heavy loads started to wane he focused on sport climbs that did not require long treks to reach the climb.   “Exit 38” is just a half-hour drive east of Seattle and Stim delighted in climbing these short but steep routes during the summer.  Three or four times a year he would fly to other established climbing areas; the warm granite of Joshua Tree National Park was his favorite.  Always pushing himself to the limit, he sought out routes that were technically attractive (“lots of stars in the guidebook”).  One such route was called “Illusion Dweller” and rated a respectable 10b.  At the age of 83 he succeeded in leading this classic route.  Patagonia Magazine ran a full-page photo ad showing Stim struggling up the final move near the top.  “Alex, this is one of the happiest days of my life,” he declared with a boyish grin when he finished the climb.  This accomplishment inspired climbers all over the world.  “This gives me hope that I may still climb when I’m 83,” I often heard young climbers say when they realized I was there to belay him.

Stim was a successful lawyer and worked until his reluctant retirement, by then in his mid-seventies.  For a time he was president of King Broadcasting Corp. - a communications conglomerate his mother founded.  Ironically, this president of the largest television station in the region disdained the idea of watching television.  He was a prolific reader and writer.  One of his proudest moments came when he heard that his name was on President Nixon’s “enemies list,” an honor earned for his vocal opposition to the Viet Nam war.  He made most of his many millions through the real estate development company he founded – rebuilding inner city areas of Seattle and expanding ski resorts in the Cascades. 

He strongly believed in helping rectify social and racial injustices and contributed most of his considerable wealth to such causes, often as an “anonymous” donor.  He co-founded the Bullitt Foundation, which is still addressing the conservation needs of America’s wilderness and mountain areas.  True to his principles, he made sure that he was broke (or nearly so) when he died - sitting in his house in full view of the mountains he loved.

 - Alex Bertulis


off the web:

 ~ from: :

Russ Walling
Gym climber
V***a, Wyoming
Apr 20, 2009

oh wow! Bummer....

Sincere condolences to his friends and family. He was an inspiration.

On Double Cross, leading, at around age 79?:



Pic and story here:


Mountain climber
Monrovia, CA
Apr 20

Stim was the old school definition of gentleman. It was my great honor to know him since the mid-70's when I started guiding him. When I moved to California he would come down and we would just go climbing. The climbing sort of got in the way of the experience because it was hard to talk a rope length apart. Being storm-bound in a tent with him was time well spent; his encyclopedic knowledge never allowed for idle chit-chat. I highly recommend his autobiography "River Dark and Bright". He also wrote "To Be a Politician" which more or less relates how and why an honest intelligent person has a place in politics.

When he was 71 we did Fairview Regular. It was early summer and the 'wet spot' was in full flow. We were second in line and watched the crew ahead fairly embarrass themselves. They were both still at the belay when I got there and to their credit allowed us to pass. I'll never forget their faces when they saw Stim cruise on up!

Thank you Stim, rest easy...


Trad climber
Hollywood, CA
Apr 21

If anyone led a truly remarkable, one-of-a-kind life that was VERY well was Stim. He was a 20th Century Renaissance man. I believe he was 89, at least he was as of January when I last saw him up in Seattle.

I got to know Stim over Thanksgiving weekend '05. Fred Beckey told his friend Alex Bertulis to call me if he was ever climbing down in JT. He did and I ended up heading out and spending the weekend with Stim, Tina and Alex climbing out in JT. We stayed at the 29 Palms Inn. Styling (compared to my usual bivs)! We climbed, dined, I listened to amazing stories from amazing company. Stim's life history is that of legend…

Climbing with him in JT was inspiring. He was probably 85-86 at the time and could still TR a 5.10a face in Indian Cove without hangs or falls. Slow and methodical, but he did it!

The story behind Illusion Dweller is a great one. He didn't climb much in JT (being a Cascades adjacent dweller) but he saw a photo of Illusion Dweller somewhere and was so enchanted by the route's name that he decided he HAD to climb it. He flew down on weekends and worked and worked the route until he felt ready then went after it. A truly awesome feat and route for an 80 something non-JT crack climber. The photo apparently ended up as a Patagonia ad from what I understand (I never did see it).


Big Wall climber
Cape Town / Japan
Apr 21

The caption to that advert read: "Like a fine wine...."
Very apt.


Trad climber
Eldorado Springs, CO
Apr 21

With a kick ass name like Stimson Bullitt, thank God he lived a long and fruitful life. I would love to hear how he got an original name like that. I bet it's a story in itself. Condolences to the family and friends, he sounded like he lived it up the WHOLE time.
Trad climber
The state of confusion
Apr 21

My condolences to his family and friends.

Someone to look up to, certainly.


Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Apr 21

What a great guy he was!

After seeing the magazine articles etc., I finally met him last season in Indian Cove. He and some friends were climbing "Coyote in The Bushes," a pretty tricky 5.10 face climb there. I recognized him and made a point of exchanging greetings. He had a gleam in his eyes.

My heartfelt condolences to family and friends.


