Loose Bits (Spring 2021 Edition)

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Everest Lit


“I panned my light beam across the slab and looked for grooves, scars, or the crushed bedrock dust that geologists call rock flour. But I didn’t see any noteworthy damage to the remaining rock slab. Like a climber missing high on Everest, the Hillary Step had disappeared without a trace.”

—Jim Davidson, upon reaching 28,800 feet on Everest, where the famed Hillary Step once stood, in 2017, as described in his The Next Everest (St. Martin’s Press, April 20). The rock barrier apparently collapsed as a result of the 2015 earthquake.

See also Shook: An Earthquake, A Legendary Mountain Guide, and Everest’s Deadliest Day, by Jennifer Hull (University of New Mexico Press, 2020).

Film Talk: Black Ice

Malik “tha Martian” Martin, climber-filmmaker, in Hyalite Canyon,Champ Miller

In an uncertain world, Reel Rock is reliable. This year, the fifteenth incarnation of the global event was online, of course, and, as ever, good—though one film, Black Ice, stole the show, and one guy is the heart of it.

The idea for the trip hatched when Malik Martin, a filmmaker, and Chris Dean, director of outreach at the Memphis Rox climbing gym, attended the annual Color the Crag climbing fest, Martin told EpicTV. The two wanted to go ice climbing, and finally decided to take that trip; they added a few more people, with the goal of making a film that showed “the human excitement and joy that you get” from simply participating in climbing.

The result is a moving and memorable film. Black Ice begins at Memphis Rox, which was founded by the film director Tom Shadyac (writer-director of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor, Liar Liar, Patch Adams, and Bruce Almighty) as a nonprofit with a pay-what-you-can model. The idea is to remove the barriers to participation; the gym also runs after-school programs, is a polling place, hosts coat and toy drives, and has given out lunches, produce, and other supplies to area families during the pandemic.

Among the climbers we meet is S’lacio Bankston, who was shot at 17 in the chest and back. A bullet exited through his mouth, knocking out some bottom teeth and creating trouble with his speech—among other reasons he has to doubt himself. He can’t raise his left arm, but we see him bouldering at Memphis Rox.

S’lacio Bankston in Hyalite.Champ Miller

A quiet but forthcoming young man of 19 who has, as he puts it, “been through way too much in my life, way too much,” Bankston takes a job making smoothies in the facility. Then he and a number of other Black climbers are given an opportunity to fly to Bozeman, Montana, to climb ice with Manoah Ainuu, Dr. Fred Campbell (both climbers of color), and Conrad Anker. S’lacio has never been out of Memphis before.

We dare not say more lest we spoil anything, but Black Ice is a gem, a welcome contribution to the climbing canon. (See See also @malikthamartian.)

Winter 8000

Alex Lwow Archive

Eleven—that’s how many mountaineering books the award-winning author Bernadette McDonald, of Banff, Alberta, has written. In this image from her new book, Winter 8000 (Mountaineers Books), Polish climbers ready themselves for the cold Tatras.

They’re Ba-a-ack!

Lindsay Fixmer, top Chick.Blair speed

When Chicks Climbing closed its doors last year, the venerable women’s climbing-guiding institution appeared to be a casualty of the pandemic. But it has risen again, in the hands of Dan Zokaites, an IFMGA guide from Ridgway, Colorado, who has brought on Lindsay Fixmer, a certified AMGA alpine and rock guide, as director. Kitty Calhoun, a former owner, on the Chicks site called the transfer a dream succession, while Fixmer says, “I’m thrilled to continue the Chicks vision of female guides leading adventure seekers into the amazing vertical world.”