Posted on: June 1, 2008

[Photo] Dan Long


I LOVE THE MAG, REALLY, I do, but what’s up with the lame cover shot on Issue 22? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a bit of a thing for Ines and Audrey just like every other living, breathing man out there; I know Ines is super badass and that the route is more burly than anything I would ever be able to dream of climbing, but come on: the photo makes it look as though she’s ten feet off the ground, on a bolted mixed route with draws hanging (two clipped together, no less). Don’t forget, this is Alpinist: how about a rad alpine-climbing shot on the cover? At least the hot photo on [Page 1] makes up for it....


—Kolin Powick, Salt Lake City, Utah

Blame the Climbers

I WAS JUST ENJOYING John Thackray’s piece on climbing guidebooks (“The Climbing Life,” Issue 21) when I came upon a strange diatribe... about popular crags: “Guidebooks, which are the prime cause of this crowding—as highways are for stimulating road traffic....” The passage goes on to state that we should burn our climbing guides. I was so offended that I had to drop what I was doing—writing a guidebook to the last unexploited inches of climbing around Bishop, California—and respond.

As far as comparing guidebooks to building highways, he’s got it mixed up. The first ascensionists are the highway builders. If nobody ever put up any routes, there would be very few people climbing. And if all guidebooks were burned, climbers would simply retreat back to the most obvious, accessible, moderate cliffs, making them even more populous.

The true cause of crowding is lots of climbers going climbing. So if you want to keep crags uncrowded, you should stop climbing, tell your friends to stop climbing and never encourage nonclimbers to take up the pursuit.

But in truth it’s only these most obvious, accessible, moderate cliffs that are ever mobbed, mostly by locals who don’t need guidebooks in the first place. If solitude is important to you, it only takes a bit of imagination to select a cliff where you can climb by yourself all day.

—Marty Lewis, Bishop, California

Off by Seventy Years

A CAPTION ON PAGE 82 of Marko Prezelj’s article, “Based on a True Story” (Issue 21), gave the impression that the first ascent of Chomolhari took place in 1996. Few people may be aware that Frederick Spencer Chapman, Sherpa Pasang Dawa and their team made the mountain’s epic, true first ascent in 1937—or realize the significance of their feat.

Chapman’s group started from Gangtok, Sikkim, and in seven days walked to Phari across the Tibetan plains, then carried out a reconnaissance of the south ridge. Finding this way impassable, they spent another four days detouring into Bhutan. From there, they continued on directly to make an alpine-style ascent of the mountain in just seven more days, followed by an eventful descent. [Chapman’s various misadventures on the mountain involved wet matches, a crevasse and an over-eager belayer—but he was still “complimented on his safe return [for] a sense of humor still intact.” See the 1938 American Alpine Journal—Ed.]

In 1970 a joint Indo-Bhutan Army expedition led by Colonel “Bull” Khumar and sponsored by the King of Bhutan repeated the ’37 route from Bhutan, but the second summit party did not return (presumably having fallen down the Tibetan side). The 1996 Japan-China expedition made what was, in fact, the third ascent, fixing ropes and camps through the “impassable” icefall to the south col and along the south ridge to join the ’37 route below the sharp crest of the summit ridge.

Our recent trips to Sikkim are an outcome of our own 2004 Chomolhari trip [during which Payne and Julie-Ann Clyma made the first attempt on the northwest buttress and an alpine-style ascent of the Japanese-Chinese Route. See also Payne’s “Chomolhari First Ascent Revisited,” Reader’s Blog, October 15, 2007 —Ed.] and the peaks we could see on the Tibet-Sikkim border. As W.H. Murray said, “Life is short and the Hill Ranges are long; there is no time to be lost….”

—Roger Payne, Leysanne, Switzerland

Too Good to be True?

I LOVED THE STORY by Gallaudet Howard (“Two Frosts,” Issue 21). I loved it so much that I have not been able to free myself from it for a few days. Slightly surreal, completely credible, it does, after all, take place in New Hampshire, where stranger things than vanishing women have happened. I spent some time looking around the Web, first for Ana Redfern, then for any news concerning the disappearance of a woman from Cannon Mountain, but to no avail. Is it a true story? Is it at least based on a true story? I must know!

—Melissa Park, Bellingham, Washington

Call off the search: the story is fiction—Ed.

Some Modest Proposals

EARLIER THIS YEAR, I was living in Chicago when I first came in contact with your magazine. My boyfriend bought it because I had become obsessed with climbing mountains (big mistake on his part). The solid, informational articles on climbing captivated me…. Well, actually, it was the big, bright, shiny pictures. I had no clue what you people were talking about half the time. Whom am I kidding? I still don’t. I have since broken up with previously mentioned boyfriend and moved to Colorado.

I now have a few suggestions for you. 1. Include a little tear-out booklet with definitions of terms I might not know in any particular issue. This would save me time Googling things. But since I recognize that it’s not always about me, you might print said booklet on very soft paper, which could do double duty for the majority of readers who already know what you’re talking about. 2. Provide an opportunity for skilled, smart, funny and knowledgeable climbers to bring me along with them. With my new booklet that you’ve printed, I can either spout off something I’ve learned or attend to their toiletry.

One way or another I will get out there and climb. It’s only polite to warn those in the Denver area that I am not above using my stunning good looks and fabulous personality to get me invited wherever they may be going....

—Susannah Morris, Denver, Colorado

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