Ask an Editor: What's It Really Like to Be an Editor at Climbing Magazine?

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Climbing Magazine Epic Jebel Rum Rock Blankets

The Climbing team has an unplanned bivy atop Jebel Rum.

Question:

What’s it really like to be an editor at Climbing? I just picture you guys out on the rock all day, doing pitches, testing free gear, hanging with pros, traveling to the latest, greatest crag, snapping photos for the Gram, and then maybe checking your email every now and then. But what’s it really like—are you guys more desk jockeys or rock jocks?

—FP Humphreys, via email

Answer:

The puzzle pieces on Kevin Corrigan’s thin Bedouin blanket faded as the fire died. I almost nodded off staring at the patterns on the blanket, but the cold kept me from dozing. In November 2016, my first year of working at the magazine, Kevin, our digital editor; one senior contributing photographer; our editor in chief, Julie; two gear testers; a local Jordanian climber; and I climbed the 1,100-foot Pillar of Wisdom (5.9+) on the Jebel Rum formation in Wadi Rum, Jordan. With short winter days and having to shoot the route for a feature on the country’s climbing as we went, the group topped out an hour before sunset. We attempted to navigate the complicated descent, but with three dying headlamps and a lack of good information, we were forced into an unplanned bivy. A few climbers wrapped themselves in blankets stashed by Bedouin nomads while the rest of us spooned the fire for warmth. I shivered through the night, wondering if working at Climbing Magazine was for me.

My first year at the magazine felt hectic. While the magazine’s climbing-related focus kept me interested in the content, the realities of putting an 80-page magazine together every six weeks felt overwhelming. Monday mornings meant arriving to an inbox full of emails with various contributor and editor needs to attend to, and with stories to edit. By the time I called in high-resolution photos, proofed articles, and helped call in any missing content, it was Friday and I had a column due. I squeezed in climbing as much as I could to help my mental state, which fluctuated between “It’s great to finally have a full-time job after years of dirtbagging” to “What am I doing here?” When I did climb, it often involved-magazine related trips that seemed to feature more working to create content (and shivering through the night) than actually climbing. I wondered if the work-life balance was ever going to get any better.

In the past three years, as I’ve learned how to mitigate the never-ending tsunami of assignments, emails, and work, I’ve developed a better relationship with work and climbing. There are lots of days when I might spend eight hours straight editing Skills pieces on how to escape a belay, soliciting eye-popping images for Onsight, and tapping away at my Peaches Preaches column. But there are also a lot of afternoons where I can escape my cubicle before 5 p.m. to test a Mammut rope while working Primate (5.13b) at Seal Rock, or head out to the alpine bouldering of Mount Evans to see about a new crashpad harness system while I work my mega-proj, Bierstadt (V10).

On the one hand, producing high-quality content for this magazine means spending a lot of time inside, staring at a computer screen and tapping away. But on the other hand, producing a magazine about climbing also means having an an intimate and up-to-date knowledge of what’s happening in the community—which means having lots of real-world experience with the sport, plus getting out there and interacting with other climbers. So are we here at Climbing Magazine a bunch of desk jockeys or just rock jocks? I like to think we’re a bit of both, willing to putting in the hours to make sure that commas are in place, that text contracts are signed and paychecks are going out, and that we are putting out the best magazine that we can make—and we’re also willing to do a bit of shivering to climb when we can.

—James Lucas, Senior Associate Editor

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