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The Alpinist podcast extends our conversations with climbers and community members into a new medium: from fresh interviews to untold stories, and from humorous adventure tales to in-depth discussions of significant issues in the climbing world today.

LATEST EPISODES

The Many Facets of Len Necefer

Dr. Len Necefer didn’t grow up skiing steep slopes or topping out on summits like he does today. Instead, his connection to the outdoors began with golf—a fact he shares rather sheepishly. Necefer was an avid golfer from age five until he was eighteen, when he moved to the desert southwest and realized how water-intensive that sport is. 

Necefer is a member of the Navajo Nation, and is working to bring more Native voices and talents into the outdoor industry through his organization Natives Outdoors. 

He believes in the importance of engaging with the environment in a thoughtful, meaningful and respectful way. As a backcountry skier and climber, he cultivates connection with the mountains he visits and the people he visits them with. He is a regular Alpinist contributor. 

In this episode, Necefer reflects on why having a sense of humor is essential when trying to communicate about heavy subjects like climate change; what it was like teaching himself to ski; and why it’s important for all of us to vote.

Support for this episode of the Alpinist Podcast comes from the American Alpine Club.

Climbing and Journalism with Lauren DeLaunay Miller

Lauren DeLaunay Miller is an award-winning author, journalist and audio producer based in Bishop, California. Her first book, Valley of Giants: Stories from Women at the Heart of Yosemite Climbing, was published in the spring of 2022 by Mountaineers Books, and won the Banff Mountain Book Competition for Climbing Literature. 

Growing up on the East Coast, Miller says she wasn’t initially an outdoorsy person. But she was inspired to start climbing while at college in North Carolina—after seeing a photo of Alex Honnold climbing Yosemite’s Half Dome on the cover of National Geographic. She recalls that, at the time, she didn’t even know how to pronounce “Yosemite.” 

Since then, Miller has spent many days on Yosemite’s climbing walls. In this episode, Miller talks about the power of using the mountains and climbing as a vehicle to tackle stories around larger issues in society. She speaks to her love of climbing, and how it allows her to connect with people and explore human stories, communities and relationships. 

Support for this episode of the Alpinist Podcast comes from the American Alpine Club.

Training for the New Anything with Steve House

Steve House began venturing into the high mountains as a teenager, and has since built a career on climbing, guiding and coaching. By the time he published his book Beyond the Mountain in 2009, Reinhold Messner said House was “at the top of mountaineering.” 

House’s life in climbing has taken him all over the world. His most famous ascent may be the Central Pillar of Nanga Parbat’s Rupal Face, a climb he completed with Vince Anderson. But he has compiled an impressive list of first ascents and new routes in Alaska, the Canadian Rockies, the Alps and the Karakoram. Steve has been a professional mountain guide since 1992, and in 1999 he became the ninth American to achieve IFMGA certification.

But these days House lives in a small Austrian mountain town with his wife and two kids. In the mornings he spends time getting outside, while the later part of the day is dedicated to working with his company Uphill Athlete. He retired from professional climbing in 2020. 

In this episode, we revisit passages from Steve’s book Beyond the Mountain, discuss fatherhood, and finding his way in his new home in Austria. We learn about the climb that drove him to focus more on training and preparation, and eventually led him to start his company, Uphill Athlete.  And, we learn more about how he thinks about climbing and what it is to be human—to focus on the act of becoming rather than being.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Osprey.

Unpacking Packing with Sarah Pickman

Sarah Pickman is an encyclopedia of expedition history, in particular the gear early explorers relied on. She recently earned a PhD in history from Yale University. She’s an independent scholar, editor, writer and content producer based just outside New York City. 

Sarah is also a contributor to Alpinist. She’s written articles on expedition first aid kits and sun protection for the Tool Users section of the magazine. As it turns out, burnt cork is no substitute for sunscreen.  

Through her research and writing, Sarah looks at the gear explorers carried with them on their travels—to the polar regions and high-altitude mountains, as well as to tropical and arid places—and how this gear shaped their experiences and the cultural worlds they were part of.

Sarah takes us on a fascinating journey to the ends of the earth and back again. We talk about the spirit of exploration and much more in this episode. 

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Osprey.

Writing and Routes with David Smart

David Smart’s life and work seem to intersect with climbing at every turn. He’s a lifelong climber, revered route developer and the editorial director at Gripped Publishing. He’s a founding editor at Gripped Magazine and has been crucial to its success and longevity for more than 25 years.

Smart has published five books, including a biography of Royal Robbins that recently won the Banff Mountain Book Award for climbing literature. He also actively contributes to Alpinist, including his mountain profile on Cima Grande in Alpinist 76 and a recent story on Kodak’s Brownie camera and how it impacted the representation of climbing in the media and beyond.

Smart has developed more than 300 routes in the Canadian Rockies and elsewhere around the world. At age 60, he continues to climb several days a week and revels in the ambiance of his home range.

In this episode, we cover a lot of ground, from his new biography on Royal Robbins, to the state of publishing and climbing media, to his passion for route development and leaving something behind for others to experience.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Osprey.

Racing Fear with Justin Bowen

Justin Bowen’s first time scaling walls and new routes was in a climbing gym during a friend’s birthday party. It wasn’t until high school, driven by persistent memories of that experience, that Bowen started climbing on a more consistent basis.

Eventually, while attending college in Arizona, Bowen planned his first trip to Yosemite, where he jumped right onto the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral. He quickly realized just how much he still had to learn about building anchors and placing gear. A few years ago, Bowen met friend and mentor Mark Jenkins, who he says shared a wealth of knowledge based on his decades of climbing around the world. Bowen still climbs with and learns from Jenkins on a regular basis.

In this episode, Bowen reflects on how he manages fear—both in the mountains, and in his day-to-day life. He talks about being a PhD student, and the terrifying prospect of only having two-to-three weeks off a year to pursue climbing objectives after finishing school. And he speaks to the striking similarities between the Tetons and Mt. Kenya. Tales from Bowen and Jenkins’ Mt. Kenya expedition are featured in Alpinist 83.

Producer + Engineer: Mike Horn

This episode is possible thanks to the support of The American Alpine Club.

Aiming for the Bushes with Alan Rousseau

For Alan Rousseau, the allure of mountaineering is in the unknown. When he looks up at a mountain and contemplates whether it can be climbed, he sees a mystery to be solved. 

Rousseau is an IFMGA guide who divides his time between pursuing his own goals in the mountains, and helping others do the same. His achievements in the Alaska Range, to which he has ventured more than twenty times, include first ascents of Ruth Gorge Grinder and Aim for the Bushes. In 2020, his first ascent of the west face of Tengi Ragi Tau with Tino Villanueva was recognized as one of the year’s greatest climbing achievements and the pair won a Piolet d’Or. Villanueva wrote about the climb in Alpinist 81. 

In this episode, Alan reflects on more than ten years of climbing in the Alaska Range, and exploratory climbs like Aim For the Bushes that he and his partners established earlier this year. He talks about the difference between planning trips to Alaska and the Himalaya, and the mountains that act as his compass.

Producer + Engineer: Mike Horn

This episode is possible thanks to the support of The American Alpine Club.

Climbing for Change: Caroline Gleich

Caroline Gleich lives on the ridgeline between adventure and activism. Her trips around the globe often transcend summit goals as she merges mountain missions with driving awareness around diversity, equality and inclusion, and environmental justice.

In 2019, Caroline summited the tallest mountain in the world—with a fully torn ACL in her knee. Two years earlier, she was the first woman to ski the entirety of Utah’s Chuting Gallery. But before she became a professional skier, Gleich thought she wanted to be a pro climber, after getting her start on old school sandbagged trad routes. While she ultimately pursued skiing, Gleich uses her rock and ice climbing skills to further her ski mountaineering goals. 

On the advocacy side, she organizes marches, protests and rallies to further the causes she believes in, and has traveled to Washington DC to lobby for Protect Our Winters.

In this episode of the Alpinist Podcast, Caroline recounts her Everest expedition, challenges stereotypes around body image, and dives into the dark side of her personality and how she plans for a future full of unknowns.

Producer + Engineer: Mike Horn

This episode is possible thanks to the support of The American Alpine Club.

Talking Schist with Andrea Charest

For Andrea Charest, climbing is entwined with community. She and her husband Steve own Petra Cliffs, a climbing gym and mountaineering school in Burlington, Vermont, where they also work as guides. She’s volunteered much of her time over the years to Crag Vermont, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and advocating for climbing access in the Green Mountain State.

She empowers her fellow climbers to take the lead, and has a knack for enabling others to move past their perceived limitations.

Earlier this year, Charest became an AMGA-certified ice climbing instructor, a hard-earned goal years in the making.

In this conversation, we talk about her journey through the ice instructor exam, and how she balances business, play and parenthood. Charest shares her love for the global climbing community, her excitement around the continued growth of Petra Cliffs, and the importance of helping climbers make the transition from the gym to the crag.

Producer + Engineer: Mike Horn

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

Connected to Place: Sarah Audsley

Poet Sarah Audsley has an elevated point of view, even when her feet are on the ground. While the Vermont-based writer and climber believes she was indeed born to write poetry, she didn’t start pursuing it professionally until age 29.

Before that, she traveled the world, from Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro to Turkey’s Mt. Ararat to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, before making her way back to Vermont, the state where she grew up.

Audsley’s work has been widely published, including her debut collection titled Landlock X. Her poetry and writing has also graced the pages of Alpinist, with poems published in issues 65 and 74, as well as an interview with Ed Roberson in Alpinist 71.

In this conversation, Audsley reads two select works, reflects on the idea of elective suffering, and relishes the elevated perspective climbing provides.

Producer + Engineer: Mike Horn

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

Beyond Success and Failure: Young Hoon Oh

Korean rock and ice climber Young Hoon Oh is a student of the mountains and the culture borne from them. While pursuing a PhD in anthropology, he spent two years living among Sherpa communities in Nepal and studying the outsized impact Sherpas have on Himalayan mountaineering.

Today, Young Hoon represents Korea as a member of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA), and is a lecturer in anthropology at Seoul National University. A father of two young children, he doesn’t get to climb rock and ice as often as he used to, but he’s found new ways to explore and experience South Korea’s wild places with them in tow. Young Hoon also served as the editor of Alpinist – Korea, before returning to his love of research, teaching and climbing advocacy.

Young Hoon urges his fellow climbers to explore the unknown and pursue adventure, and to look past stories of western heroes, first ascents and summits conquered. He looks beyond the physical and mental wellness aspects of climbing, and reflects on what we can learn from facing danger and even confronting the possibility of death in the mountains.

