Pioneering French climber Patrick Edlinger died at the age of 52 on Friday in his home in La Palud-sur-Verdon, France. The cause of his death is unknown.
Edlinger, also known as “Le Blonde” for his long, light-colored hair, was one of the foremost climbers in the 1980’s. The pioneering free-soloist (someone who climbs without any form of safety), was featured in some of the earliest climbing films as he ascended steep, 1,500-foot walls in the Verdon Gorge in south-eastern France. The video above shows Edlinger in his prime.
Known for climbing in just a headband and shorts—and sometimes without shoes—Edlinger defined French style at a time when the French were at the top of the sport.
He remained at the top of the sport for almost a decade. Edlinger’s climbing accomplishments included establishing one of the first 8b+/5.14b climbs in the world and a first-place at the first climbing World Cup held in America in 1988. At the event, only Edlinger made it through the hardest part of the route on a horizontal roof.
It was also Edlinger who began climbing development at the well-known French climbing area Ceüse in central France. The area is known for its long, steep pitches and few bolts.
In his later years, Edlinger remained a well-known figure and was scheduled to present at the Grenoble film festival on Nov. 22.