Geoff Birtles: a story of Lindsay Griffin and MOUNTAIN INFO

The Javelin girl from the UK’s Crags magazine circa late 1970s.
At 9 o'clock one Monday morning in 1992, Paul Nunn telephoned to tell me that he was putting Mountain Magazine Ltd into liquidation that day and was there any change of mind by us (High Magazine's publisher, Greenshires). We'd made it clear some weeks before that as a going concern we were not interested while a couple of other parties had been, but these had come to nothing. I told him I'd phone him back and contacted our then Managing Director, Tony Yell. By 1pm, Tony Yell was in Sheffield and did a deal which brought Mountain INFO to us and we took on the liability of their outstanding subscriptions. It was a deal, which allowed Mountain to cease trading in an orderly way and their subscribers at least got something as opposed to nothing. Mountain INFO had been the bedrock of Mountain since its first edition in January 1969 under the editorship of Ken Wilson. I immediately realized that I needed help to sustain a long tradition of high quality reporting and looked to Lindsay Griffin who was still receiving medical care in China. When he got back, I drove to see him in hospital just outside Oswestry and took him out for a pub lunch. With Lindsay you know that you have to put up with a long introductory bout of modesty from him, which is one of his many endearing qualities. He had written for me before, he was an Alpine Club guidebook writer and he'd climbed all over the world and, more to the point, he had a smashed leg and wasn't going anywhere for a while. I started the hard task of then dragging him into the modern world of computer technology, which still goes on to this day some 15 years down the line.

Meanwhile, I had to manage as best I could and got the first Mountain INFO into the August 1992 edition of High. I also had to rapidly develop contacts for information across the globe and access photographs of the Greater Ranges. Hence, it was a relief when Lindsay came on stream with the December issue. It turned out to be a labour of love and we spent hours, probably days, over the years on the telephone discussing minor details of some ancient attempt on some obscure ridge in a faraway place to the north of Kathmandu. I estimated that over the 12 years we worked together, we processed about 1.2 million words from Lindsay and Deputy Editor Ian Smith, and my secretary Pam Davies. They both went on to become very trustworthy proofreaders, endlessly dipping in and out of our in-house reference library. The sheer volume of information surpassed anything that had gone before by a large margin and I like to think that Mountain INFO became the finest record of mountaineering of any publication in the world in any language and it was a privilege being a part of that.

Geoff Birtles was the founder, publisher and editor of the fabled CRAGS magazine. He was also the the editor of High Magazine until its merger with On The Edge magazine. He was a powerhouse, along with Ken Wilson, of the climbing media starting in the 1970's until his retirement 2 years ago. He was also a pioneer and motivating force behind many new routes in the Peak District. He spends his time between his homes in Sheffield and Spain.

Lindsay Griffin will be available to answer questions on the Rocktalk forum at on Monday, 17th December between 1pm and 4pm. Lindsay is the chronicler, researcher, writer and compiler of the authoritative MOUNTAIN INFO in Climb magazine. Feel free to ask him how he puts it all together and probe his encyclopedic knowledge of the Alps and the Greater Ranges, from the Hengduan to the Alaska range, the Cordillera Darwin to the Kangri Garpo - Where is it? What's been climbed? Who? When? and What's left to climb? Ask Lindsay. He has been serving the World climbing community for the last 15 years and he is the man in the know.

"If you were going to have an all-star pub climbing quiz team – you'd want Lindsay Griffin on it. As compiler and editor of Mountain INFO – the most authoritative journal of record that documents mountaineering achievement – Griffin is arguably the world's greatest living mountaineering brainiac."

...writes Colin Wells in an introduction to Lindsay Griffin.

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Click to go to Mountain Info

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