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Derek Franz

A Drone in the Desert

In this Sharp End story from Alpinist 85—which is now available on newsstands and in our online store—Derek Franz encounters a drone on top of a desert tower and contemplates the changes brought on by the technological age, and what the future might hold for climbing in America.

A fixed piton offers a lone spot of protection for Nik Berry and Hayden Kennedy on the notoriously spicy Hallucinogen Wall in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado, 2014. [Photo] Andrew Burr

Climbing in Wilderness

In this Sharp End story from Alpinist 83–which is now available on newsstands and in our online store–Derek Franz examines the legal landscape and uncertain future for bolts and other fixed anchors that have been used for climbing in designated wilderness areas for nearly sixty years. Legislation such as Protect America’s Rock Climbing Act and America’s Outdoor Recreation Act is necessary, he argues, because “climbing’s place within the law is not, shall we say, fixed.”

Illustration by Andreas Schmidt

Contemplating the Next Impossible

In this Sharp End story from Alpinist 82–which is now on newsstands and in our online store–Derek Franz considers some of the hardest objectives for today’s alpinists. He writes: “When it comes to the physical limits of the human body, we are constantly wondering what is possible: What is the fastest a human can run, the highest someone can jump?… There will always be those who wonder: What is the limit of human ability on high peaks and technical faces?”

Reinhold Messner holds the Maestri bolts from Cerro Torre that were given to him in Aspen, Colorado, on November 23, 2022. [Photo] Derek Franz

Between safety and boldness

In this Sharp End story from Alpinist 81–which is now on newsstands and in our online store–Derek Franz seeks a balance between safety and boldness. He writes: “Climbing…is full of duality, encompassing a range of contradictory values…. There is a continual tightrope walk between the opposing values of safety and boldness, and the search for optimal balance between the two has always shaped the evolution of our pastime. Questions that seem to have been settled at various times in the past reemerge. There is now a fast-growing population of climbers, with increasing numbers of them going into the mountains strong from gym training but short on outdoor experience. The mindset in which people approach the wild places is changing, and the duality of our values is becoming more pronounced.”

Derek Franz on Ecclesiastes (IV 5.9) on Mitchell Peak, Wind River Range, Wyoming, in 2019. [Photo] Todd Preston, Derek Franz collection

A Climbing Life

In this Sharp End story from Alpinist 80–which is now available on newsstands and in our online store–Derek Franz shares his journey from Alpinist reader to editor-in-chief.

Madaleine Sorkin during her free ascent of the Dunn-Westbay Direct (IV 5.14-, 4 pitches, 1,000') on the Diamond of Longs Peak (Neniisotoyou'u, 14,255') on August 10. [Photo] Henna Taylor

Madaleine Sorkin becomes the first woman to free climb Dunn-Westbay Direct (5.14-)

On August 10, Madaleine Sorkin, 40, enjoyed a no-falls day on the Dunn-Westbay Direct (IV 5.14-, 4 pitches, 1,000′) on the Diamond of Longs Peak (Neniisotoyou’u, 14,255′) in Rocky Mountain National Park. This makes her the first woman and fifth person overall to free climb the route on lead. The crux pitch is about 270 feet long and requires an 80-meter rope, and the route from Broadway Ledge sits above 13,000 feet in elevation.

Francois Franz Cazzanelli and Pietro Picco climbing the Aosta Valley Express variation (AI 90° M6 85°, 1400m) up to Camp 2 (ca. 6000m) on the Kinshofer Route on Nanga Parbat (8125m). [Photo] Courtesy of Yodel press agency

A new variation to Camp 2 and a speed ascent on Nanga Parbat

In late June and early July, a group of climbing guides from Italy’s Aosta Valley completed a variation to Camp 2 and a speed ascent on Nanga Parbat (8125m). On June 26, Francois “Franz” Cazzanelli and Pietro Picco climbed a 1400-meter variation up to Camp 2 on the Kinshofer Route (ca. 6000m) in alpine style in a single push from Base Camp. They called the variation the Aosta Valley Express (AI 90° M6 85°). On July 4, Cazzanelli summited the Kinshofer Route from Base Camp (4200m) without bottled oxygen in 20 hours, 20 minutes.

Annapurna (8091m). [Photo] Wolfgang Beyer, Wikimedia

Researchers challenge historical records for 8000-meter peaks

A team of researchers has been working for the past several years analyzing summit photos from the world’s highest peaks–particularly on Dhaulagiri (8167m), Manaslu (8163m) and Annapurna (8091m). On July 8, one of them, Eberhard Jurgalski, announced in a report on 8000ers.com that they could only find evidence to confirm ascents to the actual apex of all 14 8000-meter peaks by three people: Ed Viesturs (USA), Veikka Gustafsson (Finland) and Nirmal Purja (Nepal/UK). The research continues and decisions remain about how to handle long-established records.

The Full Circle Everest expedition. Expedition leader Phil Henderson is third from left in the back row. [Photo] James Edward Mills

Full Circle Everest team summits: first Black expedition to the top of the world

Full Circle Everest–the first all-Black expedition team (with Sherpa support) to attempt Chomolungma (Everest, 8849m)–attained success when several members stood on the highest point of the world before sunrise on May 12. With this news, we revisit an article from Alpinist 75 (Autumn 2021) by James Edward Mills, titled “Climbers of Color Come Full Circle: The Future of Expanded Representation.”