After a long fight with prostate cancer and kidney failure, legendary Colorado climber Layton Kor (right, with son Arlan) succumbed to the diseases on Sunday, April 21. Kor, 74, was one of the biggest names in the sport in the 1950s and ’60s. He put up dozens of notable first ascents, including the Kor-Ingalls Route on Castleton Tower, Utah, with Huntley Ingalls; Finger of Fate on the Titan, one of the Fisher Towers near Moab; and the West Buttress of El Cap in 1963 with Steve Roper.
As AJ’s Brendan Leonard wrote, “Kor has acquired mythological status through his infinite energy and courage, especially on steep, rotten, terrifying terrain.”
In 2009, the climbing community rallied around Kor to help raise money to pay for his rapidly mounting medical bills, led by Steph Davis, who wrote, “When I first started climbing, after moving away from Maryland, I lived in Fort Collins, Colorado. Since I spent most of my time in the Colorado/Utah region, the name Layton Kor kept coming up every time I went climbing somewhere. It seemed like he had climbed EVERYTHING. I guess it seemed like that because he had.
“Every time I climb the Kor Ingalls on Castleton, I enjoy the route twice as much because I imagine Layton Kor and Huntley Ingalls going up there in 1961, with no store-bought climbing gear, no certainty of anything and climbing that sheer-sided tower to the top for the first time. To me, more than any other type of climbing experience, the significance of that kind of pioneering adventure into the pure unknown is absolutely inspiring.
Unfortunately, Kor struggled with his medical bills until the end and died nearly penniless. “If Layton got a nickel for every person who ever climbed one of his routes,” said his biographer Cameron Burns, “he’d have been a wealthy man.”