ROME (AP) — Riccardo Cassin, a mountaineering pioneer credited with 100 first ascents from the Himalayas to Alaska, is dead at the age of 100.
Cassin died Aug. 6 at his home in Piani Resinelli, a hamlet north of Milan at the foot of the Alps, his climbing equipment company said. The cause of death was not announced.
"He has left us a wealth of values, dreams and climbs that will continue to guide us," said a statement from the company, Cassin Srl. "His rope is still tied to us and continues to drive us."
Italian media remembered Cassin as a man who helped to transform mountaineering from a romantic 19th century challenge into a highly technical sport.
He was born into poverty on Jan. 2, 1909, in the northeast village of San Vito al Tagliamento. His father died in a Canadian mining accident when Riccardo was still a toddler.
As a young man, Cassin began work as a blacksmith in the town of Lecco on Lake Como. Sunday outings with friends in the nearby mountains sparked his love for climbing over a six-decade career.
He and his companions were known as the Ragni di Lecco, "the Spiders of Lecco." They went on to pioneer daring routes that are still used today to climb some of the world's most treacherous peaks.
The most memorable of Cassin's first ascents included the 1961 climb up the previously "unclimbable" southern ridge of Alaska's Mt. McKinley, the highest peak of North America at 20,320 feet (6,194 meters).
Cassin and his five companions received a congratulatory telegram from U.S. President John F. Kennedy after they conquered McKinley at the cost of severe frostbite. The most daunting McKinley ridge is named after Cassin today.
Cassin continued to climb until the late 1980s, totaling around 2,500 ascents.
He is survived by three sons and eight grandchildren. Funeral arrangements were not announced.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press