Producer + Engineer: Mike Horn

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

The Art of Playing: Babsi Vigl

Babsi Vigl’s pursuits in the mountains transcend summit aspirations and self-indulgence.

The Austrian alpinist, guide and writer embarked on her first expedition at age 20. Since that time she has experienced many highs and lows, from climbing Cerro Chalten as part of an all-women ascent of the Supercanaleta, to surviving a sudden, life-threatening illness while on a trip in the Alps.

The mountains had always been her safe haven—a place where she says she was never afraid. During a long rehabilitation from her illness, she realized that reaching the summit is just one step of the journey, and what’s most important to her is making it home to the people she loves.

She needed to rediscover balance in her life, and make peace with the mountains, as she wrote about in Alpinist 79. In this conversation, we found Babsi at home in Austria, where she also shared her thoughts on being part of all-female climbing teams and finding parallels between alpinism and playing piano.

Producer + Engineer: Mike Horn

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

Heart of the Sierra: Doug Robinson

When Doug Robinson speaks of a life spent climbing in the Sierra Range, his stories emanate joy rather than ego. He points to experiences and relationships, instead of his many contributions to climbing’s legacy and lore.

Robinson worked alongside Yvon Chouinard before Patagonia existed, forging some of the first pitons at Chouinard Equipment, and forming lifelong friendships.

Robinson considers climbing a form of active meditation, and is most at home on rock. He was one of the leaders of the clean climbing revolution that took hold in the 1970s, and five decades later he remains a fierce advocate for wild places like his beloved Palisades, which he calls “the alpine heart of the Sierra.”

He’s an accomplished and award-winning writer, and has published influential works on clean climbing, mentorship, and his home range. His Mountain Profile on the Palisades was published in Alpinist 48.

In this conversation, Robinson reflects on the importance of mentorship during a time of explosive growth in climbing, and the pure joy he experiences on even the mellowest of climbs.

Producer + Engineer: Mike Horn

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

Creativity and Climbing: Nikki Smith

With a geologist father, Nikki Smith’s love for rock and the outdoors came naturally. Born in Portland, Oregon, Smith moved with her family to Utah at a young age. She spent her youth wandering the state’s vast outdoor spaces, hunting for minerals and fossils.

Smith was 16 when she had her first climbing experience at a crag in Ogden. She recalls: “I don’t know how we’re still alive, but just as soon as I touched that rock, everything went silent and it was just this amazing experience.”

Smith started taking photos–and winning awards for them–at a young age. But it took a climbing injury to set her on the path to being a professional. Her style is distinct; her portraiture brims with intimacy and emotion that Smith says is sourced from a deep sense of connection with her subjects.

In addition to her work as a photographer, Smith is a professional climber, guide and writer. Nikki is also an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, and speaks to the challenges and opportunities facing brands–and climbing media like Alpinist–as they strive to be more inclusive.

Producer + Engineer: Mike Horn

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

Of Peaks and Parenting: Majka Burhardt

Majka Burhardt went climbing for the first time while attending a sleepaway camp for kids in Minnesota. Since then, she’s built a career ascending ice and rock all over the world. As climbing brought her to frozen pitches and high peaks, it also led Burhardt to Legado, an international nonprofit she founded with inspiration from a mountain in Mozambique.

After deciding to add “mom” to her resume, Burhardt was still trying to figure out how to balance parenting with a career in climbing and nonprofit leadership when she found out she was pregnant with twins.

In her new book, More: Life at the Edge of Adventure and Motherhood, Burhardt shares messages she wrote and recorded for her children while she was pregnant and in the early years of their lives. Throughout the memoir, Burhardt reflects on motherhood, marriage and her own childhood–and what it means to try to do it all.

We discuss her new book, whether she thinks her kids will be climbers, and how becoming a mother changed how she evaluates risk and reward in ways you might not expect.

Producer + Engineer: Mike Horn

This episode is brought to you by The North Face.

Braving New Worlds: Steph Davis

Steph Davis has been a professional climber since 1991. But simply calling the Moab, Utah local a climber seems inadequate.

From three years old, Davis was trained in the Suzuki Method on the piano. She practiced everyday, sometimes for hours a day, until she discovered a passion for climbing. The piano fell silent as climbing became her primary focus.

In 2004, Davis became only the second woman to free climb El Capitan in one day. The following year she freed the formation’s Salathe Wall–the first woman ever to do so. She’s logged climbing achievements all over the world, and has confronted fear while free soloing walls such as the Diamond on Longs Peak.

For Davis, climbing is about when to hold on, and when to let go. We talk about her evolution as an athlete–how she went from focusing exclusively on climbing to adding base jumping and wingsuit flying to her repertoire. She describes the sense of euphoria gained from free soloing, and why it can’t be replicated.

Producer + Engineer: Mike Horn

This episode is brought to you by The North Face.

Honoring Mountains and Mentors: Clint Helander

https://open.spotify.com/episode/1A1HU1qkaNsk82Z8KJN9A4?si=24488277fea744c4

Clint Helander’s narrative is driven by stories of persistence. Persistence in the face of nearly insurmountable odds, in far-flung places like Alaska’s Revelation Mountains. Persistence in honor of friends lost, and partners with whom he’s made the push to the top.

