Rank #1: Available Light: Jimmy Chin
After he graduated from college in 1996, Jimmy Chin hit the road, planning to climb and ski for a year before heading to grad school. Twenty-two years later, he’s still adventuring in the mountains. In this episode, we discuss Chin’s life growing up in small-town Minnesota as the son of Chinese immigrants and his path to adventure photography. Plus: his take on filming Alex Honnold’s free solo of El Cap and skiing with his daughter.
Rank #2: Death and Climbing: David Roberts
By 1965, at age 22, David Roberts had witnessed three fatal accidents in the mountains. Over 50 years since, Roberts has explored in writing what makes climbing worth the risk. In this episode, Roberts discusses an article he wrote for Alpinist 56, in which he revisits “moments of doubt.”
Rank #3: The Climbers: Jim Herrington and Fred Beckey
In the 1990s, after more than a decade of climbing in the Sierra Nevada, Jim Herrington embarked on a journey to photograph some of the most formidable mountaineers of the past generation. In this episode, rock-and-roll photographer Herrington discusses his recently released coffee-table book The Climbers and some of the stories from behind the scenes. Plus, a tribute to Fred Beckey. More at alpinist.com/podcast
Rank #4: The Adventure Gap: James Edward Mills
“If someone is raised to spend time in the outdoors it will be something that they do without question; they won’t wonder whether or not it’s something that they’re supposed to do based on their ethnic or racial identity or how they go through life…. Unfortunately too many people in our culture and our society are deprived of that opportunity.”
An avid climber and the author of The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors, James Edward Mills has worked in the outdoor industry for decades. As team journalist, he chronicled the 2013 journey of Expedition Denali, a project conceived to put the first team of African Americans on the summit of the highest point of North America. In this episode, Mills talks with associate editor Paula Wright about the adventure gap and the relationship between mountaineering and the civil rights movement.
Rank #5: Threshold Shift: Nick Bullock
In 2003 Nick Bullock quit his steady job as an instructor in the Prison Service to climb and write full-time. His 2016 ascent of Nyainqentanglha Southeast (7046m) in Tibet with Paul Ramsden won the climbers a Piolet d’Or the following year. In this episode, Bullock discusses his path to climbing and the Alpinist article he wrote about the Nyainqentanglha climb, which won an award from the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in 2017.
Rank #6: Death and Climbing, Part 2
Author and mountaineer David Roberts reads his essay "Death and Climbing," which first appeared in the winter 2016 issue of Alpinist.
Rank #7: Art of Freedom: Bernadette McDonald and Voytek Kurtyka
Perhaps no other writer has explored Cold War and post-Soviet era mountaineering more than Bernadette McDonald has. In this episode, Bernadette McDonald discusses her award-winning book, Art of Freedom, a biography of Voytek Kurtyka, one of the most accomplished, and reclusive, alpinists of our time. Known for his philosophical approach, Kurtyka believed in the transformative power of climbing. He wrote, “When we entrust our faith to an absurdly beautiful mountain, we are being true to our vocation…. This is why I find climbing to be one of the most encouraging and exhilarating efforts of my life. This is the drug of mountaineering—the liberation.”
Rank #8: In the Bear's Lodge: Voices from Devils Tower
Many climbers observe the voluntary climbing ban at Bear Lodge (Devils Tower) in Wyoming during the month of June as their way to show respect for local Native American cultures. In this episode, journalist Nick Mott discusses the voluntary closure with local climbers and Indigenous leaders, to learn more about their views on the history.
Rank #9: Stillness and Storms: Mayan Smith-Gobat
In 2002, Mayan Smith-Gobat was in a ski accident and broke her jaw and both feet. Within a few weeks, she turned her focus to climbing and began training while her feet were still in casts. Nine years later, she became the second woman ever to free climb the Salathé Wall on El Capitan. Today, she’s concentrating on Riders on the Storm, a 1,300-meter big wall on the icy east face of Torre Central in Chilean Patagonia, which still hasn’t had a free ascent. For more on this climb, check out Smith-Gobat's article "Stillness and Storms" in Issue 55 of Alpinist magazine.
Rank #10: Climbing Doesn't Change You: Kathy Karlo
“We all have emotions that eventually bring us to self-awareness, if we let them. Beneath every curmudgeonly old soul is the ability to share a passion and appreciate something that makes us feel deeply…. It’s true—climbing does not change you. But having a passion for something is what will.” Kathy Karlo is a climber, writer, and the director of the website and podcast, both titled “For the Love of Climbing.” In this episode, Karlo talks about her Alpinist 61 article, "Climbing Doesn't Change You," and how writing openly about vulnerability within the context of climbing can be a radical act.