Climber, inventor remembered by photography contest

Sarah Bressler/Sun Star Reporter
Nov. 8, 2011

An ice axe hangs next to a display commemorating former photographer Peter McKeith in the Outdoor Adventures office. In addition to being a photographer, McKeith was also an avid mountaineer. Nov. 6, 2011. Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star

Peter MacKeith lived a life of adventure. A past president of the Alaska Alpine Club and an avid mountaineer, MacKeith was “a very smart person and a great scientist,” according to his former field assistant Daniel Solie, now a professor at UAF.

MacKeith died in a climbing accident in the Alaska Range in 1980. Though he was just 30 years old, he left a legacy in the climbing community.

“Peter was a person who went into the mountains exclusively for enjoyment,” said Carl Tobin, one of MacKeith’s friends.  “His climbs were non ambition-ridden or frenzied, but were rather more like elaborate encounter sessions, where friends could share each other’s presence without society’s handicaps.”

MacKeith was also an innovator. A doctoral student in geophysics at the time of his death, MacKeith created thermal drilling equipment and radio-echoing sound equipment to explore geological problems on mountains and glaciers. He enjoyed photography as well, employing a time-lapse camera to document his adventures and studies. MacKeith had “a passion for climbing, photography and science,” Solie said.

Born in England, MacKeith’s love for mountaineering and glaciology drove him to explore Greenland, Afghanistan, Baffin Bay, South America and, finally, Alaska. Along the way, he garnered degrees in electrical engineering and electrical science from Cambridge University and optics and physics from Imperial College. “He was well rounded,” Solie said, and “his classic British wit made him fun to be around.”

Photography became MacKeith’s non-academic passion. He left $6,000 in his will to fund amateur photography at UAF. The endowment fund created the Peter MacKeith Memorial Photography Contest. This year’s contest is currently seeking entries from any current UAF Student. Entry forms are available online and entries can be dropped off at the Sun Star office until Nov. 21 at 5 p.m. All entries should be framed and ready to hang. The three categories are black and white, color and digital art.

For entry forms and more details go to

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Teri says:

    I worked with Peter at the University. It was such a gift to have known him. I have two of his photos hanging in my home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *