Climbing reports come in all forms. Some basic, simply giving the key details of a climb. Some tell a story, sometimes understated and sometimes overstated, sometimes hilarious and outrageous. And occasionally we stumble upon absolutely beautiful stories.
I’m mostly talking about reports we receive for the American Alpine Journal, which is a yearly tome reporting the big new routes worldwide. It’s been published annually since 1929, and, for the last 10 years, I’ve been one of the editors. We strive for first-hand accounts from the climbers themselves, which generally makes for honest and authentic reporting.
Again, it’s almost all big new routes – you won’t find reports from cragging or from tourists getting dragged up Everest. The reports range from major climbs that everyone knows about, to the less-technical but way remote and exploratory, to plenty of super badass climbs that went otherwise unreported (side note: in case you didn’t already know, there are a ton of low-key, under-the-radar, hard-men and -women out there).
I’ve read thousands of reports in the last 10 years, and every year I make mental notes of my favorites. We on the editorial staff (all two-to-four of us, depending on the year…) call these “AAJ Gems.” They’re some of the best reports anywhere, I think, some of the best storytelling and best writing, often written by people you’ve never heard of.
My vote for Gem of the year in the AAJ 2010 (which just came out and was recently mailed to AAC members and contributors) goes to someone many of us already know from the film 180 South: Jeff Johnson.
[Top right: The 2010 AAJ. Photo: Kelly Cordes. Right: Jeff Johnson, courtesy Woodshed Films]