I have a mate, lets call him Mike to protect the guilty, he's a bit of an all round super-rescue-hero, being formerly an A&E specialist nurse, now a fireman, and also having done “active service” in Lochaber mountain rescue team. He also used to have a bit of a habit of getting lost on mountains. He managed to get rescued twice in one calendar year, firstly in the Cairngorms in February, and then again on Stob Ghabhar in December. Both times involved getting benighted, multiple MRTs out looking for him, and most embarrassingly of all the same Sea King pilot. For his flatmates and friends back in Glasgow waiting for him, the first time was really worrying, but the second time slightly less so – we figured that if he had made it through the first benightment, he would turn up sooner or later the second time around.
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Vertical Magazine seems to be approaching a similar status. It never appears when it says it is going to, leading to fears of the publication's premature demise, only to turn up a month later fortunately full of tales of daring do – just enough to make you forgive it for worry it caused you. I received my copy of Vertical No.3 (December/January) with Vertical No.4 (February/March), at the end of February. This made No.4 a month late and No.3 three months late! No.4 promised that No.5 (April/May) would be out at the end of March, but it actually arrived in early May. No.6 should have been published ten days ago, but I'm not holding breath as to whether it will appear before I leave on my holidays at the end of this month.
Comedy turned to farce recently when I received an email via UKClimbing from a lady in Austria, asking me – because of my previous review of Vertical on these pages – whether I knew how she could reach Vertical to buy her friend a subscription to the magazine as a gift. It appears that people want to give the magazine their money but Vertical is going to some lengths to hide from its potential customers! In this light Sarkozy's strong win in the French general election should, perhaps, come as no great surprise. You don't have to be an extreme Thatcherite to realise this is not how you run a business and treat your customers. The ironic thing is that besides this logistics incompetence, there is so little else wrong with the magazine. In the three editions of Vertical which this review covers, I can remember one single editing mistake – the final word of an article that had been mysteriously cut. There are certain British magazines out there that have managed more mistakes in one editor's column, let alone in three full editions.
I won't try to outline the contents beyond saying the three editions of Vertical continue as the first that I reviewed in giving a fine sense of some amazing activity happening in the world's mountains. The one article I knew something about was on Scottish winter climbing, and included an interesting outsiders perspective on our little mountains. The photos were slightly disappointing – the good ones all being fine Cubby shots that most British climbers will have seen before, the others being far more bum-shots than one normally sees in Vertical. The reports section, “Mountain News”, is perhaps the weakest section of the magazine, it has a very scattershot feel to it, some big rock action in Sicily here, a new mixed-mountaineering line in Austria there. It is a pale imitation of the mighty Mountain-Info, now carried by Climb, which has a real encyclopaedic quality to it. I wonder what selection criteria goes into the Vertical reports. The bouldering page, “Eurobloc” also feels weak – I'm not a big boulderer myself, but the committed boulderer won't find much else of interest in Vertical, and the bouldering section doesn't really have enough to get your teeth into. It does not provide a usable guide to areas with maps and topos for example. The internet has to be the future for bouldering guides, beyond the most (over)used and frequented areas.
So there we are: Vertical is the dashing and exciting Euro-alpinist of the climbing magazine world – but at times also an incompetent one who keeps getting embarrassingly lost. And you want to be mad at him, and yell: “where have you been!? You had us all so worried!” but he flashes that gallic smile, pours you a glass of red and say “hush now, mon ami, don't fret; have I got tales to tell you of the haute montagne...”
Also read Toby's previous review of Vertical magazine, Vertical Magazine - un magasin pour l'union européenne -here- at UKClimbing.com
Toby Archer (33) is based in Helsinki, Finland where he is a researcher specialising in terrorism and political Islam for an international affairs think-tank. Climbing keeps him from getting too depressed by these sort of things, and he blogs about both at Light from the North. He started climbing in his teens at Southstone Rock but now has a passion for Arctic Norway with a number of trips summer and winter for ski-touring, ice climbing and mountain rock.
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