Helander is a regular Alpinist contributor and longtime reader. He says Alpinist 9, which includes a Mountain Profile on Mt. Hunter, is his favorite edition of all time. Most recently, Helander’s storytelling is featured in Alpinist 79. The story documents Helander and Andres Marin’s 2022 first ascent of the east face of Golgotha in the Revelations–a route they named Shaft of the Abyss.

Now, Helander is preparing for the next leg of his journey–attending nursing school–while running a snow removal business in Anchorage, Alaska. We caught up with Clint in between storms to learn more about his experiences in the mountains, and the inner conflict formed by a life of climbing close to the edge.

Producer + Engineer: Mike Horn

This episode is brought to you by The North Face.

Dreaming of Imaginary Peaks: Katie Ives

For those who’ve contributed to or read Alpinist over the last 18 years, Katie Ives needs little introduction. Ives started at the magazine in 2004. After reading the Chicago Manual of Style cover to cover, she took on the roles of overqualified intern and copyeditor. She became editor in chief in 2012, a position she held until 2022. Ives is regarded as a tireless researcher, and as a mentor to the many writers she collaborated with during her nearly two decades at Alpinist.

Katie has earned renown for her command of written language. Her book Imaginary Peaks: The Riesenstein Hoax and Other Mountain Dreams was published by The Mountaineers in 2021. It received a Special Jury Mention at the 2022 Banff Mountain Book Competition. Katie recently moved to Colorado to be closer to the American Alpine Club Library while she works on her next book.

In this episode, Katie takes us on a journey through her 18-year Alpinist tenure. She brings us to some of the imaginary peaks she explores in her book, and the Flatirons looming outside her office window today. She laments all the books she left behind during her recent move West, and reminds us that not all answers can be found on the Internet.

Producer + Engineer: Mike Horn

This episode is brought to you by The North Face.

A Life of Adventure and Positive Impact: Timmy O’Neill

Timmy O’Neill’s climbing career spans more than 30 years. He’s traveled the world, gaining climbing accolades and wisdom about life, and once spent 60 days living in a cave in Joshua Tree National Park, sharing his food cache with mice who also called it home. His résumé of first ascents includes routes in Patagonia, Namibia and Madagascar. He’s spent much of his climbing life in and around Yosemite, where he once held the speed record on the nose of El Capitan after climbing the route with Dean Potter in 3 hours, 24 minutes, in 2001. O’Neill is co-founder of Paradox Sports, an organization that creates opportunities in adaptive climbing.

Today, O’Neill is executive director of the Yosemite Climbing Association. In this episode, Timmy shares his excitement for the expansion of the YCA’s Facelift program and his desire to leave the planet in better shape than he found it. He reflects on 30 years of climbing, and why he values experiences far more than things.

Producer + Engineer: Mike Horn

This episode is brought to you by The North Face.

The Self Motivator: Chantel Astorga

In June 2020, Chantel Astorga soloed Denali’s Cassin Ridge in less than 15 hours, setting a women’s record and making the first known ski descent of the Seattle Ramp during the approach. She recalls one particular moment after skiing through a dangerous icefall and spotting an eagle: “I’ve never seen a large bird in the Alaska Range up that high, and it was thermaling above me, and I had this wonderful sense of peace and calmness… I’d gotten through this thing I was most terrified of, and I did it in as good a style as I could, and as safely as one can do something like that alone.” Today, Astorga makes a living as an avalanche forecaster in Idaho. She received an honorable mention by the Piolets d’Or awards in 2018 for a new route that she completed on Nilkanth (6596m) in India’s Garhwal Range with Anne Gilbert Chase and Jason Thompson. In this episode, she talks with Derek Franz about her early days as a climber when she was rope soloing ice climbs and skiing Denali in oversized, second-hand gear, and the path that led to her recent success on the Cassin Ridge.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

Balancing Risk and Reward: Mike Gardner

Mike Gardner was 16 years old when his father, a respected climbing guide, died while free soloing on the Grand Teton in 2008. Mike has suffered the loss of other loved ones since then, yet he continues to climb and guide in the Greater Ranges as well as the Tetons where he grew up. In that time, he and his partners have completed some impressive fast-and-light ascents using a strategy of “ski-alpinism.” In this episode, Derek Franz interviews him about a remarkable spring 2021 season in Alaska, his formative life experiences, and how those inform the risks that he continues to face as a professional climber. “I don’t have a really clear, well-thought-out answer…why I go to the mountains when there’s so much hurt and tragedy there for me,” he says, “yet there’s so much joy, and the answer lies somewhere in the middle of these paradoxes….”

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

From Pebbles to the Himalaya: Pete Takeda

Pete Takeda is a world-renowned alpinist who started climbing on boulders as a kid in Idaho. He has pursued every climbing discipline over the last several decades, from hard free climbing to big wall aid, as well as ice and mixed climbing. His first ascents range from ephemeral mud towers to some of the most impressive peaks in the world. In this episode, Derek Franz interviews one of his childhood heroes on a wide variety of subjects, from climbing and writing, to life philosophy.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

The Novelty Seeker: Madaleine Sorkin

Besides free climbing big walls, Madaleine Sorkin devotes herself to social activism, and has been a leader in starting the Climbing Grief Fund through the American Alpine Club. In this interview from April 2021, Derek Franz asks about her first climbing experiences as a teenager; her perspective as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community; how she is coping with the wear and tear on her body after nearly two decades of hard climbing; and also the latest developments with the Climbing Grief Fund.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of listeners like you. If you enjoyed this episode please consider supporting our work with a one-time or recurring contribution.

