David Roberts

A Climbing Phenom’s Life in (Mostly) His Own Words

In the fall of 2010 I spent most of a week with Alex Honnold at Smith Rock in Oregon, watching him climb and interviewing him for a profile for Outside. I was puzzled and amused by the apparent contradictions in Alex’s character: a raw brashness undercut by self-effacing modesty, his deadpan putdown of other climbers…

Everest: The Movie

For various reasons, the 1996 disaster on Everest retains a mythic status, even though far more climbers have died on the mountain in subsequent seasons, including the sixteen Nepali mountain workers who perished in the Khumbu Icefall in 2014. Everest is exhausting. Yeah, climbing the mountain takes a lot of energy, but watching the new…

Opinion: Denali Redux?

On August 30, on the eve of President Obama’s mission to Alaska to sound the warning about climate change, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that 20,237-foot Mount McKinley, North America’s highest peak, would officially be renamed Denali—a Tanana Athabaskan cognomen meaning “the High One” or “the Big One.” (See incredible recent photos of…

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…