Remembering Richard Bass, first person to climb highest peak on each continent
Dick Bass

Richard Bass, an oil tycoon from Texas, known for being the first person to climb the highest peak on each of the seven continents, including Mount Everest, passed away on July 26 at his home in Dallas at the age of 85. Bass, who suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, had started and owned the Snowbird ski resort in Utah, as well as part-ownership of ski areas in Vail and Aspen, ranches in Texas, and coal mines in Alaska. Growing up in Oklahoma oil fields, Bass was greatly influenced by his father who provided him with the necessary tools for success. He was described as a larger-than-life character, blending relentless enthusiasm and profound optimism with immense courage.

Known as an honest and likeable man, Bass was haunted by his need to continually prove himself. David Breashears, a renowned climber, described Bass as a poet, visionary, and mountaineer with incredible bravery and determination. Bass was an avid skier and tennis player, and surprisingly, he never trained for any of his challenging climbs. He embarked on his record-breaking expeditions at the age of 51, and at 55, he conquered Mount Everest, following successful ascents of Aconcagua, Denali, Elbrus, Kilimanjaro, Kosciuszko, and Vinson Massif.

Bass’s main climbing partner, Frank Wells, managed to summit all the peaks except Everest. Initially, many doubted their abilities, but they ultimately proved that passion, commitment, and tenacity can lead to incredible accomplishments. Throughout his climbing journeys, Bass would often recite poetry to uplift his team’s spirits. Born in Tulsa and raised in Dallas, Bass originally aspired to become a teacher but instead studied geology at Yale University and pursued graduate work in petroleum engineering at the University of Texas.

Over the years, Bass faced criticism, with some dismissing his achievements as being facilitated by his wealth. However, his pursuit of the seven summits inspired many adventure enthusiasts and created new business opportunities for guides, impacting the world of adventure travel. Bass’s marriages to Rita Crocker and Marian Martin ended in divorce, but he found lasting love with Alice Worsham, his wife of 23 years. Despite battling illness in his later years, Bass remained active until he required a wheelchair. According to a well-known story, Bass once spent an entire flight talking about his climbing experiences without pausing to ask his seatmate, Neil Armstrong, about himself.

Who was Richard Bass

Richard Daniel “Dick” Bass was a distinguished American businessman, rancher, and mountaineer. He gained recognition as the proud owner of Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah and for his remarkable feat of being the first person to conquer the “Seven Summits,” which are the highest peaks on each continent. A testament to his exceptional spirit, Bass, at the age of 55, became the oldest person to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1985. Accompanied by David Breashears and Ang Phurba, a Nepalese sherpa, he surpassed the previous record set by Englishman Chris Bonington. For nearly a decade, Bass held the title until 1993 when it was broken by the 60-year-old mountaineer, Ramon Blanco. Bass’s journey began on December 21, 1929, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was born to Harry W. Bass Sr., a co-founder of the Goliad Corporation and the Goliad Oil and Gas Corporation. His brother, Harry W. Bass Jr., shared in his upbringing. In 1932, the family relocated to Texas, where Bass would mature both academically and personally. He attended the Texas Country Day School and later the renowned Highland Park High School in Dallas, Texas. At the mere age of 16, he embarked on his collegiate journey at Yale University, eventually earning a degree in geology in 1950. Bass further pursued his education at the University of Texas before dedicating two years of his life to serve in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, aboard the USS Essex. Following his military service, Bass returned to Texas in 1953 and assumed responsibility for managing the family’s oil and gas business, alongside their esteemed ranching operations. He also ventured into new opportunities, such as investing $10,000 in the development of the remarkable ski resort in Vail, Colorado during the 1960s. Bass’s entrepreneurial spirit flourished as he constructed the largest private residence in Vail, which consequently caught the attention of then-President Gerald Ford, who was invited to spend his winters there with his family. The Vail home appropriately became known as the Winter White House during Ford’s presidency. Bass additionally served on the Board of Directors of Vail Associates, Inc. from 1966 to 1971, contributing his insights and expertise. However, it was in 1971 that Bass’s vision truly manifested itself when he partnered with Ted Johnson to launch the Snowbird ski resort in Utah. This resort became his cherished project, and he solely owned it until he decided to sell his stake in May 2014, marking the end of an era for Bass and Snowbird.


In collaboration with Frank Wells, the future president of The Walt Disney Company, Bass made the decision to embark on a thrilling adventure challenge: conquering the highest peak on each of the seven continents. This extraordinary endeavor included ascending Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley) in North America, Aconcagua in South America, Mount Elbrus in Europe, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Vinson Massif in Antarctica, Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, and Mount Everest in Asia. This monumental feat came to be known as the Seven Summits Challenge. Despite their valiant efforts, Bass and Wells were unable to conquer Everest on their initial attempt. However, Bass persevered and, on his third try, reached the summit of Everest on April 30, 1985, with the guidance of David Breashears. This achievement not only completed the Seven Summits Challenge but also made Bass the oldest person to have successfully scaled Everest. Sadly, Wells made the decision to forgo further attempts at Everest and passed away in 1994. Bass later co-authored the book Seven Summits, documenting their remarkable accomplishment. The mountains that Bass conquered came to be known as the “Bass List,” one of two widely accepted lists. The other list, known as the “Messner List,” includes Carstensz Pyramid as the highest summit in Oceania, rather than Kosciuszko. Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air, published in 1997, asserts that Bass’s ascent of Mount Everest with Breashears heralded a “postmodern era” for the mountain, where commercial guided expeditions flourished and enticed climbers with minimal experience to pay exorbitant amounts to these enterprises in order to reach the summit.

  1. Seven Summits Challenge: Dick Bass and Frank Wells embarked on the challenge to summit the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.
  2. Denali (Mount McKinley): North America
  3. Aconcagua: South America
  4. Mount Elbrus: Europe
  5. Mount Kilimanjaro: Africa
  6. Vinson Massif: Antarctica
  7. Mount Kosciuszko: Australia
  8. Mount Everest: Asia – Time: April 30, 1985
  9. Seven Summits Feat: Dick Bass and David Breashears successfully summited Everest, completing the Seven Summits Challenge.
  10. Oldest Person to Summit Everest: Dick Bass, at the time of his ascent in 1985.
  11. Book Publication: Dick Bass co-wrote the book “Seven Summits” chronicling the achievement.
  12. Bass List vs. Messner List: The list of mountains summited by Bass became known as the “Bass List,” differing from the “Messner List,” which includes Carstensz Pyramid as the highest summit of Oceania instead of Kosciuszko.


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