Not in Ohio Anymore: Anna Pfaff

Anna Pfaff grew up in rural Ohio, running through cornfields, playing softball and showing animals at the county fair, “but I always felt like there was something more out there,” she says of her decision to apply for a nursing job in Denver, Colorado, at age 20. “I had no idea what a climber was, or what rock climbing was,” she recalls of the life-changing opportunity that came when friends invited her on a trip to Indian Creek. There, she discovered a natural ability and interest that culminated with her joining The North Face team in 2016. Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz interviewed Pfaff remotely in April 2021 while she was rehabbing a shoulder injury.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of listeners like you. If you enjoyed this episode please consider supporting our work with a one-time or recurring contribution.

Alpinist Aloud: “To Look the Bear in the Eye”

In this episode, Derek Franz narrates “To Look the Bear in the Eye: The Life of Yasushi Yamanoi,” a story by Sartaj Ghuman that was first published in Alpinist 62 (Summer 2018). Yamanoi is among the few who have established new climbs, alone and in alpine style, on 8000-meter peaks. His many significant climbs earned him a Piolet d’Or Asia Lifetime Achievement Award, but the Japanese alpinist is disinclined to self-promote. In this story Ghuman joins Yamanoi as a liaison officer on an expedition in the Zanskar region of India in search of a deeper dialogue with the wild.

Narrated by Derek Franz.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

Alpinist Aloud: “Less Rich Without You”

In this episode, Chris Kalman narrates “Less Rich Without You” a story by Nick Bullock that was first published in Alpinist 68 (Winter 2019-20). The story chronicles Bullock’s attempt to climb a new route on Minya Konka, a 7556-meter peak in Sichuan Province, China, in 2018. At age 52, on his twenty-fourth expedition, he and Paul Ramsden make their way through the hazardous maze of an icefall amid heavy mist and falling snow–and through the allures and pitfalls of a modern professional climbing life.

Narrated by Chris Kalman.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

Alpinist Aloud: “Melting Giants”

For 141 years since its first ascent, mountaineers from around the world traveled to climb la Meije in the Massif des Ecrins of France. Meanwhile, the permafrost that held its stones together was melting. On August 7, 2018, rockfall destroyed much of the normal route. In this On Belay story from Alpinist 68 (Winter 2019-20), Benjamin Ribeyre and Erin Smart recount a search for a new way up the peak amid the uncertainties of the planet’s future.

Narrated by Willow Belden.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

Fire and Ice: Scott Coldiron

Scott Coldiron grew up in a low-income family with his single mother and two siblings near the remote peaks of Montana’s Cabinet Range. He wrote in Alpinist 64, “Since childhood, I’ve found solace in harsh landscapes. Friendships formed on mountains insulate against a howling emptiness.” After serving in the Iraq War and overcoming a subsequent debilitating illness, he built a career as a firefighter for the City of Spokane, Washington. Today, he explores rugged first ascents in ranges around the world, including the mountains he once gazed upon with wonder as a boy. Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz interviewed Coldiron at the Winter Outdoor Retailer in January 2020.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

A Visit with Mark Twight

Mark Twight began his self-described “descent into the black depths of extreme alpinism” in 1984. “This obsession,” as he wrote in the essay, “Kiss or Kill,” “destroyed my relationships, drove me into depression, and changed me from a happy, future-hopeful young man into an embittered cynic.” Twight is well-known for pushing the margins, both in his climbs and in his writing. In 1988, he and Randy Rackliff made the first ascent of “The Reality Bath,” a 600-meter ice climb in the Canadian Rockies that has yet to be repeated. That same year, Twight joined Barry Blanchard, Ward Robinson and Kevin Doyle in an alpine-style attempt of Nanga Parbat’s Rupal Face. The climbers reached 7700 meters before a storm forced them to retreat amid lightning and multiple avalanches. In his writing of the same era, Twight often adopted a bold, brusque voice that earned him the persona “Dr. Doom.” Now a classic of mountain literature, the 2001 anthology Kiss or Kill includes writing that helped canonize the Dr. Doom persona, who delivered lines such as, “The new climbs of the age are yesterday’s death routes,” and “Punish your body to perfect your soul.” Twight stepped away from extreme alpinism in 2000. In his recently released book of photography, Refuge, Twight reflected, “Twenty-five of my years were governed by the demands imposed by mountains and climbing them, and the most difficult challenge I faced after having survived was to find satisfaction in the valley.” Deputy editor Paula Wright spoke with Twight at the Banff Mountain Book and Film Festival in November 2019.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of listeners like you. If you enjoyed this episode please consider supporting our work with a one-time or recurring contribution.

Alpinist Aloud: “Life Compass” by Brette Harrington

In this feature story from Alpinist 64 (Winter 2018-19), Brette Harrington writes about her life partner, Marc-André Leclerc, who died in the Mendenhall Towers of Alaska, with Ryan Johnson in March 2018. About a month after their deaths, she traveled to the Canadian Rockies to immerse herself in the wintry alpine landscapes that remind her most of Leclerc. Exploring unclimbed terrain on Mt. Blane, accompanied by Rose Pearson, she tries to reorient herself within the void of all she has lost.

