Art (Arthur Karr) Gilkey (September 25, 1926 – August 10, 1953) was an American geologist and mountaineer.

Arthur Karr Gilkey
Born(1926-09-25)September 25, 1926
DiedAugust 10, 1953(1953-08-10) (aged 26)

He was born in Boulder, Colorado, to Herbert J. Gilkey (1890–1976) and Mildred (Talbot) Gilkey, and was raised in Ames, Iowa, where his father was a professor of Engineering. He earned a Bachelor's of Science degree from Iowa State in 1949[clarification needed] and, after a tour of duty in the Navy during World War II, began graduate study in Geology at Columbia University, where he earned a Master of Science degree in 1950. Prior to his death, Gilkey had completed his doctoral dissertation, “Fracture Pattern of the Zuni Uplift,” and was posthumously awarded a Ph.D.[1] His thesis advisor was Walter H. Bucher.[2] An article Gilkey wrote with Arie Poldervaart was published posthumously.[3]

Gilkey explored Alaska in 1950 and 1952. He died during the 1953 American expedition to summit K2. At Camp III, he came down with thrombophlebitis (blood clots in the leg) or possibly deep venous thrombosis, followed by pulmonary embolism. His fellow expedition members, including Charles Houston and Pete Schoening, immediately turned back in an attempt to save his life. During the descent, Gilkey, wrapped in a sleeping bag, suddenly disappeared. It is believed he was swept away by an avalanche, but others conjecture that he untied himself from the ropes to spare his teammates from further risk on his behalf.[4] Gilkey's remains were discovered in 1993, melting out of the glacier at the base of the south face of K2.[5]


  • The Gilkey Memorial to deceased climbers, situated below K2, was originally built for, and named after, Art Gilkey.
  • The American Alpine Club administers the Arthur K. Gilkey Memorial Award, providing grants in aid of scientific research in alpine areas.


  1. ^ "AAC web page". Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  2. ^ Gilkey, Arthur K. (1953). Fracture pattern of the Zuni uplift. RME-3050 U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Technical Information Service.
  3. ^ Gilkey, Arthur K.; Poldervaart, Arie (February 1954). "On clouded plagioclase". American Mineralogist. 39 (1–2): 75–91.
  4. ^ Rowell, Galen (1977). In The Throne Room of the Mountain Gods. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. pp. 226–234. ISBN 0-87156-184-0.
  5. ^ "American Alpine Journal, Climbs and Expeditions, 1993, p.247".