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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Early Spring in the Park

After a long office hibernation forced by too much work, it was great to get out Sunday and climb in Rocky Mountain National Park. Greg Sievers and I climbed a probable new route on Andrews Tower, the big rock formation just south of the frozen tarn below Andrews Glacier. We'd been eyeing this one for over a year, and it was fun to have it come together more or less as planned. Our line took a hidden gully on the north face, just left of the skyline in the photo; we descended snow on the east face (facing the camera) and then down right along the lower northeast face.

The route began with some easy snow climbing and then three mixed pitches up the north face (the right-hand line in this photo). The crux second pitch was steep, sustained M4 and M5, and the third pitch required some artful dodging to bypass the three big cornice pillows that sat atop the face. We chose this climb for Sunday in part because it hadn't snowed in the Park for over a week and the forecast was for cloudy skies (wrong), so we hoped the cornices would be stable. Nothing budged, but we were happy when we finally got out from under them. A long moderate snow and mixed pitch gained the rock saddle between Andrews Tower and the main ridge, and then a short pure rock pitch led to the top.

We had expected to climb out of the notch and continue across the ridgeline to the Continental Divide, but it was already midafternoon and the ridge looked much harder than we'd expected. After a bit of debate, we decided to downclimb the snowy east face. The sun was off the face and the snow conditions were excellent, and we were able to simulclimb the whole way down in two long "pitches," reaching the ground in less than an hour. This face would make an excellent moderate mountaineering route in good snow conditions, with the final rock climb to a rarely reached summit giving it a true Alpine feel. Ideally, you'd continue out of the notch to the Divide, but that would add at least one more technical pitch (probably several) and a few hours of climbing.

Yesterday I was very tired and nursing blisters on both heels from skiing up to the tower in my climbing boots, but it was so worth it to get out and once again explore some new ground in old, familiar places.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kennedy on Alpinist

My "informed speculation" on the new Alpinist was off the mark a bit, says Michael Kennedy, the magazine's new editor. Here's how Kennedy described his vision for the resurrected magazine in an email this morning (quoted with permission):

"I'd say the new Alpinist is going to be more like the old Alpinist than the old Climbing magazine. The trim size may end up like that of the Surfer's Journal (9.5 x 11.5 inches rather than the current 9 x 12 inches), since that's the more common "journal" size for publications printed in the U.S. The cover price will remain $12.95, although Alpinist will be offering special relaunch subscription offers with the first 'new' issue.

"True, the new Alpinist may have a few more ad pages, but the content will remain every bit as beautiful and compelling as ever. You'll still see plenty of stories and photos of cutting-edge alpine climbs. In seeking to appeal to a broader spectrum of climbers, my intention is to open Alpinist up a bit in tone and voice, to focus on what climbers have in common, to inspire and express the very best of the climbing experience at all levels. It's a much more subtle shift than you suggest.

"Nothing is set in stone, so much of the appeal, for me, is in the adventure of working with the rest of the Height of Land team to shape and hopefully improve the magazine, building on the foundation that Christian [Beckwith] developed for Alpinist."

It certainly will be interesting to see how Kennedy goes about broadening the magazine's appeal without diminishing the characteristics that endeared it to many readers—it's a tricky step, but also one that I would say is essential for Alpinist's long-term success.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Rumor Mill

Michael Kennedy is going to edit the new Alpinist. Wow.

(Not a rumor. Fact.)

Kennedy edited and published Climbing magazine for more than two decades before selling the magazine in 1997. Along with being one of America's top alpine climbers of the 1970s and ’80s, he created a magazine with authoritative articles and elegant design, and he was rewarded with the largest circulation climbing magazine in the world. Kennedy and the much-admired Alpinist senior editor Katie Ives will make a formidable team.

Informed speculation: The new Alpinist, now slated to relaunch in April, is likely to be more like the old Climbing magazine than the old Alpinist. It may have a smaller trim size than the old Alpinist and definitely will have more ad space, and it will seek to appeal to a broader spectrum of climbers, yet it won't be as ad-packed or as broad-focused as the mainstream mags. It also likely will be considerably cheaper than the old Alpinist's $12.95 cover price.

Update: Announcement made.