Behind the histories of exploration lie less-visible tales of rumored summits that prove to be nonexistent, and of physical mountains whose shapes and heights transform according to different legends.
In September 1833, Charles Darwin set out for the four peaks of the Sierra de la Ventana alone, lured by local murmurs of caves and forests and veins of silver and gold. The small range was barely visible from the port of Bahia Blanca, a notch in the north-central Argentine coast. There, the H.M.S. Beagle remained docked with Captain Fitzroy, who had invited Darwin aboard the ship to circumnavigate the globe as a scientist.
This story is about Jack Tackle recovering from a debilitating sickness and then traveling to Mt. Augusta (14,072), Saint Elias Mountains, Yukon Territories. High on the peak's north face, he was clocked by a rock, and rescued from the wall a few days later by Pararescue Specialists (known as parajumpers, or PJs), highly trained members of the Airforce Special Forces.
At seventy-three, Cascades climber Fay Pullen bushwhacks through dense thickets and climbs isolated peaks—generally alone. Cindy Beavon pays a visit to one of Washington's most prolific soloists.
"I'M SO GLAD TO SEE YOU BOYS," Lee Sorenson shouted as he ran across the campsite toward us, his bearded face beaming with love and relief. His oldest son, Tobin, and I were a full day and a night overdue. It was March 1975, and we'd just made the second ascent of the Valley's first major ice climb, Upper Sentinel Falls.
During the mid-1980s, Steve Hong was finishing his medical studies at the University of Utah, but he wasn't yet done with his youthful antics. On weekends, he and his partners explored Indian Creek's arid landscape of silent towers, crimson walls and grazing cattle. There, they found fissures that would eventually rank as iconic desert climbs. One was a 160-foot crack leading skyward up a smooth panel of maroon and orange varnish