Today we’re sharing an excerpt from an award-winning book written by a longtime Alpinist contributor and former intern Chris Kalman and illustrated by Craig Muderlak. “Dammed If You Don’t” is Kalman’s third book and recently won the Mountain Fiction and Poetry category at the annual Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival. Book competition jury member Pete Takeda wrote: “Kalman’s third book asks a very topical question: Can we love a place to death? Kalman answers this question with a spare quality that evokes a bit of James Salter. His portrayal of a lush, pristine Chilean valley is immediate and profound. His writing is peppered with the intimate details that also bring the characters, their foibles, and struggles to life. Their dilemmas soon become our dilemmas. Perhaps the best thing about ‘Dammed If You Don’t’ are the plot twists, building to a final scenario that is plausible, disturbing, and strangely uplifting.”
Between July 1 and 3, young Spanish climbers Jaume Peiro (20) and Alex Gonzalez (18) made the first ascent of the northwest spur of Chaupi Huanca in the Rurec Valley of the Cordillera Blanca in Peru. They climbed their 740-meter route–Big Fighter–at 6c (5.11b/c) A2, and estimated it would go free at 8a+ (5.13c). Peiro and Gonzalez succeeded on the line that two previous parties (an Argentinean team in 2016, and an Ecuadorian team in 2021) had previously attempted, adding 470 meters to the Ecuadorian team’s high point that was 270 meters up the wall.
On May 8, Christoph Schranz freed Ocha-Schau-Schuich (“Fear of Heights,” in his Tyrolean dialect). It took him 20 days of work spread out over three years to establish the 300-meter, seven-pitch route. He explored the route ground up, as a rope solo, starting in 2018 and then began efforts to free the line starting in 2020, investing 10 attempts with support from partners before succeeding on his 11th attempt this past May. Ocha-Schau-Schuich is protected with a mixture of widely spaced bolts and natural protection, with difficulties up to 8c (5.14b).
From August 2 to 10, Vitaliy Musiyenko made the first traverse of Goliath–a linkup of gargantuan proportions along the Sierra Crest, in California’s Sierra Nevada Range. Over the course of eight days Musiyenko covered approximately 32 miles of mostly technical terrain, 80,000 feet of elevation gain, and 60 summits above 13,000 feet, including eight Fourteeners. It may be the longest ridge traverse in the Western Hemisphere.
From April 18-25, 2021, Ryan Driscoll, Justin Guarino and Nick Aiello-Popeo made the first ascent of the north face (or Medusa Face) of Mt. Neacola, in the Neacola Mountains of Alaska’s Aleutian Range. They followed the line of Topher Donahue and Kennan Harvey’s 1995 attempt for the first roughly 3,500 feet, before adding more than 800 vertical feet of new sustained M6 and A2 climbing on decomposing rock. The final six pitches took 12 hours to climb.
Brette Harrington and Dylan Cunningham Make the First Ascent of the Northeast Face of Mt. Niblock in Banff National Park
On April 17, 2021, Brette Harrington and Dylan Cunningham made the first ascent of the northeast face of Mt. Niblock in Banff National Park, in the Canadian Rockies (traditional lands of Stoney Nakoda, Ktunaxa, Blackfoot, and Tsuut’ina Nations). Their 14-pitch route–Just a Nibble (5.10- M6R WI5, 500m)–took 15 hours to climb.
Arizonan Trad Testpiece East Coast Fist Bump (5.14a) Gets First Recorded Female and First Recorded Trans Ascents
On Jan 29, 2021, Brittany Goris made the first recorded female ascent of East Coast Fist Bump (5.14a), a single-pitch trad climb at the Waterfall crag in northern Arizona (Apache, Hopi, Pueblo and Hohokam territory). Just a few weeks later, Lor Sabourin also sent the route for its first recorded trans ascent.
From February 11 to 25, 2021, 1430-meter Cerro Huinay was climbed by four Chilean climbers: Nicolas Gutierrez, Pancho Herrera, Sebastian Rojas and Hernan Rodriguez. The 1000m, 25 pitch 5.12 A2+ was the first ascent of the wall–one of the biggest in Chilean Patagonia.
Chris Kalman continues his quest to find the best all-day, all-around climbing shoe. Everyone knows that a certain brand’s TC Pro has set the standard in this category. Can the Acopa JB–named after the climbing legend and late Acopa executive John Bachar–compete? “It’s a toss-up,” Kalman reports. Four stars.
The DMM Dragonfly Micro Cams are among the smallest and strongest cams ever made. Chris Kalman tested them on the thin cracks near his home in northern Arizona. He reports that there are some aspects of the design that he absolutely loves, but ultimately he was disappointed with the narrow size range of the cams compared to other brands. The narrow range required much more careful selection for placements. Three stars