Trad climber
Apr 21

Stim was one of kind. I was constantly amazed when he'd show up in the most improbable places, be it mountains, crags, you name it. The looks he'd get shakily doing stuff way off the deck at the VC only to have staff or friends tell those concerned, "don't worry, it's just Stim."

Rest in peace my friend, you'll be missed.


Trad climber
Rocky mountains
Apr 21

Condolances to family, now he'll always have the sun at his back, and splitters galore


Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Apr 21

stim spent some time around our campfire a few thanksgivings ago, i think it was the trip where he led illusion dweller. a humble and gracious man. here's to the life well lived.


Trad climber
Hollywood, CA
Apr 21

The one and only Stim Bullitt. Indian Cove. Thanksgiving '05:



Alex Bertulis & Stim Bullitt:




Social climber
WA, NC, Idaho Falls
Apr 21

Stim had a interview in Rock and Ice a few years ago.

I guess the patagonia rep gave him the shirt to lead illusion deweller, and then took it back after he led the route. Stim didn't seem to ruffled by the whole thing, kinda a funny story none the less.

I wish I had known him. Wishing his friends and family well, he is certainly in a better place, climbing endless 5.10 (if one exists).


Apr 23

Stim left indelible impressions on all of us who knew him and his luminance never dimmed even as his body failed.

Stim was a rock climber extraordinaire, but that was only one facet of this Renaissance man. For a few pictures of other aspects of Stim see


Trad climber
Apr 23

Stim quote from the mountainzone article:

"I started climbing at age 50, as an experiment, and the appetite grew with the feeding..."



Trad climber
Seattle WA
Apr 23

To the long list of people and groups that Stim influenced, add the hard-working would-be regime-changers of Climbers4Kerry. We may not have got what we wanted, but he was there to help us do what we could.
 - Ian


~ from: :

Don't believe everything you think

04/20/09    Re: Stim Bullitt


Doug T
Mill Creek WA      

He was one of my heroes. I remember seeing him on an advertisement climbing some JTree 5.10 when he was in his 80's. Thanks for the motivation Stim.

Doug Taylor


Yeah! 89 good years baby, great ride he had - brightened up the world a bit, had a fantastic life, stayed long, lived full and then checked out. Wow! Hope I do as well. See you all on the other side at some point.




never met him, but damn he looks like kirk douglas in this shot, eh?

"wise sir - do not grieve - for every one of us, living in this world means waiting for our end - let he who can achieve glory before death - when a warrior is gone, that will be his best and only bulwark"



Aw man, I remember my Dad telling climbing stories about Stim when I was a kid back in 70s. His climbing and professional exploits are an inspiration. He'll be missed.


Spray Master

I rarely participate in these "tribute" threads but this guy was tops. I'd like to say something touching or eloquent but that is really all there is to it. Stim was often out there and if you climbed around here a lot you probably ran into him once in a while - at least in the last few years - and had a good interaction with the man. I'll miss him next time I don't see him for a while.


el jefe
addicted to

vaya con dios, stim. a genuine man of quality.


old hand
Port Angeles        

I met him once about fifteen years ago. I didn't know who he was. He was descending Boston Basin with some big swarthy Eastern European climber who didn't speak any English. Bullitt introduced himself to me and showed me his backcountry permit. He was very friendly and had a larger-than-life personality that radiated optimism. I couldn't help but like him right off. What a character! RIP Stim Bullitt...
He is richest whose needs are least.


addicted to

The JT route in the magazines was Illusion Dweller (10b) I think and when interviewed Stim said it was so hard he didn't want to do anything more at that level (JT trad at least).

I competed against him once in the Masters division at the Redmond VW and the crafty bastard beat me despite a 30+ year age difference. He was really good at assessing climbs from the bottom that suited his style while I just threw myself at everything and failed at many. A humbling experience for me but his climbing tenacity into his later years was very inspiring.



I had the pleasure of helping him reach his goal of climbing five of the quality .10a's at the Exit 38 area after he turned 82. Iguanarama at Amazonia was on his list so Stim, Tina, my girlfriend Lynn and I hiked up to Amazonia and watched as he styled his way up Iguanarama and followed me up a few more harder routes at the crag. Another one on his list was Stairway to Heaven which has a fairly long uphill approach that I later learned he successfully completed. He eventually completed his goal during his 82nd year! I can only hope to be having the same adventures when I reach those years. I consider myself very lucky to have known such a great man! 
The photo of Stim climbing Illusion Dweller was a Patagonia advertisement. He told me that they asked for the shirt back.  - Rick



i've been wondering, was he born 'stim bullitt" or was that a nom de guerre or somethign? a totally badass name for a badass climber!



He has a Memoir called River Dark & Bright. Haven't read it, but saw it when I was at the Sleeping Lady (founded by, I believe his sister) a couple of months ago.

It's worth reading. I picked up a copy after a friend and Vertical Club employee told me about this old character who would take head-first whippers on the lead wall. I introduced myself and informed him I was reading his book. He seemed as tickled as I was impressed.

In River Dark and Bright he commented on how disappointingly ephemeral life is. He wasn't the type to squander one minute of it, whether in pursuit of adventure or improving his community through a position of power. He was one who understood the importance and responsibility of leadership.