Find high-performance outdoor clothing, gear, and accessories that make wise and responsible use of resources. See more Mountain Gear Sustainable Pick items.

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!


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Marko Prezelj: Images of Norway

Marko Prezelj, the fantastically accomplished Slovenian alpinist, is also a gifted photographer. In the four years that I've been working on the American Alpine Journal, he's already had one photo on the cover and is likely to have another this year. Recently, he sent me some beautiful photos from a trip to Norway for an international ice climbing meet in Fjellkysten. "I was climbing there with Luka Lindic, and we were exploring the area and climbed several interesting lines," Marko said. "The images are my diary. Climbing was my main interest, and I didn't really focus on photography."

Maybe he wasn't focused on shooting, but Marko came away with some striking images of Norway, reinforcing my strong desire to visit there someday. Indeed, he told me, "It is such a unique place that you should not think twice." With Marko's permission, I offer a selection of his unique images:


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Rock Climbing In Your Living Room

At last, soon there will be no need to ever go outside, or even to a sweaty, dust-filled climbing gym, to experience "the thrill and adrenaline of free soloing." Game maker Human Soft has announced that it is developing a rock-climbing game for Wii called HardGrip.

I quote: "HardGrip takes players on a tour of exotic and stunning locales around the globe as they compete in open events or invitation-only official races. With no harnesses or lifelines, players must solve seemingly impossible challenges and conquer their fear to make it to the top. Speed counts, but climbers who prove their ingenuity and daring will earn more respect. As climbers progress, their skills will have to become truly awesome to make the grade."

Become truly awesome in the comfort of my own home? Sign me up!


Friday, March 05, 2010


Going through some old files, I came across this Chip Carey shot of John Truden, the multi-time Heavyeight Ski Champion from the early 1970s. Truden tipped the scales at more than 400 pounds. I still think this is one of the most inspiring ski photos I've ever seen.