Posted on: March 1, 2007

Welfare Reform

Thank you for bringing David Sharp's death to such a respected forum as Alpinist. I think it was right on to slam Mark Inglis—how could he climb to fundraise for others in need and yet pass over someone in need who was lying at his feet, a radio click away from aid? I understand the great cost involved in getting to Everest, but what greater reward is there than helping or possibly saving another human being? Whether or not someone can survive is irrelevant; turning your back as he dies is a disgrace. I hope in future issues you will continue to take a hard line against those who put personal climbing achievements ahead of the welfare of others.

Mark Zappe, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Picture Imperfect

Right off, let me tell you that I love your magazine and plan to subscribe forever. I have two concerns, though, that I'd like to share.

First: in "The Climbing Life," Issue 17, the captions give no information about the subject matter. I'm dying to know the identity of the rock and the climber on Page 14, and of the Rambo on Page 16. Please enlighten me and other readers who might be as curious as I am.

Second: Guilio Malfer's ultra-close-up portraits of famous climbers remind me of mug shots, albeit ones taken with a good lens. His unnatural perspectives and flat lighting reveal little other than facial details and allow the viewer no sense of connection. Lynn Hill's expression is particularly startled and blank. (Perhaps she was surprised by the strobe?) What makes her distinctive appears nowhere in the image. Such great climbers deserve better.

Marla Gault, Sandy, Utah

Editor's Note: Although we offer detailed captions elsewhere in the magazine, we like to leave "The Climbing Life" images open to the imagination. (For Ms. Gault's edification, however, the climber in both images is the same: Switzerland's Stefan Siegrist; on Page 14, he's climbing Indian Creek's King Cat.) As for Mr. Malfer, if he ever shoots Mr. Siegrist, we'll work in a rope and some role-playing for Ms. Gault.

[Illustration] Jeremy Collins

Piles and Piles

In general, I think the Arapiles article ("Crag Profile: Mt. Arapiles," Issue 17) is a good and comprehensive one, particularly in its emphasis on the uniqueness of the Arapiles experience and its quirky human story. But allow me to alert your readers to some clarifications:

Page 29: The quotation attributed to Mike Law about the number of new routes he's done ("a few thousand, but a few thousand less than [Chris] Baxter") is pie in the sky. No climber has done anything like 3,000 new routes in Australia.

Page 28: The claim that the New Wave (coined for the talented young New South Wales climbers who moved to Victoria, particularly Mt. Arapiles, after Henry Barber's 1975 visit) had repeated all of Barber's hardest climbs by the end of 1976 is incorrect. Red Baron was not repeated until 1977. Those who made the first repetition, John Smart (Canberra, Australia) and Ajax Greene (USA), were certainly not part of the New Wave.

Page 36: My naming of, and statements about, [Kim] Carrigan's climbs, India and Ethiopia, were not a prediction that they would not be free climbed, but an (admittedly jaundiced) comment on the way in which they were actually "free climbed."

Page 38: The claim that climbers of earlier eras "began installing bolt ladders over the top of numerous Arapiles future classics" is nonsense. Like climbers all over the world at the time, we aided some lines that subsequently went free, but we predominantly used soft-steel pitons and nuts (if for no other reason than that bolts had to be hand drilled in the extremely hard quartz-sandstone). The irony of the author's allegation is that most recent hard climbs have depended on new, rappel-placed bolts for protection.

Chris Baxter, Melbourne, Australia


Don't Touch My Booty

There I was on Mt. Owen, somewhere I shouldn't have been in the first place. With my half-frozen fingers scrabbling on a small, damp, loose, moss-peppered roof, I was headed for disaster. Trying desperately not to let my pack peal me off, I managed a final mantel and flopped onto a sloping, partly snow-covered ledge. As I recovered, I began to survey the scene, and there was this worn, uniquely shaped, handmade pin with a rusty steel 'biner through it. I became obsessed with dislodging it: what a way to remember and share my epic! I finally managed to pound it out with a rock, only to have it break off at the tip, bounce, then slide down some icy granite and off into oblivion. That's when it hit me.

Many climbers boast collections of these pins. I have a few myself and look on them fondly. It seems that the general consensus is to remove or replace any unsafe fixed gear. Perhaps this is part of the leave-no-trace philosophy. But isn't a Teton pin something more than junk? Such remnants, left by some of climbing's greatest pioneers, have historical value. When you're on some obscure route or a variation of some seldom-climbed classic, it should be obvious that you can't rely on any old pitons you might find. Does extracting them really protect those who wouldn't even hang their hats on them? Or does it somehow take away from someone else's experience?

Laws in national parks protect arrowheads and pottery, but also sticks, rocks, etc. Why not pitons? Since the Tetons preserve so much of our history, isn't this a question worth asking?

Eric Stucky, Kailua, Hawaii

It's All about Acceptance

I have had a long affair with you, stretching back to Issue 2, when I first opened that crisp, sexy, glossy cover and drooled over its beauty. I soon discovered that this beauty was more than superficial: you had intelligence, ethics and even a sense of humor. I'd fallen in love. This relationship has continued now for over three years, and it's been good, at times great. Every three months I wait patiently for another date with a new issue. I gratefully pay the cover price; it's one of a few luxuries I afford myself. However, during my last date, with Issue 17, something struck me right in the heart. After reading the article "Verite Bites," I had a strange feeling of loss and confusion. The article had the good writing and photos that I expect from Alpinist. But its content was the kind I'm used to seeing in those floppy rags, filled with advertisements and fluff, empty of alpinism. I expected more from you. So I gently pushed the Alpinist aside and crossed my arms. I just don't understand you anymore.

Brendan Hodge, Bellingham, Washington

Editor: We're sorry to hear that you found "Verite Bites" a disappointment. Odd: we quite liked it. But relationships are that way: from time to time, even the best can disappoint, despite good intentions on either side. We hope that you'll find more to fan your flames in future issues, and we hope that you won't discard us, after all this time, because of eight pages. Really, we like to think our relationship is deeper than that.

Hodge: OK, I'll keep trying if you will. I'm glad we had this talk.


In Issue 18 ("Mountain Profile: The Central Tower of Paine"), the photo on Page 33 depicts Jay Smith on the first ascent of Wild Wild West, not Scott Cosgrove as noted (and not Scott "Crosgrove" as incorrectly spelled). Other spelling corrections are as follows: Allison Kreutzen, not "Alison Kruetzen" (Page 23); Tom Gilje, not "Gilge" (Page 55); Yvon Chouinard, not "Chouniard" (Page 69); Dave Diegelman, not "Diegleman" (Page 71). On Page 82, Maxime Turgeon is the climber making the first ascent of the Canadian Direct; the photographer is Louis-Philippe Menard.

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