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.
But this isn't simply an obsession based on some vague academic interest in the subject – Lindsay Griffin has often made the news himself by being at the heart of the exploratory mountaineering he so expertly chronicles.
Lindsay began his climbing career over three decades ago with numerous alpine seasons, both summer and winter. In addition to first ascents in the Alps he has climbed new routes all over Europe in such diverse spots as Spain, Gibraltar, Norway and Greece. Further afield he has made over 30 exploratory trips to remote areas, carried out in a lightweight style. His first ascents (which include around 60 peaks in the Himalaya, Karakoram and Central Asia) span Alaska, Greenland, the South American Andes, Antarctica, Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Tibet, China, Kyrghyzstan, Russia and Mongolia.
Somehow, in between all this prodigious activity, he managed to write four Alpine Club guidebooks and was once a mountaineering instructor/guide. It's not always gone smoothly, however. One trip to the Peruvian Cordillera Vilcanota with Dave Wilkinson in 1983 was particularly memorable. After climbing a couple of new routes on the 5,750m Jatunccampa and the 5,700m South Face of Nevado Carhuaco, the pair's base camp was attacked during the night by bandits who then set fire to their tent. Forced out of the tent by the flames, they came under accurate missile attack by their stone-hurling assailants. Forced to take cover, they eventually had to relinquish all their gear to the robbers. (One of Wilkinson's distinctive Forrest ice axes was later spotted being used as an impromptu plough to till soil in a peasant's field.)
In 1992 Lindsay had a narrow escape during an expedition to the Outer Mongolian Altai when a huge granite boulder rolled onto his left leg, trapping him in one of the most remote places in the world. Demonstrating amazing presence of mind, Lindsay succeeded in bodging an emergency pulley system by lassoing an adjacent boulder with a rope he was carrying, thereby releasing some of the pressure on his crushed leg. It wasn't sufficient to release him, however, resulting in an agonising wait of seven hours before help arrived from other expedition members. Even then, chances of survival seemed slim – Mongolia in 1992 had a desperate shortage of fuel and the main hope of rescue – military helicopter – wasn't an option.
By an amazing stroke of luck however, a civilian helicopter was somehow dragooned into a rescue mission using a pilot inexperienced in mountain flying but willing to have a go, and a load of bootleg fuel. Operating on the creaky old Russian chopper's altitude ceiling, Griffin was plucked to safety in a hairs-breadth escape and continued his flukey run by managing to get a lift on a Lear Jet to Hong Kong, just beating a typhoon which closed the airport by an hour.
Despite the insertion of enough metalwork into his leg to patch the Forth Rail Bridge, you can't keep a good man down. Lindsay continues in his quest to climb every mountain – and record them in detail.
What they said: 'You do a nice line in screaming.'
George Baber compliments Griffin's vocal skills after being dropped from a stretcher onto boulders during his evacuation from Mongolia.
"Lindsay Griffin is one of only a handful of individuals worldwide chronicling alpinism who are indispensable. Mountain Info would not have survived without him and while the American Alpine Journal is considered the bible, Lindsay's judgment is second to none." Ed Douglas, Outdoor Journalist, Author and Founder of On The Edge magazine.
What I could say is that I got the idea from Toni Hiebeler's similar treatment in the German magazine Alpinismus (and also Lucien Devies's similar coverage in La Montagne). Both of these mags influenced the Alpine Climbing Group (ACG) Bulletin that also had a similar coverage (edited by Colin Taylor and Doug Scott among others) The main elements where the route and crag topos, the interviews with current activists, the analytical table (a good example of this in the new Alpine Journal) and his (Hiebeler's) magazine even had four language editorials with each issue which was a far more internationalist move that I every did, though I did do it in the last issue of Mountaincraft (the Patagonia issue) that preceded Mountain.
Lindsay has done a great job at keeping climbers worldwide informed over many years... the only blemish being the failure to index his column by his various publishers."
Ken Wilson, founder of Mountain Magazine.
MOUNTAIN INFO TODAY: In Print and Available Online
For over 35 years Mountain INFO has been the essential place to research Alpinism, big walls and mountaineering expeditions throughout the world An intrinsic part of Climb Magazine, Mountain INFO is edited by the well known and respected mountaineer, Lindsay Griffin, who uses his worldwide contacts - built up over many years - to bring first-class information and quality images to you. Now, to enable you to access this massive resource more easily we are making it available online. Search for places of interest to plan your next expedition and keep yourself up-to-date with what is happening in the world of mountaineering.
Log on and access every Mountain INFO published in Climb Magazine since March 2005. As with all of our 'Archives', we will continue to add to this section, eventually including the early days of High Mountain Sports.
From January 2008 (Climb 35) this will be an exclusive online feature, although four pages will continue to be available to read in Climb.