[Photo] Nick Bullock
FOR A LONG time, I used to work on Alpinist from twilight until dawn. In the small hours of the night, time appeared to stretch into an illusion of eternity. The boundaries seemed to grow thinner between the stories and my mind, until the snows of distant summits seeped through my cold apartment walls. In those days, I lived near the base of the Teton Range. And when my window glowed, again, with the glassy blue of early mountain light, I felt as if I’d experienced a waking dream, immersed for those hours in the mysteries of another person’s imagination. In the summer of 2008, soon after sunrise, I finished my edits on Katsutaka Yokoyama’s article “The Giri-Giri Boys,” scheduled for Alpinist 26. He and his partners had enchained the Isis Face and the Slovak Direct–an ascent of such vast terrain it appeared to expand, as if overnight, the future of alpinism. Steve House composed an open letter of congratulation to them. Until recently, he explained, he’d believed there were no more great lines left on Denali. But when he heard of Katsutaka’s plans, he recalled:
In a flash I realized that it wasn’t the terrain that wasn’t big enough. It was my imagination that had been too small…. What’s next?… Reason isn’t going to get us there. Once we’ve trained ourselves to new levels of fitness, pushed our climbing skills to previously unimagined limits, reduced our clothing and gear to where it can all be measured in grams, what then? It’s imagination that we need.
Then in October 2008 the staff and I learned that Alpinist was bankrupt. There was little reason to believe that the magazine would ever come back. Nonetheless, Katsutaka decided to wait before he published his story elsewhere. And when I contacted him that spring with the improbable news that Alpinist had re-launched and that Issue 26 was about to ship, he replied, “My article is still yours.”
During the limbo months when Alpinist was closed, my old habit of sleeplessness had lingered. Late at night, I’d pictured a multitude of unwritten tales like an entire universe–stardust, ice and stone–compressed into a single point of light, waiting to be released, once more. The sense of urgency I felt in those moments has never gone away: every story seems like a fragment of a human dream, glittering and sharp and fragile, preserved, for now, from the void of time. To climb, to write, to trust and to imagine–each of these pursuits, I’ve realized, requires a leap of faith, an act of love.–Katie Ives