Climbing History

As a sport, climbing dates back more than 200 years, and few activities have such rich history. Here you'll find many stories from climbing's past, including breathtaking accounts of epic ascents as well as little-known lore about the climbers who came before us.
  • Enga-Lokey-Soweto-660

    The Nut Chronicles

    Climbing nutcraft evolved in Great Britain about a half century ago, but its roots go back even further. As early as the 1920s, British climbers had carried pebbles in the pockets of their knickers, slotting these stones into wide spots in cracks and tying them off—with scary-looking hemp cord—for pro. True artificial chockstones were just a small conceptual step away, but it took a few decades. During the 1930s, rock climbing—then much more closely allied with alpinism than it is now—was at an ethical crossroads.

  • Charley-Mace-West-Shoulder-Headwall-Mt-Everest

    Into the Vast Unknown

    On May 1, 1963 (at least in a small way), when Jim Whittaker of Seattle and Nawang Gombu of Darjeeling, India, became the seventh and eighth people to stand on Everest’s summit. Three weeks later, Lute Jerstad and Barry Bishop followed them, also summiting via the Southeast Ridge. Three hours after that, Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld traversed Everest’s summit, having made the first ascent of the West Ridge.

  • Fixed Anchors in the Wilderness

    Flashback: It’s the summer of 1998, and you’re 500 feet up the Sun Ribbon Arête on Temple Crag, one of the High Sierra’s finest alpine rock peaks. The scattered morning clouds have quickly turned into ominous thunderheads, coming your way. With nothing ahead but even more exposed climbing for 1,500 feet to the summit, you belay up your partner, have a short discussion, equalize a nut and a sling around a horn, and begin to rap. Two hundred feet lower you pull your rope, leaving the anchor in place—thus committing a federal crime.

  • Survivors - Enduring Desperate Situations

    Survivors - Enduring Desperate Situations

    We surveyed readers and more than a dozen climbing historians and writers in North America and Europe to collect 25 stories of stamina, ingenuity, and human will, some well-known, others not. Our hope is to remind readers to take care and prevent accidents--to"do nothing in haste, look well to each step," as Whymper famously said after the Matterhorn tragedy.

  • 10 Things You Didn't Know about Avalanches

    10 Things You Didn't Know about Avalanches

    Avalanche danger will always be a hazard for those seeking to climb some of the world's most sought-after peaks. Here's a look at some facts about the deadly snow slides.

  • 10 Things You Didn't Know about Dynos

    10 Things You Didn't Know about Dynos

    Call them what you will--"sloppy," "desperate," "intimidating," "amazing"--but dynamic moves are essential to our repertoire.

  • 10 Things You Didn't Know about Sport Climbing's Early Days

    You know those shiny gadgets, techy techniques, and bizzled training facilities we use to hone our sport climbing? Well, guess what: they weren't invented in a vacuum.

  • Wing and a Prayer

    Wing and a Prayer

    The Curious Case of Maurice Wilson and his Doomed Quest for Mt. Everest .

  • Angels of Mont Blanc

    Angels of Mont Blanc

    Inside the world's busiest alpine-rescue service - Francis Claudon, of the Peloton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne (PGHM) in Chamonix, France, was on second call that July evening. With one team already out on a rescue, he was kitted up and ready for the next mission, boots on and rucksack packed.

  • 10 Things You Didn't Know about YOSAR

    Yosemite Search and Rescue is one of the most well-oiled SAR machines in the world.

  • 10 Things You Didn't Know about the Third Flatiron

    10 Things You Didn't Know about the Third Flatiron

    One of the most iconic crags in the country, the Third Flatiron rises majestically just to the west of Boulder, Colorado.

  • Knots_4574

    10 Things You Didn't Know About Knots

    Knots: they attach us to ropes, connect slings to trees, substitute for dropped gear, secure tents, create belay anchors. Even a sport climber whose shoes close with Velcro knows a few knots. But here are a few things you might not know.