Narrated by Kathy Karlo.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Black Diamond.

“All that Glitters”: Margo Talbot

In 2011 alpinist and speaker Margo Talbot published her memoir, All that Glitters: A Climber’s Journey through Addiction and Depression. In her book, she reflects candidly on her struggles with addiction and depression, as well as how ice climbing played a role in her recovery. Toward the end of All that Glitters, Talbot writes, “In my years of searching, I had arrived at my own philosophy of life, the essence of which was that existence is a precious gift, and that every moment, whether in the throes of joy or the pit of despair, is equally to be treasured.” Deputy editor Paula Wright conducted this interview with Talbot at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in November 2019.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of listeners like you. If you enjoyed this episode please consider supporting our work with a one-time or recurring contribution.

Alpinist Aloud: “The Raven at the Door” by David Stevenson

In this Full Value story from Alpinist 60 (Winter 2017-18), David Stevenson gets caught in a storm returning from a hut trip in Alaska and suffers a heart attack, forcing him and his partner to spend a cold night in a shallow snow cave. In the aftermath he discovers a new significance to a haunting experience that happened decades earlier in his childhood home.

Narrated by Matthew Richardson.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Black Diamond.

Alpinist Aloud: “The Force of the Soul,” by James Edward Mills

https://open.spotify.com/episode/6lRVrIFJ9bmChKFqdOmL3F?si=2e0ff0e53d55433e

In this inaugural episode of Alpinist Aloud—a podcast project in which stories from our print magazine are read out loud—James Edward Mills reads his story from Alpinist 60 (Winter 2017-18). In “The Force of the Soul,” Mills recounts the life of Hugues Beauzile, the son of a Haitian immigrant who became one of the most promising young alpinists in France before his death on the South Face of Aconcagua 1995. Produced by Alpinist magazine and Height of Land Publications. Audio production by Nick Mott.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Black Diamond.

The Lifestyler: Chris Weidner

Chris Weidner began climbing as a teenager in the Pacific Northwest and is no stranger to being pinned on the summit of Mt. Rainier in a storm. The 45-year-old climbs 5.14 sport routes and continues to establish new free routes on the Diamond of Longs Peak and elsewhere. He has also written more than 300 articles related to climbing–for the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper, Alpinist and other climbing magazines–since about 2007. Weidner recently told Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz, “I think it’s important to say that, along with these close relationships and the family feeling that climbing has given me over the years, I feel like it’s also made me value lightheartedness…. And it’s helped me realize that there’s pretty much nothing in life worth stressing too hard about…. The other thing it reminds me of is just how important it is to be kind to people.”

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

Climber, Transcending: Kai Lightner

Growing up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Kai Lightner learned to climb before he could walk. One day, when he was six years old, a passing stranger saw Lightner climbing a flagpole and handed his mother the address of a local climbing gym, and he hasn’t stopped climbing since. The winner of twelve national climbing titles, Lightner is a familiar face in the climbing competition circuit. Then in 2016, Doug Robinson–an outspoken voice of the clean climbing revolution in the 1970s–invited to take Lightner climbing at Stone Mountain, a trad climbing destination in North Carolina. Lightner wrote about the experience for Alpinist in Issue 55. “Before [that] trip,” Lightner reflected, “I’d never really thought about–or appreciated–the evolution of our pursuit from the traditional techniques of his generation to the sport I first encountered as a child.” In November 2019, deputy editor Paula Wright spoke to Lightner about the trip to Stone Mountain, and how his discipline as a climber transcends aspects of the sport.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

Rethinking Mountaineering Histories: Amrita Dhar

“We need to acknowledge mountaineering as a profoundly social pursuit…. I strongly resist the idea that there is a kind of objective kind of excellence in mountaineering. The road to mountaineering achievement is not level. We need to understand where someone is starting from if we really want to understand what the road to the summit for them is like.” Literature professor and mountaineering scholar Amrita Dhar grew up in West Bengal. As a child, she vacationed in the Himalayan mountains with her family, and she has since spent a lot of time traveling through and thinking about mountains and the narratives that emerge from them. In this episode, Dhar talks with managing editor Paula Wright about how addressing some of the gaps in mountaineering history might also lead to reconceptualizing the pursuit of mountaineering itself.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

From the Gunks to Desert Towers: Jeff Achey

In this episode, Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz interviews Jeff Achey, a prolific first ascensionist and author who lives in Western Colorado, where he co-owns Wolverine Publishing with his wife Amber Johnstone. After learning to climb in the Shawangunks as a teenager, Achey moved to Boulder, Colorado, for college and soon found himself roping up with some of the most prominent climbers of the era. That path led him to explore new routes across the state, from Eldo to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and into Utah’s Canyonlands, where desert towers dotted the landscape. He finished school with a Bachelor’s in biology and went to work as a photo editor for Climbing. Now 60 years old, he continues to establish difficult new routes while maintaining his writing career as a guidebook publisher.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Black Diamond.

Perspective: Robbi Mecus

“Perspective is a curious lens,” climber and forest ranger Robbi Mecus says. “If I never turn my gaze to the side, my interpretation of the world becomes static, unempathetic. Changing my vantage point brings me a fuller understanding. It brings me compassion. My life has been a constant shifting of perspective.” In the first part of this episode, Mecus talks about some of her earliest climbing memories and her work in search and rescue. In the second part of the episode, Mecus reads from her Alpinist 65 essay “Perspective,” in which she reflects on how coming out as transgender has shifted her lens on climbing.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Black Diamond.

