Table of Contents


El Capitan

For more than fifty years, climbers have trembled before El Cap, and the ascents that followed have influenced climbs in every country and every mountain range. Tommy Caldwell provides the context, while Wayne Merry, Royal Robbins, Jim Bridwell, Sibylle Hechtel, Steve Grossman, Lynn Hill and Alex Huber give their impressions of climbing's most important wall.

sharp end


The cartoons of Sheridan Anderson.

Editor's Note

The Wilderness Within.


The etymology of Cosmos.

Tool Users

The origin of John Salathe's skyhook.




A mythical send revisited and the facts on Fred.

climbing life

The Climbing Life

Observations from the field.


Escape Route

The Matthes Crest scratches the underbelly of the sky itself. Climbing it provided one young woman with an opportunity she hadn't expected.

Skeleton Ridge

The Skeleton Ridge erupts from the ocean like the spine of a dinosaur. Making its first ascent demanded more than simple climbing skills; it required a historical perspective.

Full Value

It's all fun and games until gray matter begins to leak from your skull.

Off Belay

A tribute to a master.


Ground up or top down? When a tradmaster from the Golden Age consented to the latter, the climbing community did not hesitate to share its views on the issue.

features content

Laurel Knob

North Carolina friction climbing is not for the faint of heart. A photo essay about the once-forbidden, now forbidding granite paradise of Laurel Knob.

My Name is Mason Birch

In the shadow of Kamarupa, life and death are merely steps along the same path.

Sea Change

The ocean and the rock both offer a way into the depths of one's being. A British climber plunges in, then spends the next few years trying to reemerge in balance.

The Torre Traverse

The serrated profile of Cerro Torre, Torre Egger and Cerro Standhardt has emblazoned itself on alpinists' minds for two generations. When one aficionado finally conquered it, he found that the real challenge lay in navigating the topography of the imagination.

local heroes

Local Hero

Who would have thought that America's hardest trad climb could find its inspiration in the boulders at its base? Beth Rodden gives a nod to a man who helped her dig deep: Randy Puro. With photographs by Corey Rich.