Posted on: September 1, 2007

[Photo] David Swift


After glancing over [Issue 19's] gorgeous cover shot of Arnaud Petit by Evrard Wendenbaum, I was inspired to pick your brain just a bit. The term "onsight," mentioned twice (once for the cover shot and once for the photo of Francesco Pellanda on Trango Tower's West Pillar ["Little Man, Big Mountain"]), seems to me to be at issue with Wendenbaum's [photos and] descriptions. Judging by the single 'biner, long draw and quickdraw [in the cover photo], it looks obvious that the .4 C4 just above Arnaud was preplaced—maybe to help Evrard get up the pitch into prime photo position? Wouldn't that be a flash since someone preplaced the gear?


—Roger Strong, Seattle, Washington

Evrard Wendenbaum responds: Francesco Pellanda had onsighted the Trango Tower pitch days prior to the photo shoot. So, the picture itself of course is not an onsight, but I almost never take pictures of climbers in such moments; I don't want to add to their stress. The cover shot of Arnaud Petit is a little more complicated. Nicolas Kalisz first climbed this pitch, redpointing it on his second try, while Arnaud remained at Camp 4. I was photographing Nicolas, and because the wall was so aesthetic, I wanted to get some pictures of Arnaud on it as well. When Nicolas and I rappelled down, we left the gear behind. The next day, Arnaud climbed it. Since he had never seen the pitch or received any beta, even though the gear was preplaced, I still think it's an onsight.

Keep It Real

In Issue 19's Crag Profile, the caption that describes Josh Wharton setting the "winter speed record" (Page 37) on the Diamond seems out of place. Winter speed record? No one is keeping track even in the summer! Winter ascents of the Diamond are all about conditions and luck, and Josh and Jonny's ascent is a great example of how the clock has nothing to do with the climb. That particular day, Heidi Wirtz and Kevin Cooper had broken trail on the entire approach to the base of the wall, including the steep, snow-filled North Chimney, which can represent the crux of a winter ascent. Who holds the winter speed record of Half Dome? The north face of the Grand Teton? Mt. Rainier? Mont Blanc? I'm sure someone does, but who cares? If a record comes down to who kicked steps for whom, is it even worth recording? Kennan Harvey soloed the Diamond in winter only marginally slower than the "winter speed record" holders with no help from anyone. His was one of the raddest days on the face ever, and the ascent wasn't even mentioned in the article.

C'mon, Alpinist, keep it real.

—Topher Donahue, Nederland, Colorado

True Commitment

For anyone who feels powerless against injustice, it's important to know that every expression of dissent is worthwhile—even if these actions end tragically or appear to have little immediate effect. Kelsang Namtso's attempt to escape the forces destroying Tibetan Buddhist society stands as a testament to her convictions ("Editor's Note," Issue 19). In this era of globalization, such resolve to remain true to a way of life rooted in concern for all living things may sound naive and outdated. But it is not so far removed from the environmental stewardship and responsibility for each other's well-being that we want to believe is a cornerstone of climbing. If we find it remarkable that Namtso and others like her have given their lives in the pursuit of their ideals, our reaction tells us something about the place we have arrived.

—Tad Welch, Greensboro, North Carolina

5.13 Moderates?

I noticed in the Climbing Notes (Issue 19) a couple of disturbing developments inherited from other magazines. One was the bloated coverage granted to Will Gadd's line on Yam (Pages 82-83).... Will is a fantastic climber, blah, blah, blah, but does a moderate (by today's standards) sport route on bad rock that took seven years to REDPOINT really deserve the press you granted it? The free Red Bull advertising was the icing on the cake! I wonder whether or not this questionable news item would have been included had Will not been involved. The same goes for the reporting of Renan Ozturk and Cedar Wright's "new" route in the Wind River Range (Page 86). I can think of at least a few routes off the top of my head done recently that deserve at least as much coverage. Was it a slow news... uh... three months?

Please leave the fanboy pandering to those other climbing rags. They do it so much better.

—Dean Pakson, Squamish, BC, Canada

Questionable Terms

Many of the leading alpinists of our day have voiced an opinion about the place and meaning of the Piolet d'Or (see "The Future of the Piolet d’Or," March 16, 2007, NewsWire). But right here is the root of the evil: "leading alpinists." Most of us embrace Alex Lowe's adage, "the best climber in the world is the one who is having the most fun," but for too many the pressures of sponsorship and other outward benefits have allowed competitiveness to sneak into our motivations, hence the perceived need for rankings. It would seem natural that those who are likely to get the award decide who deserves it and for what reasons, but what if the whole idea of an award goes against the nature of what alpinism stands for? Is alpinism about who snatches a gilded tool every year for nailing up the most improbable line? Fun and inspiration are their own awards, and I, for one, while not a "leading alpinist," am a great one, for I have tremendous fun anytime I'm out in the hills. —Cosmin Andron (via email)

Insurance Claim

I returned from a climbing trip in Mexico a few weeks back with a torn PCL from falling out of a drop-knee. Upon opening the door to my apartment, I found that the fire sprinklers on the floor above me had flooded my living room. The only thing damaged was my collection of Alpinist magazines, yet the insurance company doesn't seem to think that they are worth enough to replace. Please send an email explaining to them how awesome your journal truly is. —Nick Masson, Montreal, Quebec, Canada


The photographer for the Booty image (Issue 20) was Philippe Nodet. In Issue 20's Mountain Profile ("Mt. Huntington"), the photo of Dave McGivern was taken on the West Face Couloir in March 1991, not the Harvard Route in January 1991 as noted. The routelines on the southwest face of Cho Oyu ("Borderline," Issue 20) for the Kurtyka-Troillet-Loretan and the Yamanoi routes were reversed. The author for the note on the winter attempt on the south face of Lhotse ("Climbing Notes," Issue 20) was the expedition's leader, Osamu Tanabe, of Nagoya City, Japan.

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