Inner Ranges: Geoff Powter

“Mountains have always been the sharpest mirrors for me: they’ve simplified, purified and clarified my life, and have reliably shown me the better side of myself,” Geoff Powter writes in his new book, Inner Ranges: An Anthology of Mountain Thoughts and Mountain People. “But there is also, of course, a more complex other side of the mountain equation,” he says. In this episode, we sit down with the longtime climber and writer to discuss a few of his adventures, as well as the challenges and rewards of chronicling life in the mountains.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Black Diamond.

An Enormously Familiar Voice: Chris Kalous

Climber, father and house painter Chris Kalous launched the climbing podcast The Enormocast in 2011. In this episode, Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz sits down with Kalous, a longtime friend, to rehash memories from the glory days and discuss where he sees himself–and podcasts–going in the future.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

The Calling: Barry Blanchard

In 1969, at the age of nine, Barry Blanchard sat on a Greyhound bus as a young woman read to him from the pages of the mountaineering classic, The White Spider. Five decades later, alpinist and mountain guide Blanchard recalls how the call of the mountains transformed his life.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

To Abandon: Claire Carter

“How often do we, as climbers, reach out for abandonment?” Claire Carter asks. “Leave the ground to find a swinging freedom; bitter-cold, bittersweet.” In this episode, we sit down with poet, climber and creative consultant Claire Carter to discuss some of her recent projects, including her efforts to retrace some of the travels of Gwen Moffat, a legendary climber and writer who had become Britain’s first female mountain guide in 1953, and which she wrote about for Issue 57 of Alpinist magazine.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

Strange Music: Doug McCarty

In 1972, barely out of high school, Doug McCarty and Brian Leo completed the first winter ascent of the North Face of 12,799-foot Granite Peak–only to endure an icy bivy on the remote summit. In this episode, McCarty reads the story he wrote for Issue 63 of Alpinist magazine, in which he recalls the ghostly “strange music” that helped him survive more than four decades ago.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Sea to Summit

Open Heart: Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz

From the time he led his dad up the Diamond of Longs Peak at age fifteen, Derek Franz has long been “obsessed with all things climbing.” After graduating college with a journalism degree, Franz has worked as a freelancer while living crag-side and written an award-winning column for the Post Independent. He joined Alpinist as the digital editor in the autumn of 2016. In this episode, Franz talks with associate editor Paula Wright about the highs and lows of chronicling life in the mountains.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Sea to Summit

The Vertical Humor of Tami Knight

Since she first offered to waltz around on stilts in a purple leotard at the 2002 Summer Outdoor Retailer, brandishing Issue 0 of Alpinist, author and illustrator Tami Knight has been a friend of the magazine. Over the years, her contributions have included such cartoon classics as “The Alpine Oracle” (“Before ya leave on yer next climbin trip…”) and “The Climbing-Lit Editor’s Nightmare” (“Hey Writers! Use these moldy phrases in yer manuscripts & win me a cup of burnt coffee”), in addition to more serious fare (the Squamish Mountain Profile, spanning decades of climbing lore in British Columbia). Now, in conversation with Alpinist associate editor Paula Wright, the irrepressible Tami Knight goes beyond the page as she shares stories from her early climbing days and her funniest untold tales yet.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Petzl

Fire in the South Platte

In June 2002, a wildfire erupted about 100 miles southwest of Denver, Colorado. What became known as the Hayman Fire burned for over a month, resulting in the death of six people. The fire blazed through nearly 140,000 acres–at the time, the largest fire in the state’s recorded history. It also consumed popular climbing areas, including Thunder Ridge. In this episode, journalist Nick Mott explores the impacts of the Hayman Fire, and what the rising rate of megafires might mean for climbing communities across the country.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Petzl

Climbing Doesn’t Change You: Kathy Karlo

“We all have emotions that eventually bring us to self-awareness, if we let them. Beneath every curmudgeonly old soul is the ability to share a passion and appreciate something that makes us feel deeply…. It’s true–climbing does not change you. But having a passion for something is what will.” Kathy Karlo is a climber, writer, and the director of the website and podcast, both titled “For the Love of Climbing.” In this episode, Karlo talks about her Alpinist 61 article, “Climbing Doesn’t Change You,” and how writing openly about vulnerability within the context of climbing can be a radical act.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Petzl

A Few Seconds: Whitney Clark

“Mountains strip us layer by layer until our core is exposed, raw and vulnerable.” Whitney Clark is a professional climber who has established several alpine routes around the globe. She also spends a lot of time thinking about how to balance risk and ambition in the mountains. In this episode, Clark opens up about how she approaches decision-making in the alpine–whether to bail or climb on–and how those moments ripple on into the future. In the second part of this episode, Clark reads her essay “A Few Seconds,” which first appeared in Issue 58 of Alpinist magazine.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of The North Face.

Sisnaajini: Stories from White Shell Mountain

In this episode, Gabriel Ellison-Scowcroft shares a story about a winter attempt of Sisnaajini (Blanca Peak) with Len Necefer, the founder of Natives Outdoors, and pro skier Brody Leven. Along the way, the climbers learn more about the Indigenous history and stories surrounding the mountain. Chris Zabriskie’s music available courtesy of creativecommons.org

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of The North Face.

