In these days of magazine and newspaper carnage, pubs that stay in print are like searchlights in a graveyard. At least we hope that’s the case, least they’re actually marsh gas undergoing a momentary flicker.
Case in point: Alpinist Magazine, that wonderful large format pub that tastes so sweetly of the high alpine, was bought last winter by the same folks who publish Backcountry Magazine. More, they acquired former and famed Climbing Magazine publisher Michael Kennedy as Editor in Chief, meaning my old friend and climbing partner “MK” is charge of making sure the pages look and read as good as we’d expect from what’s intended to be the top end of magazine publishing.
The latest issue, #26, is the first coming from the new guys. According to Michael, most of the content was already in the works before they took over, most was easy to work with, but they had some minor challenges. At least as a layman, you wouldn’t know it. The thing looks great — my hat is off to Michael and his team!
“Mountain Profile: Mt. Everest Part 1” is perhaps the most impressive content. But articles covering diverse subjects such as the Teton rescue rangers and Japanese climbers doing huge routes on Denali round things out. My favorite of the mix, however, is the gritty story of rock climber John Bachar establishing his amazing Bachar-Yerian route in Yosemite NP, which “still defines boldness and traditional climbing 28 years later.”
My gripes are few. I’m still not a fan of the divorced photo captions — I’m always feeling like I’m hunting around for the things. Also, if the editors feel comfortable including building climbing (buildering) stories as were present in a past issue, they must certainly have some ski alpinism content on the way? No big deal on the above, but what would a review be without some crit?
Also of interest, one of the reader letters scolds us mountaineers and our publications for “voices of arrogance and condescension.” For example, statements such as “…giving thanks that you are not one of those people who go through an entire lifetime without climbing a mountain,” or advertising slogans such as “lives less ordinary.”
While there is value to the alternate path that alpinism takes us on, I for one see the letter writer’s point. All sorts of people and activities make humanity what it is — including the good side of our species. Thus, we’re not superior because we get to recreate in the backcountry. (Although it’s normal to feel an emotion of generosity when you find something excellent like alpinism or backcountry skiing, in that you want others to share your find.)
Most of us intellectually know elitism is bad, but hip-shot emotional elitism is easy to fall for, like putting down bubble head motorized recreationists, training wheel alpine skiers, genuflecting telemarkers, knuckle dragging snowboarders, Lycra clad randonnee racers; add any of dozens to the list.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s fun to joke about user groups and styles, as we do here on occasion with telemarking. But when good natured ribbing trends to serious elitism, warning bells should go off. If I’m guilty, apologies. We’ll keep joking around here ’cause that is part of blogging, but everyone feel free to correct my course if it’s looking like we’re sneering down our noses as we smugly snap into our Dynafits.
As for Alpinist, great job Michael and gang. It certainly looks like you’ve got a searchlight beaming bright — we’re looking forward to seeing what of our beloved alpine world it illuminates next!
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.