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Bernadette McDonald

Nejc Zaplotnik in Makalu Base Camp, October 1975. [Photo] Viki Groselj

Nejc Zaplotnik, Mountain Poet

As one of the first ascensionists of the West Ridge Direct of Chomolungma (Everest), Slovenian alpinist Nejc Zaplotnik (1952-1983) was among the great climbers of the twentieth century. To many, however, he is best known for his lyrical memoir, The Way (“Pot” in Slovenian), which gave voice to the dreams of his generation and beyond. In this feature story from Alpinist 74, mountaineering historian Bernadette McDonald recounts some of the key moments and mysteries of his vibrant life and shares translated passages of his book that still reverberate today.

Elizabeth Hawley. [Photo] Courtesy of the Michael and Meg Leonard collection

Elizabeth Hawley Remembered

Bernadette McDonald recounts the life of Elizabeth Hawley, who died January 26, 2018. Hawley was a prolific and esteemed journalist who lived in Kathmandu, Nepal, and documented Himalayan mountaineering from 1959 until 2015. McDonald, who authored a biography about Hawley, describes the 94-year-old as “a feminist before her time, a pillar of society in Kathmandu, an icon in the mountaineering community, a fiercely independent woman, and a dear friend to many.”

Franek Knez on the first ascent of Hudieva Zajeda/Diedro del Diablo (5.10 A2 90 degrees, 900m), Fitz Roy (3405m), with Silvo Karo and Janez Jegli in 1983. [Photo] Silvo Karo

A Mysterious Lonely Path: The Life of Francek Knez

On October 6, Slovenian alpinist Francek Knez passed away. During the course of his lifetime, Knez completed over 5,000 international climbs, including the first ascent of Hell’s Direttissima on the east face of Cerro Torre. Bernadette McDonald profiled the visionary and reclusive mountaineer in Alpinist 52: “He seemed to draw energy from the natural landscape, tending his soul and feeding his imagination. Or maybe he garnered strength, not from the landscape, but from his inner core.”

Local Hero

IT WAS CLOSING NIGHT OF THE YEARLONG RUN OF PAVLA OVER THE PRECIPICE, AND EVERY SEAT IN Ljubljana’s Slovenian Youth Theatre was occupied. Actors lowered themselves from the ceiling, or edged in from stage left, tiptoeing along holds attached to the wall. I sat spellbound, absorbing the energy from 270 audience members, concentrating on every movement, every word that celebrated the life of Pavla Jesih. The strength of her character seemed to fill the room.