Without a doubt Alpinist is the cream of the crop at the moment and for many is the natural successor to the old Mountain Magazine, authoritative, strong editorials, quality writing and the best mountaineering and climbing images (but very pricey at £10). Alpinist is global in reach, but based in the USA, now perhaps we have a European version with the launch of the multi-lingual multi-edition Vertical magazine.
The French Vertical magazine was one of the most influential climbing magazines of the 80's when it presided over and influenced where and what climbers climbed, and what they wore. Superbly stylish, at times pretentious, a bit laddish with its half-naked model climber chicks and chaps but always good to look at. The photography was always very impressive and inspirational. The only problem was it was in French, although that didn't stop many buying it just for the pics. Vertical magazine has now been resurrected as the first European climbing magazine. The new Vertical magazine is published six times a year in four editions; English, German, Italian and French and costs £3.75. Chamonix mountain guide Neil Brodie is the English editor.
At UKclimbing.com we held a competition and the four winners got a copy of the first edition of the English version of Vertical. The kicker was though, they had to review this first edition. Read on, and thanks to Patricia Novelli, Alison Banwell, Simon Jacques and Doug Evans for their hard work.
Review by Patricia Novelli
I opened the packet from UKClimbing.com in the post this morning to reveal a white, shiny and glossy Vertical English Edition #1. Some catchy titles with the words “Jorasses”, “Headpointing” and “Lama” surrounding an alpine action shot, quickly enticed me in to read more, delaying my work for the day. Looking promising!
Exactly 100 pages long it has a nice meaty feel to it. Priced at £3.75 (with 6 issues planned per year) it shouldn't deter many people from buying a copy and sampling it. I used to buy copies myself of the original French version whenever I ended up in a mainland European airport, so I was interested in delving deeper in the new English edition (the other three new editions being in French, Italian and German).
The magazine has a pleasing refreshing "continental" feel, which as an Italian resident in the UK particularly appeals to me. I don't know what it is, but it must be partly due to the typeset, the layout, the graphics, and something else I can't put a finger on or describe in words, but it is definitely reminiscent of the original French version with an additional progressive European slant to it. But before folk start asking what relevance does this have to the UK readership, the editorial introduction nails it exactly to the point by voicing that "climbing knows no borders". How true that is, as I think of all the places we climbers travel to around the world in pursuit of new and different rock and ice experiences.
This new edition of Vertical has a fine mixture of articles with only a "slight" (I really stress slight) emphasis on alpine rock and mountaineering, which doesn't surprise me considering the origins of the magazine. There is a selection of writing to satisfy every type of climber of any nationality. Right from the start the Brits won't be disappointed as there is a humorous personal account by the Italian Maurizio Oviglia of the recent BMC international meet in Wales. For the alpinists and mountaineers there is a collection of stories of routes on the East Face of the Grand Jorasses, and a similar set of tales on the Indian Himalayan Arwan Tower and Arwan Spire including articles by Mick Fowler and Al Powell. Jacky Godoffe the French bouldering god interviews the bouldering legends Italian Christian Core and Spanish Pedro Pons to inspire any pad folk. Furthermore, a great series of articles by Neil Brodie (the English editor), Mauro Calibani, Niall Grimes and Herbert Ranggetiner on headpointing provides an insightful look into the origins, developments and perspectives of the genre worldwide. This was my favourite part of this first issue making my palms sweaty and should appeal to most tradists. For the sport climbers there are interviews with the amazing wonder kid Tyrolean David Lama and the prolific Italian new router Rolando Larcher. Finally, of interest to the big wallers, there is an article on Austrian Hari Berger climbing three long 8b/8b+ sport routes on the Eastern Alp buttress of Kirchlispitz.
Then there are the usual features any magazine should have and which no doubt will develop over time; news items, photographic spreads, book reviews, readers' letters (which in this first issue opens with a bang including good luck wishes from the crème de la crème of international climbing), a classic climb review (Zinalrothorn in the Pennines), a location guide (in this instance Mello) and a BMC-like world mountain info section.
In summary Vertical has a novel European feel that comes across from its selection of articles, correspondents (including quite a few Brits) and funnily enough in the not-too-many advertisements included. The top quality photography present throughout the issue is the cherry on the cake.
So will I buy the other issues? Yes I will. I may even get the yearly subscription of £18. It will be interesting to see how the magazine evolves with time and feedback and with more contributions. Once the first nerves (typos) ease off I have no doubt it will be a big hit on mainland Europe. Whether it will be one in the UK remains to be seen. It has already got me thinking about where my next climbing trip will be. Somewhere in Europe I feel....
I look forward to issue #2 in Sept 2006 for more inspiration!
Patricia Novelli is an Italian resident in UK. She learnt to climb when first based in The Big Smoke about 10 years ago and is now based in Shrewsbury next to her favourite crag in the world: Nesscliffe. Mainly climbs trad although some sport and bouldering starting to creep in.