Threshold Shift: Nick Bullock

In 2003 Nick Bullock quit his steady job as an instructor in the Prison Service to climb and write full-time. His 2016 ascent of Nyainqentanglha Southeast (7046m) in Tibet with Paul Ramsden won the climbers a Piolet d’Or the following year. In this episode, Bullock discusses his path to climbing and the Alpinist article he wrote about the Nyainqentanglha climb, which won an award from the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in 2017.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of The North Face.

The Adventure Gap: James Edward Mills

“If someone is raised to spend time in the outdoors it will be something that they do without question; they won’t wonder whether or not it’s something that they’re supposed to do based on their ethnic or racial identity or how they go through life…. Unfortunately too many people in our culture and our society are deprived of that opportunity.”

An avid climber and the author of The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors, James Edward Mills has worked in the outdoor industry for decades. As team journalist, he chronicled the 2013 journey of Expedition Denali, a project conceived to put the first team of African Americans on the summit of the highest point of North America. In this episode, Mills talks with associate editor Paula Wright about the adventure gap and the relationship between mountaineering and the civil rights movement.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of The North Face.

Available Light: Jimmy Chin

After he graduated from college in 1996, Jimmy Chin hit the road, planning to climb and ski for a year before heading to grad school. Twenty-two years later, he’s still adventuring in the mountains. In this episode, we discuss Chin’s life growing up in small-town Minnesota as the son of Chinese immigrants and his path to adventure photography. Plus: his take on filming Alex Honnold’s free solo of El Cap and skiing with his daughter.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of The North Face.

Art of Freedom: Bernadette McDonald and Voytek Kurtyka

Perhaps no other writer has explored Cold War and post-Soviet era mountaineering more than Bernadette McDonald has. In this episode, Bernadette McDonald discusses her award-winning book, Art of Freedom, a biography of Voytek Kurtyka, one of the most accomplished, and reclusive, alpinists of our time. Known for his philosophical approach, Kurtyka believed in the transformative power of climbing. He wrote, “When we entrust our faith to an absurdly beautiful mountain, we are being true to our vocation…. This is why I find climbing to be one of the most encouraging and exhilarating efforts of my life. This is the drug of mountaineering–the liberation.”

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of The North Face.

Stillness and Storms: Mayan Smith-Gobat

In 2002, Mayan Smith–Gobat was in a ski accident and broke her jaw and both feet. Within a few weeks, she turned her focus to climbing and began training while her feet were still in casts. Nine years later, she became the second woman ever to free climb the Salathe Wall on El Capitan. Today, she’s concentrating on Riders on the Storm, a 1,300–meter big wall on the icy east face of Torre Central in Chilean Patagonia, which still hasn’t had a free ascent. For more on this climb, check out Smith-Gobat’s article “Stillness and Storms” in Issue 55 of Alpinist magazine.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of The North Face.

In the Bear’s Lodge: Voices from Devils Tower

Many climbers observe the voluntary climbing ban at Bear Lodge (Devils Tower) in Wyoming during the month of June as their way to show respect for local Native American cultures. In this episode, journalist Nick Mott discusses the voluntary closure with local climbers and Indigenous leaders, to learn more about their views on the history.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of The North Face.

The Climbers: Jim Herrington and Fred Beckey

In the 1990s, after more than a decade of climbing in the Sierra Nevada, Jim Herrington embarked on a journey to photograph some of the most formidable mountaineers of the past generation. In this episode, rock-and-roll photographer Herrington discusses his recently released coffee-table book The Climbers and some of the stories from behind the scenes. Plus, a tribute to Fred Beckey.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Salewa.

Mountaineering and Climate Change

At altitude, many mountain communities are already experiencing the severe consequences of climate change. Climbers have reported witnessing the effects of warming temperatures as well, from receding glaciers to increasing rockfall. In this episode, associate editor Paula Wright discusses climate change impacts on mountain environments with climbers and researchers, including Mark Carey, Pasang Yangjee Sherpa and Alison Criscitiello.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Salewa.

Death and Climbing Part 2: David Roberts

Author and mountaineer David Roberts reads his essay “Death and Climbing,” which first appeared in the winter 2016 issue of Alpinist.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Salewa.

Death and Climbing Part 1: David Roberts

By 1965, at age 22, David Roberts had witnessed three fatal accidents in the mountains. Over fifty years since, Roberts has explored in writing what makes climbing worth the risk. In this episode, Roberts discusses an article he wrote for Alpinist 56, in which he revisits “moments of doubt.”

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

Beyond: Conrad Anker

In November 2016, while attempting the unclimbed Lunag Ri (6907m) with David Lama, Conrad Anker suffered a heart attack and had to descend from the climb to be evacuated by helicopter from advanced base camp. In this episode, Anker recalls the event and considers the effects on his career as an alpinist going forward.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.

Mountain Lit: Tommy Caldwell & Bree Loewen

Why does story telling seem so essential to the climbing life? In this episode, we interview two climbers–Tommy Caldwell, whose recent book The Push traces his life from diapers to the Dawn Wall, and Bree Loewen, the author of Found: A Life in Mountain Rescue–on why their mountain travels ignite the desire to write.

Audio production by Nick Mott.

This episode is possible thanks to the support of Rab | The Mountain People.