Welcome to the best of the American Alpine Journal.
The idea here will be to feature the most fun, best written, exceptionally exciting, historically interesting, inspiring, or just plain useful articles and reports that have been published in the roughly 25,000 pages of AAJs since 1929.
Remember that the AAJ is first and foremost a journal of record, where people who climb report their own new routes, in their own words. It has never pretended to be a literary journal. And yet we’ve published some masterworks.
Whenever an AAJ piece is worth re-reading several times, we’d like to keep it alive. Soon we’ll be developing categories of good reads among the ten million or so words that the AAJ has published in the last 80 years, and we’ll be looking for your help in the process. If you’re interested, please leave a comment below, or send an email to john [at] johnharlin.net.
In the meantime, have a look through your AAJ collection. Start with 2010 and tell us your favorite feature articles and Climbs & Expeditions new-route reports. Some of those reports are little jewels. Pretty soon we’ll list our recommended reads, and we’d love to add yours.
Here is a very preliminary list to help get you started. Once the collection grows we’ll begin organizing it by topic.
Agonizing Decisions, by Charles S. Houston M.D. (1985). A deep and warm essay on the moral dilemas inherent to climbing (and the rest of life).
The Art of Bouldering, by John Gill (1969). This article is less a great read than it is an historical document by the first true master of American bouldering. Considering how popular bouldering has become, it’s fun to see how long it has been recognized by the AAC.
Modern Yosemite Climbing, by Yvon Chouinard (1963). One of the great defining documents of our sport, with classic pronouncements on the future of climbing.
Club Historical Arcana:
Proceedings of the Club (1929). This little piece of historical arcana notes the first publication of the American Alpine Journal.
Climbs & Expeditions Gems:
These reports don’t necessarily document ground-breaking historical achievement. Instead, they are little jewels of clever writing scattered through the scree slopes of less entertaining reports that will always dominate the AAJ—after all, the AAJ is primarily an information resource, which is as it should be. But most of us also enjoy a good tale well told. Here are a few recent examples:
2010 AAJ C&E Gems:
Utah: Zion National Park, Sentinel, Red Chamonix Ridge. By Nathan Brown
Bolivia: Cordillera Real, Illimani, Pacha Brava. By Robert Rauch, Germany and Bolivia
Chile: Cerro Kristine, first ascent. By Jeff Johnson
Yemen: Socotra Island, Mashanig Towers. By Mike Libecki, AAC
Norway: International Winter Meet. By Marten Blixt, Norway
Norway: Six ascents. By Lukas Marecek and Jirí Svihálek, Czech Republic
Norway: Gloppedalen, south face, Civil Twilight. By Juha Evokari, Finland
2009 AAJ C&E Gems:
Alaska: Hayes Range, Peak 9,336′, West Face. By Jeff apple Benowitz, AAC
These selected obituaries do not imply that we consider the person being remembered as more important than others. The criterion for inclusion here is the beauty and warmth of the writing itself, and how elegantly and movingly the author portrays his recently lost friend.
2010 AAJ In Memoriam:
Micah Dash 1977–2009. By Timmy O’Neill