Weekly Feature Archives

What's Past is Prologue: Tom Hornbein's Winding Road to Chomolungma

Posted May 25, 2023

To honor the life of Tom Hornbein, who died on May 6, 2023, at his home in Estes Park, Colorado, at age 92, we are sharing this feature story from Alpinist 73 (2021) by mountaineering historian Maurice Isserman. Hornbein was one of America's greatest climbers, best known for completing the first ascent of Mt. Everest's West Ridge with Willi Unsoeld in 1963. He also earned distinction in his long career as an anesthesiologist and advanced research on the effects of altitude on the human body. The American Alpine Club awarded him the AAC President's Gold Medal twice and bestowed him with an honorary membership and special recognition for service to the club. In this story, Isserman interviews Hornbein about the youthful adventures that led him to the world's highest peak and the meanings that he still sought in the mountains at age 90.

Between safety and boldness

Posted March 10, 2023

In this Sharp End story from Alpinist 81—which is now on newsstands and in our online store—Derek Franz seeks a balance between safety and boldness. He writes: "Climbing...is full of duality, encompassing a range of contradictory values.... There is a continual tightrope walk between the opposing values of safety and boldness, and the search for optimal balance between the two has always shaped the evolution of our pastime. Questions that seem to have been settled at various times in the past reemerge. There is now a fast-growing population of climbers, with increasing numbers of them going into the mountains strong from gym training but short on outdoor experience. The mindset in which people approach the wild places is changing, and the duality of our values is becoming more pronounced."

What We Search For

Posted January 30, 2023

As he struggles to cope with the death of a friend, Jason Nark becomes absorbed in the story of the search for Matthew Greene, a climber who disappeared in the Sierra Nevada in 2013.

A Climbing Life

Posted November 24, 2022

In this Sharp End story from Alpinist 80—which is now available on newsstands and in our online store—Derek Franz shares his journey from Alpinist reader to editor-in-chief.

Bea and Me

Posted November 17, 2022

In this story from Alpinist 79 (Autumn 2022), a 1952 photo of a woman who forged pitons inspires Lauren Delaunay Miller to embark on a journey to learn more about Bea Vogel, an early Yosemite climber and ardent activist, for whom the right to choose was paramount—on the rock and in the rest of life. Delaunay Miller's book "Valley of Giants: Stories from Women at the Heart of Yosemite Climbing" recently received the Banff Mountain Book Award Climbing Literature Award.

The World Between the Pages

Posted September 1, 2022

In this Sharp End story from Alpinist 79—which is now on newsstands and in our online store—Alpinist's departing editor-in-chief Katie Ives ponders the fates of climbing publications and says farewell after ten years at the helm of the magazine. She writes: "I am leaving for other paths. The magazine will go on, with your help. And I hope that I will continue to meet you, in the mountains and in our words...."

Mountains of Grief

Posted August 30, 2022

"When the mountain community...grapples with the accidental death of one of its members," Anna Callaghan writes, "only one thing is certain: it's going to happen again." Through interviews with several climbers who've lost loved ones to the mountains, Callaghan explores the ways in which people across the climbing community are banding together to address grief and support the bereaved.

Fifty Years in Yosemite: The soft-spoken legacy of Werner Braun, "Mr. Astroman"

Posted July 11, 2022

Earl Bates traces stories from the 50-year career of Werner Braun, one of Yosemite's most reticent Stonemasters. Braun retired from his work in the Valley last year and moved to St. George, Utah, with his wife Merry. Braun was among the best free soloists of his generation and ultimately proved himself to be a significant asset to the Park Service and Yosemite Search and Rescue, but you won't hear him say so. In his typical fashion, Braun continues to shy away from recognition, and that is why some of Yosemite's best stories may never be told.

Tool Users: Sun Protection

Posted June 24, 2022

In this Tool Users story from Alpinist 78—which is now on newsstands and in our online store—Sarah Pickman traces the early development of sun protection. As Western scientists debated the cause of sunburn in the nineteenth century, she explains, some researchers "turned to a community with plenty of experience getting burned: alpinists."

Melt Outs

Posted June 8, 2022

In this Sharp End story from Alpinist 78—which is now on newsstands and in our online store—Katie Ives explores some of the many metaphors of late-season ice. She writes: "Any ice route is a land that appears and disappears, never taking an identical shape twice, leaving ghostly outlines in climbers' memories of past forms—and posing the question of which ascent might be the last."