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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Scientists: 'We May Be Running Out of Rocks'

This just in: Geologists are warning that, unless current habits change, the world is in danger of running out of rocks in a remarkably short time. "Think about it," scientist Henry Kaiser told the Onion newspaper. "When was the last time you even saw a boulder?" Click here to read more about this alarming hypotheses.


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tuesday Morning Time Waster

A beautiful, inspirational look at one of the greats, Japan's Yuji Hirayama, climbing in Turkey. From the Camp 4 Collective, a new collaboration of the creative dream team of Jimmy Chin, Tim Kemple, and Renan Ozturk. Should be some great stuff coming out of these lenses and laptops in the coming months.


Friday, April 30, 2010

Oh, Zermatt, Where Did You Go So Wrong?

Zermatt, Switzerland, one of the birthplaces of Alpinism, promotes...well, who knows what it's promoting with this advertisement, spotted at the Furi lift station in April.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Inspiration and Sobering Reality

I've just returned from a couple of weeks of skiing in the French and Swiss Alps, where we stuck to well-traveled tracks and merely ogled the improbable traces of bold skiers arcing down seemingly every plunging gully and cliffy face. The stuff that gets skied routinely in these mountains is mind-blowing. And so it was fun to discover Colin Haley's helmet-cam video of a "typical" day of skiing this month off the Aiguille du Midi above Chamonix—this is a great window on the kind of skiing I'll never do. Thrilling stuff!

But as I read deeper in Colin's long debrief of recent weeks in Chamonix on his Skagit Alpinism blog, I learned there was another, darker side to his story. In less than one week, Colin watched his skiing partners suffer two serious accidents during big descents (the two skiers who fell both lived, somewhat miraculously, though one was severely injured) and he himself narrowly escaped being pulled off a mountain by an avalanche. Colin's account is analytical, sobering, and highly worth reading. Don't miss it.


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Russian Avalanche (Out of) Control

Think you'd be safe on a chairlift if a big avalanche swept underneath? Skip to about 0:25 to jump-start the action and find out.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Unclimbed": Seven Years Later

I've just been editing a story for the American Alpine Journal about the first ascent of the north face of Chang Himal in Nepal, by British climber Andy Houseman. Andy said his climb, with fellow Brit Nick Bullock, was inspired in part by an article called "Unclimbed," published in 2003 in Alpinist 4, in which various writers identified nine great unfulfilled challenges in the alpine world. Which, in turn, inspired me to dig up the article and see how climbers have done over the last six and a half years.

Not bad, as it turns out, not bad at all. But these lines have proved to be worthy challenges. Here are the nine routes and their status:

Annapurna III, Nepal, southeast ridge. Not yet, but the peak has seen some action: The southwest ridge was climbed in 2003 by Kenton Cool, Ian Parnell, and John Varco. And Britons Jon Bracey, Nick Bullock, and Matt Helliker are headed to Nepal this spring to attempt the stunning southeast ridge. [Photo courtesy of]

South Tower of Paine, Chile, south face. Not yet, but big-wall soloist Dave Turner spent months in the Paine in early 2009, hoping to attempt the face, before an injury forced him to focus on smaller objectives.

Shingu Charpa, Pakistan, north ridge. Climbed. Twice, more or less. Or not at all. Depends on how you look at it. In 2006, a Ukrainian trio claimed to have climbed the route, but it later turned out they had turned back perhaps 100 meters below the top of the peak. A month later, Kelly Cordes and Josh Wharton climbed most of the route, but also retreated near the top because they didn't have the right gear for the summit icefields. In 2007, a Russian team climbed the east face and continued up the final section of the north ridge to the summit. [Photo by Clint Estes.]

Namcha Barwa, Tibet, west face. Nope. The 7,782-meter peak has been climbed only once, in 1992, from the south. The 3,300-meter west face has never been attempted.

Janak, Nepal, southwest pillar. Climbed! Slovenians Andrej Stremfelj and Rok Zalokar pulled off a stylish alpine-style ascent in 2006.

Chang Himal, Nepal, north face. Climbed! Those Brits, Nick Bullock and Andy Houseman, polished off the route, alpine style, in a five-day round trip from the base of the wall.

Mt. Tyree, Antarctica, southeast face. Not yet. Antartica's biggest and steepest alpine wall remains untouched.

Latok I, Pakistan, north face. Not yet. Several teams have attempted the line but diverted to the north ridge, also unclimbed.

Torre Traverse, Patagonia. Climbed! Rolando Garibotti and Colin Haley linked Cerro Standhardt, Torre Egger,and Cerro Torre in January 2008.

So, more than half of these routes remain unclimbed. But it would be a mistake for either climbers or the media to focus attention exclusively on these lines. As the Alpinist compilation's editor, Sean Easton, wrote in his introduction, these climbs "represent only a minute sampling of what remains to be found."

Indeed, one of the great thrills of working on the American Alpine Journal is seeing photo after photo of great unclimbed walls around the world (and those other mountains, barely in view over the shoulder of that peak in the foreground...what are they?). The world still holds enough great alpine challenges for generations of ambitious climbers to come. Time for a new article?


Friday, March 26, 2010

Kite Skiing on Patagonia Ice Cap

Don't miss Dave Turner's wild stories and photos of kite skiing on the Patagonia Ice Cap. Absolutely crazy! Click on the link in the Black Diamond Journal sidebar to the right.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Best Climbing Trailer Ever Made

The movie is Core, by Chuck Fryberger. The world premiere is April 7 at the Boulder Theater.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Marko Prezelj Slide Show: Repost

Sorry for the technical difficulties with the Marko Prezelj slide show (below). I was climbing at Shelf Road (T-shirts, sunburn, sharp rock...the usual excellence), so it took me a couple of days to fix the problem. I believe I've got it sussed; if not, I'm sure you'll let me know!