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Editor's Note: Climbing Goes Carbon Neutral (Plus Winter 2020 Issue Preview)

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Jenny Fischer and Jirí Novák on Malý Pravický Kužel, Bohemian Switzerland, Czech Republic.Levi Harrell

We climbers have always prided ourselves on being green, and we’re often a favorite user group among land managers for our care of the vertical environment. We pick up trash at the cliffs during clean-up days, build erosion-proof approach trails and platforms, and maintain fixed hardware. Meanwhile, off the rock, I’ve met scores of climbers who are working to fight climate change on both micro and macro levels, from vegans, to climbers with hybrid cars, to vanlifers who’ve converted their engines to run on recycled cooking oil, to pro climbers like Tommy Caldwell, Emily Harrington, and Conrad Anker who are using their platforms to cultivate change at the policy level—for example, via teaming up with the environmental nonprofit Protect Our Winters. Still, we have blind spots. We don’t always carpool—especially now, with the consideration of coronavirus. Our gear, some of which we must replace regularly, relies on fossil fuels (nylon for ropes, draws, slings, and harnesses) and mining (metal for carabiners, bolts, and traditional protection). And we travel—a lot—whether it’s crisscrossing America by car or taking international flights to dream destinations.

We also voraciously consume climbing media, including this magazine. Think about all that goes in to bringing Climbing to your doorstep: travel by writers and photographers to create the content, time in a climate-controlled office by me editing and refining that content, the electricity to run the computers (desktops, laptops, and servers) that house the content, the paper and ink used to create the physical magazine, and then the fossil fuels burned during distribution to bring Climbing to your mailbox.

That’s why I’m excited to announce that—thanks to our partnership with Cooler (see—the print magazine is now officially carbon-neutral! Cooler is an application program interface (API) recently co-launched by former Backpacker Editor Jon Dorn and the social entrepreneur Michel Gelobter that lets businesses, including Climbing and our sister publications in Pocket Outdoor Media’s Active Living Group, calculate and then neutralize the carbon footprint of a given product or service—in our case, the print title. Cooler does this by purchasing then permanently retiring emission permits that industrial polluters would otherwise use to exceed their regulated limits, and then reinvests these permit fees in renewable-energy development. “Cooler’s approach directly lowers industrial CO2 pollution, stopping pollution at its source while simultaneously supporting economic, social, and environmental development,” the company’s website states.

Lynn Hill above a sea of green on Super Tuscan (5.13b), Flatirons, Colorado.Scott Crady

We ran the numbers for our 14,000 paid print subscriptions through Cooler’s carbon calculator. By using their services, we’ve been able to completely neutralize our annual cradle-to-the-grave print impact of 86,100 kilograms of greenhouse gasses (or 6.15 kilograms per reader). In the sustainability world, “cradle-to-the-grave” signifies the total emissions in a product’s life cycle; in Climbing’s case, it includes everything from the forest (trees cut and trucked), to the paper mill (trees pulped, pulp made into paper), to the printing plant (magazine printed and bound, insert cards, labels), to content creation (words written, photos taken, gear tested), to distribution (copies mailed to subscribers). To put it another way, the emissions permits bought for Climbing will eliminate the equivalent of an annual 1,189 trips to the crag across all readers, with a trip defined as 1.5 total hours of driving, and—assuming store-bought versus homemade food—two bag lunches and an après-climb dinner (two burgers, two salads, and four beers).

With two kids at home and the reasonable fear of any informed person that climate change is real, and that the attendant environmental and sociopolitical havoc will only worsen unless we take action, I’m both reassured and proud that Climbing is at the forefront of carbon neutrality in its space. While the reality is that we all must wean ourselves off fossil fuels for the health of Earth, measures like those taken by Cooler are a great first step. So enjoy this issue, knowing that your support of the title helps sustain not only the sport we love but also the planet we call home. 

—Matt Samet, Editor

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Molly Mitchell digs deep to send the 5.14a R China Doll, Dream Canyon, Colorado.Scott Crady

In this issue…


Not Good Enough

Self-worth, anxiety, and the pursuit of 5.14 trad. Story by Molly Mitchell.

Soft Stone, Rigid Ethics

The historic—and harrowing—climbs of Europe’s Elbe River Valley. Story and photos by Levi Harrell.

Realistic Self-Rescue

Three must-have multi-pitch skills using things you actually carry. Story by Christian Black.



  • Caption Contest
  • Quick Clips
  • Re-gram

Talk of the Crag

  • Inside the American Climber Science Program
  • Turkish Men Are Required to Serve in the Military—but Many Climbers Don’t Want To


  • 6 climbing gear reviews


  • Why We Wobble: Understand, manage, and channel your anger to climb your hardest

The Place

  • How Mineral Del Chico Became México’s First World-Class Bouldering Destination

Grasping at Draws

  • 32 Random New Rules to Unite the Community


  • Moby Grape, Cannon Cliff, New Hampshire


  • Photo Gallery: 2 recent climbing photo highlights


  • Boone Speed: The Utah visionary opens up about his four decades on the rock, a return to his nemesis climb, the craft of photography, and the search for the next great thing.

Rock Art

  • Jordan Wesolek: Skylines and Summits