Michael J. Ybarra

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Michael J. Ybarra (photo: Darcy Padilla)
Michael Ybarra on Temple Crag (photo: Misha Logvinov)
Michael Ybarra on Mt. Sill (photo: Misha Logvinov)

Michael J. Ybarra (September 28, 1966-June 30, 2012) was a journalist, author and climber. Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, he graduated with a B.A. in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles and earned a M.A. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Ybarra was a former staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, and contributed to The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic and Alpinist. He interviewed numerous climbing legends for these publications including Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, Dick Dorsworth, Fred Beckey, and Dee Molenaar. He is the author of "Washington Gone Crazy: Senator Pat McCarran and the Great American Communist Hunt". The biography was a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, included in the 100 Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review and shortlisted for the Ambassador Book Award in American Studies. It won the D.B. Hardeman Prize for best book on Congress from the Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation.

From 2007 until his death in 2012, Ybarra chronicled his adventures for The Wall Street Journal as its extreme sports correspondent. He wrote articles from such far-flung places as: Nepal, Thailand, the Italian Alps, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Canada, Alaska, Montana and the Sierra Nevada. Ybarra was also the recipient of the prestigious American Alpine Club McNeill-Nott Award for an attempt on the unclimbed southeast face of Singu Chuli in the Annapurna Sanctuary.

Selected Articles

Michael J. Ybarra Memorial Collection

Thanks to the generosity and effort of the Ybarra family, represented by Suzanne, Michael's sister, the club's Library includes many of Michael's books. These are housed with the rest of the collection in the Sherman Fairchild Library, and include both instructional material and guidebooks from climbing destinations near and far. The library is open to the public 8am-5pm, and Caltech and JPL affiliates can use their ID card for 24 hour access or to check out books from the collection.

The books in the collection are:


Author(s) Title
Atkinson, Chris and Marc Piche The Bugaboos: One of the world's great alpine rockclimbing centers
Bass, Dane The Whole Enchilada: A climber's guide to Potrero Chico, Mexico
Bernhardson, Wayne Patagonia (Including the Falkland Islands), Moon Handbook
Biggar, John The Andes
Bird, Bryan Zion Climbing: Free and Clean
Bourdon, Marc Squamish Select
Burns, Cameron Colorado Ice Climber's Guide
Crough, Gregory Enduring Patagonia
Damilano, Francois Snow, ice and mixed: the guide to the Mont-Blanc Range (Vol I from the Trient Basin to the Geant Basin)
Garibotti, R. Gui de escaladas: Refugio E. Frey, Cerro Catedral, Bariloche
Genereux, Andy Yamnuska Rock
Gerdes, Matt The Great Book of Base
Goedeke, Richard The Alpine 4000m peaks (by the Classic Routes)
Green, Randall and Joe Bensen Bugaboo Rock: A Climbing Guide
Griffin, Lindsay Mont Blanc Massif: Volume I
Griffin, Lindsay Mont Blanc Massif: Volume II
Griffin, Lindsay Valais Alps West: Selected Climbs
Halvorsen, Patricia Alejandra Between the rio de las vueltas and the continental ice cap
Houston, Mark and Kathy Cosley Alpine Climbing: Techniques to take you higher
Jones, Tom Zion: Canyoneering
Josephson, Joe Winter Dance: Select ice climbs in southern Montana and northern Wyoming
Josephson, Joe Waterfall Ice: Climbs in the Canadian Rockies
Kearney, Alan Mountaineering in Patagonia
Kelsey, Joe Wind River Mountains: Climbing and hiking
Knapp, Fred and Mike Stevens The Park: A guide to the crags and high peaks of rocky mountain national park
Lonely Planet Nepal Lonely Planet
Lopez, Tom Idaho: A climbing guide, climbs, scrambles and hikes
Madge, Tim Bill Tillman: The last hero, a biography of the explorer
Martin, John and Jon Jones Sport climbs in the Candian Rockies
Miramontes, Robert Joushua Tree: A color guide to the 2600 best rock climbs and boulder problems
Moss, Chris Patagonia: A Cultural History
Noyce, Wilfrid Climbing the Fish's Tail
Ogden, Jared Big Wall Climbing: Elite Technique
Ortenburger, Leigh and Reynold Jackson A Climber's Guide to the Teton Range
Richins, Paul 50 Classic Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Summits in California
Ridgeway, Rick Below Another Sky: A mountain adventure in search of a lost father
Roberts, Jack Colorado Ice: Volume 1
Rossiter, Richard Teton Classics: 50 Selected Climbs in Grand Teton National Park
Rossiter, Richard Best of Boulder Climbs
Rowell, Barbara Flying South: A pilots inner journey
Swindin, Les Bernese Oberland: including Salbitschijen
Tillman, H.W. The Eight Sailing/Mountain Exploration Books
Ulrich, Marshall Running on Empty
Accidents in North American Mountaineering, 2011
The American Alpine Journal
The American Alpine Journal
The American Alpine Journal


The Ybarra family has also graciously donated Michael's alpine touring ski set up. This includes Black Diamond Guru Skis (167 cm), Diamir Eagle bindings, Black Diamond Method boots (mondo size 28.5, approximately US 10.5/11), and a ski bag. These skis are available for check out from the Caltech Y.

Notable Climbs

One of Michael's climbing partners, Seth Timpano, has compiled a list of some of Michael's notable climbs, which you view here.

Favorite Quote

"Achievements come from turmoil, and some are worth the price of pain. Men have often been motivated to seek goals that have no remuneration in themselves and that lie outside any obvious path of ‘duty.’ The essence of sport is the duel between the spirit of many and the limitations of matter; the mind must dominate the body. Nowhere is the contrast between apparent peril and actual security more dramatic than in rock climbing.” -Fred Beckey

Search and Rescue

California's search and rescue teams rely on volunteers who put in huge amounts of time and effort to keep us safe. Please support them! The following two Search and Rescue teams were involved in searching for Michael

Other local teams include

Memorial Links

Other Links