Posted on: September 1, 2006
Not So Hot?
The editorial in Alpinist 15 is laudable: it shows your magazine is thinking about wider issues than our wonderful, if self-centered, pursuit of mountaineering. While I'm no environmental scientist, I am concerned, however, about some overhyped assertions, which have been repeated in your Editor's Note.
The Bonatti Pillar is certainly gone, ironically more or less the day after your eminent president rejected the Kyoto Accord on global warming. But "the Spider waits no longer"? Ask John Harlin, who scaled it in perfect conditions last autumn, or Ueli Steck, who recently made a solo second ascent of the ultrahard directissima, The Young Spider. The Diamond Couloir? Ask Fred Salamin, who ice climbed the whole route last year with screw protection. The North Face of Les Droites? A probable new variation was established there quite recently. Don't forget that dating back to the 1970s, the bottom part of the Droites has occasionally melted out and been deemed "unclimbable."
In the context of all this devastation, it is also worth recalling that cataclysmic Alpine rockfalls are not solely a recent occurrence, as the great scars on the west faces of the Blaitiere and Grand Charmoz testify. These marks resulted from the terrific collapses in the early 1950s and in 1980, respectively, that destroyed those eras' major routes (and future classics).
—Lindsay Griffin, Gwynedd, Wales, Britain
Editor's Note: The esteemed Mr. Griffin's authority on alpinism notwithstanding, Mr. Harlin's observations concur with our own: while he and his party found "perfect conditions" during their September 2005 ascent of the Eiger's north face, they were perfect "only because we waited for the fresh snow to solidify into neve." "[T]hese days," Harlin notes, "the Eiger is rarely climbed in summer—the rockfall danger is too high.... [L]ess and less can we depend on so-called 'permanent' ice to be there for us." Ueli Steck agrees: he found the Eiger's north face had much less ice when he climbed it last January than it had in the past. And in his article for the February 2006 issue of Climbing Magazine, Jim Donini explains that though Mt. Kenya's Diamond Couloir is still "climbable," on his 2005 ascent, he found that climate change has transformed it into a "leaner and meaner climb."
In the last few decades, glacial ice appears to have decreased more than at any time over the past 5,000 years: by 1991 a glacier in Austria's Oetztal Alps had thawed so much that a frozen Stone Age mummy emerged from it, while in Kenya, 92% of the Lewis Glacier—Mt. Kenya's largest—has melted. Routes like the ones Mr. Griffin mentions may indeed vary from year to year, as all ice climbs do, but we stand by our conclusion that the world is heating up.
Sorry about That
I finally found the small "A Note about this Issue" (Page 1, Issue 14) stating that Issue 13 was your sport-climbing issue. Well yes, I did miss it because you never sent it. When I paid $89 for my subscription, I assumed it was for all the issues, rather than just for some of them. Please send me Issue 13 and you can deduct one issue from my subscription, if you have to.
—Michael K. Miller, M.D., Arvada, Colorado
Editor's Note: We never published an Issue 13, because we're superstitious. The reference to a "sport-climbing issue" was a joke.
[Illustration] Jeremy Collins
It'll Have to Be a Redpoint, Then
Thank you for eternally ruining my onsight of the Free Nose and crushing a man's dreams with one turn of the page. The photo spread of Tommy Caldwell on the Changing Corners pitch ("A Long Time Coming," Issue 15) irreversibly tarnished the purity of my ascent forever.
—Christopher Trainor, Waterbury, Connecticut
To China with Love
I was extremely disappointed to learn that you changed your magazine's printing location from Canada to China. I subscribed for my husband, who considers your articles and pictures to be the best of any climbing magazine available. Unfortunately, as companies continue to desert their Canadian and US manufacturing plants, many North Americans are losing their jobs. My husband is one such person.
Such businesses fail to recognize that in the long run this practice is not good for our economy. Even more frustrating, after they switch to less-expensive, overseas sites, their profits are not passed to the consumers. Did your rates go down? No.
It is sad for us because we thought that Alpinist stood for preservation, not destruction. Sorry, but I will not be renewing our subscription at this time.
—Linda Rundle, Mundelein, Illinois
Editor's Note: Our move to print in China (which began with Issue 9) is not an effort to line our pockets at the expense of our customers', but to keep Alpinist around and employing people in Jackson, Wyoming. Were we to have continued printing in North America, we would have needed to raise the cover price by $3 an issue to remain in business. Perhaps Ms. Rundle would be inclined to pay such a price, but she would represent a small minority of our subscribers, who, frankly, are predominantly dirtbags.
Issue 15 was a great issue, as usual. I loved the Needles article ("Crag Profile: The Needles"), since I climbed there with Chuck Pratt in 1961; with Eric Beck in 1962; and with the recently departed Rod Dornan in 1968. Anyway, I pray that you and your staff are properly humbled when I list some petty mistakes gleaned in a mere two hours. I realize that the authors' [sic] are the ones who mostly fucked up, and that you guys don't know the entire history of the climbing universe. But I thought you should know—if only not to give raises to your people!
Page 27: The first ascent of Spire One was in 1952, not '62. I climbed it myself in 1961.
Page 27: Fritz [Wiessner], born in February 1900, would have been sixty-one, not seventy, in 1961.
Page 27: Andy Wiessner might not like the feminine name "Andie" too much.
Page 34: Toni Hiebeler, not Heibeler.
Page 74: Merkl, not Merkyl. Three times.
Page 76: "Chord" should be "cord." Unless I'm missing something.
I haven't complained recently because either (1) I may be getting senile and therefore missing stuff, or (2) you guys have gotten a lot better. So it makes my day this time to see that both scenarios are wrong!
—Steve Roper, Berkeley, California
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