Nicholas Clinch

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Nicholas Bayard Clinch III (9 November 1930, Evanston, Illinois - 15 June 2016, California) was an American mountain climber, lawyer and author.

Early life[edit]

Clinch grew up in Dallas, Texas, and Roswell, New Mexico, attending the New Mexico Military Institute while his colonel father flew in the Air Force. He graduated from Stanford and where he later obtained a degree in law. He then followed his father into the Air Force. He married Elizabeth ("Betsy") Wallace Campbell in 1964[1]

Mountain climbing[edit]

He is the only American ever to have led a first ascent of a peak in excess of 8,000 metres (26,000 ft), which was achieved when his team conquered the world's 11th highest mountain, Hidden Peak (Gasherbrum I) in north-east Pakistan, in 1958.[2][1]. He was a member of the American-Pakistani team which made the first ascent of Masherbrum, the world's 22nd tallest peak, in 1960.[3] He led the 10-man 1966–67 American Antarctic Mountaineering Expedition that made the first ascent of Mount Vinson, the summit of Antarctica, and other high mountains in the Sentinel Range.

He was president of the American Alpine Club from 1968 to 1970.[4] He also made the first ascent of Tibet's Ulugh Muztagh, in 1985.[5] Despite being a tall and gangly asthmatic,[1] in addition to Antarctica, Pakistan and Tibet, he made numerous ascents and expeditions in the United States, British Columbia, Peru and China.[6]

Legal career[edit]

Clinch was trustee and then executive director of the Sierra Club Foundation from 1970 to 1981[7] and was an early member of the board of nature-focused consumers' co-operative Recreational Equipment, Inc.[2]

In the 1970s, he represented the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association of Irvine, California.[1]

He was a director of the Environmental Law Institute from 1980 to 1986.[7]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 1967, National Geographic awarded Clinch their La Gorce Medal for his Antarctic ascent.[7] Clinch was made a Fellow of the Explorers Club in 1969 and was elected to Honorary Membership in The Alpine Club, London.[2] For his contributions to mountaineering, the Sierra Club awarded Clinch its Francis P. Farquhar Mountaineering Award.[7]

In 2013, he was inducted into the Hall of Mountaineering Excellence by the American Mountaineering Museum.[2]

In February 2016, Clinch received the American Alpine Club's Gold Medal, only the fifth to be awarded in 114 years.[8]

Clinch Peak, located at 1.6 miles (2.6 km) southeast of Antarctica's tallest peak, Mount Vinson, was named for Clinch in 2006.[4]


  • Clinch, Nicholas (1982). A Walk in the Sky: Climbing Hidden Peak. Mountaineers. ISBN 9780898860429.
  • Clinch, Nicholas; Clinch, Elizabeth (2011). Through a Land of Extremes: The Littledales of Central Asia. The Mountaineers Books. ISBN 9781594855153.


  1. ^ a b c d Weber, Bruce (22 June 2016). "Nicholas Clinch, Who Took On Unclimbed Mountains, Dies at 85". New York Times. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "American Alpine Club Past President Nick Clinch Passes Away". American Alpine Club. 15 June 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  3. ^ In Memoriam section Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine of the American Alpine Journal, 2001
  4. ^ a b "Clinch Peak". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Services set for renowned climber Clinch, 85". Jackson Hole News & Guide. 14 June 2017. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  6. ^ "Author and International Mountaineer Nick Clinch Passes Away". The Mountaineers. 27 June 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d Futrell, William J (14 July 2016). "Nicholas Clinch: An Environmental and Mountaineering Pioneer".
  8. ^ "RIP: Nicholas Clinch, 85, Led Only American First Ascent of an 8000er". Rock and Ice. 15 June 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2018.