David Roberts

Wear Your Llama (Out?)

It was my eleventh trip over the last 25 years on which I indulged in the luxury of letting llamas carry virtually all my gear. On trips lasting from five to ten days, with those stoic Peruvian camelids packing everything from bottles of wine to folding camp chairs, I’d explored the Wind Rivers in Wyoming…

Experts Weigh In: “Everest is Completely Out of Control”

“Everest is a shit show,” said Aaron Huey, a National Geographic photographer who is currently documenting the culture of Sherpa guides. Ten years or more ago, I mused, that pronouncement would have stirred up protestations, or at least murmurs. But this May, the Friday morning crowd, coffee mugs in hand, spilling well out the doorway…

Coaching the Next Generation of Climbers

“Climbing is about having fun,” says Shane Messer. “That’s what it’s all about. But we’re here tonight to train.” He might have added, To train for the Nationals, but his listeners don’t need to be reminded. What a scene. Around Messer stand some 35 boys and girls, ranging in age from nine to eighteen. From…

New Book Rock Paper Fire Examines the Heart of Adventure

In graduate school I took half a dozen “creative writing” classes without learning much at all about how to write. And during nine years of teaching at Hampshire College, in ten or twelve different seminars, I force-fed students recipes culled from my own experience as a scrivener. I don’t think I passed on to those…

Climbing Mammoth Lakes With the Old Gang

You don’t normally think of Mammoth Lakes, California, as a climbing mecca. I’d never been to Mammoth, in fact, before last September, when the Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC) invited me to be their “keynote speaker,” where I held forth about the joys and woes of 33 years of freelance writing. During those few…

Rafting Utah’s Desolation Canyon in Search of Ancient Secrets

So you’ve run the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon on a private trip, after waiting a decade for a permit, then jockeying with the hordes of other rafters for prime campsites. Or you’ve done the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Or maybe the Chattooga, as you fantasized about the fate of the four Georgia…

Return to Sender: Pete Mortimer and the Genius of Sender’s Climbing Films

There’s a moment in Sender Films’s new documentary Honnold 3.0 that is utterly terrifying to watch. At age 27, Alex Honnold has emerged as the world’s premier free-solo rock climber. In the film, he’s in the first leg of his “Yosemite Triple”—an attempt to climb the three biggest faces in the Valley, Mount Watkins, El…

Last Words Missing—The Mystery of Sir John Franklin and Polar History’s Greatest Catastphrophe

More than six decades before Scott reached the South Pole, Sir John Franklin led an expedition into the Canadian Arctic that would turn into the greatest catastrophe in polar history. Attempting the long-sought Northwest Passage, the hypothesized shortcut from Europe to Asia, Franklin set off from England in 1845 with two powerful steam-driven ships, the…

Explorers’ Last Words and Technology: From Robert Falcon Scott to Rob Hall

“Great God! This is an awful place,” wrote Robert Falcon Scott in his diary on January 17, 1912. Just hours before, Scott and his four companions had reached the South Pole, only to discover that Roald Amundsen’s team had beaten them there by a month. Nine weeks later, doomed by a combination of starvation, scurvy,…

Patagonia’s Cerro Torre Gets the Chop: Maestri Unbolted (Photos)

On January 16, 2012, mountaineering history was made. The actors in the drama were two of the best young alpinists alive—a 21-year-old Coloradan, Hayden Kennedy, and a 24-year-old from British Columbia, Jason Kruk. Their deed took place on a savagely steep needle of granite and rime ice in southern Patagonia called Cerro Torre. Kennedy and…