Dee Molenaar (born June 21, 1918) is an American mountaineer, author and artist from Tacoma, Washington. He is best known as the author of The Challenge of Rainier, first published in 1971 and considered the definitive work on the climbing history of Mount Rainier.
Molenaar was born in Los Angeles, California to Dutch immigrant parents. During World War II, he served as a photographer in the U.S. Coast Guard in the Aleutians and western Pacific. In 1950, he earned a B.Sc. degree in geology at the University of Washington, and then served as civilian advisor in the Army's Mountain & Cold Weather Training Command at Camp Hale, Colorado.
Molenaar worked as a park ranger and mountain guide in Mount Rainier National Park, climbing the mountain over 50 times as a guide and on personal trips, via more than a dozen different routes including three first ascents. He participated in the 1946 second ascent of Mount Saint Elias in Alaska. He was a member of the Third American Karakoram Expedition, a 1953 mountaineering expedition to K2 in which the party became trapped during a severe storm. Along with "Big Jim" Jim Whittaker and Robert Kennedy, he was a member of the 1965 climb and first ascent of Mount Kennedy in the Yukon, named after John F. Kennedy.
His career with the U.S. Geological Survey took him to Alaska, Colorado, Utah, and Washington, until his retirement in 1983. On April 7, 2012, the American Alpine Club inducted Molenaar into its Hall of Mountaineering Excellence at an award ceremony in Golden, Colorado. He turned 100 in June 2018.
Molenaar paints in watercolors and oils. He is known for his impressionism-style art with mountain and desert landscapes the dominant theme in his works. He painted the highest watercolor in history, spending 10 days in a tent painting K2 from memory at 25,000 feet during a severe storm that hit during the 1953 expedition. With precious fuel for melting snow running low, his teammates made him drink the remaining water colored with pigments.
Molenaar, Dee (2005) [9th printing, original 3rd edition 1979]. The Challenge of Rainier: a record of the explorations and ascents, triumphs and tragedies, on the Northwest's greatest mountain (3rd ed.). Mountaineers Books. p. 364. ISBN 0-916890-70-8.
- The Challenge of Rainier, back cover.
- Houston, Charles H., Robert H. Bates, Jim Wickwire. (2000). K2, The Savage Mountain: The Classic True Story of Disaster and Survival on the World's Second Highest Mountain. The Lyons Press.
- Osius, Alison (April 11, 2012). "Beautiful minds: Blum, Reichardt, Kendall, Molenaar in Mountaineering Hall of Fame". Rock and Ice. Archived from the original on April 12, 2012. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
- "Happy 100th Birthday, Dee Molenaar!". www.mountaineers.org.