Review by Alison Banwell
Having heard of a famous French magazine called 'Vertical', I was excited to open the first English edition of the magazine, and to find out what we've been missing out on for years! And I wasn't disappointed. There is a huge diversity of different climbing articles from all over Europe, with inspiring news sections, topos, and venue descriptions, not to mention the amazing photography.
Having an English edition of Vertical is a great idea. Today, with so many low-cost airlines allowing people to frequently climb all over the world, the climbing world is becoming more like one large country. So as well as just being able to climb abroad, Vertical informs us of what is going on in these countries, which we would rarely know of otherwise. I was worried that a direct translation into English may have been too obvious, but in all but a few cases the editing has been very good, and so this does not show too much. As Patrick Gabarrou says, it certainly is a magazine that “is opening up to a new dimension in climbing, one without any frontiers”.
Alison Banwell is from Bournemouth but is studying at Edinburgh university. She has been climbing for over 5 years, both trad and sport climb all over the UK, particularly in Scotland and southern England. She has also climbed a lot in the Alps and spent last summer in Yosemite. She was onsighting 7a/7a+ and E2/E3 but ripped a tendon in her shoulder four months ago while climbing in Font. She awaits an operation and her return to full fitness.
Review by Simon Jacques
Well to start with us Brits are finally invited to the party, as the magazine is now translated into four languages including English, so its interesting how one starts to compare it with the home climbing press.
As recent time has gone by, more and more climbers are climbing in Europe and therefore the climbing psyche has shifted towards the crags over the water within the mags.
So how does this British interest transfer to an appreciation of a magazine touting these wares?
Well this new magazine is a treat, which showcases the Euro scene with substantial applause. I'm not going to go into any detail - but the magazines layout is very impressive with sets of essays showcasing the whole gamet of climbing styles throughout Europe.
The articles are arranged very similar to the American style of such magazines of Climbing and it makes for an easy read through the articles that are sectioned into themes.
The photography is on the whole superb. No doubt the UK Grit Head pointing article will catch the eye and the home bias may dictate that some of shots throughout it stand out. And why not? As they are sensational pictures of hard grit action.
However the inspiration from the articles that report away from home is tangible. For example – a 16 year old David Lama who has sent Biographie at Cesue, and the Euro-bouldering article from non other than Jacky Godoffe reporting the biggest ever bouldering meet in Val Masino (no never heard of it either - must go there!) certainly inspire!
The only down sides I can think of is the anaemic looking letters page (always hard on a first issue though) and the cover. This is a cropped shot – which should be awesome full-page set. Why crop for the sake of headlines in white space? Just minor niggles, but the cover cropping does stand out (as it would....)
All in all a great mag, however I'm not sure that I would take out a subscription - as I don't for the UK mags, however its definitely worth buying off the shelves. Good luck to the Editor Claude Gardien and his team for the future issues.
Hmmmm, wonder if they are interested in a grit bouldering article.......
`Born and bred Peak local, Simon Jacques has been climbing for 16 years all over the world but his heart is in the Peak with a passion for bouldering. He is a BMC access rep and guidebook writer with some sporadic freelance climbing journalism with a keen photography interest.
Review by Doug Evans
Mountaineering has always been international, with climbers tending to travel to other countries (difficult to be an alpinist and not travel if you live in England or the Netherlands) but many of us remain trapped in linguistic ghettoes, unable to share experiences with our near neighbours although this may be less true now that English is becoming a lingua franca for many Europeans. One of the strengths of the old Mountain magazine was Ken Wilson's network of international correspondents which gave English speakers an overview of the wider mountaineering world but as far as I know no one has published an international magazine with a multi-national editorial team in several languages.
So the arrival of the revamped Vertical, published in four languages rather than just French, with several editors from differing nationalities is breaking new ground and as someone who has a foot in both France and Scotland I welcome the move – but does it succeed ?
It's risky to judge a magazine on a single issue but first impressions are favourable, it does feel more international than the old Vertical although its still focused on climbing (from bouldering to Himalayan peaks via crags and the Alps) with no articles on mountain walking (as found in e.g. Climber or Alpi-Rando). It will be interesting to see if they cover ski mountaineering in the same way as the old Vertical. A feature retained is the 'alpine classic', this month the traverse of the Zinalrothorn which at AD/D should be feasible for many alpinists and aspiring alpinists. Older climbers with fond memories of photos of scantily clad young women in earlier editions of Vertical will be disappointed.
I like the clusters of several short articles on a general theme (East Face Grande Jorrasse, Headpointing and Arwa in this issue) and hope they continue this as its good to get several views on a similar topic. I'm not so keen on the several interview format articles. The obvious 'gap' is a gear section although the gear reviews in the old Vertical were pretty hopeless and won't be missed.
I still haven't seen the English edition so its difficult for me to comment on how well articles have been translated but my French partner looked at a couple of articles and thought the French was good.The need for translation may slow down the editorial process but with the Internet magazines are less important than before for 'news'.
I'll buy the next couple of issues but suspect I'll be subscribing in a few months time.
Doug Evans is a well known contributor to UKClimbing.com you can read his article on Ski Mountaineering here.