Rock and Ice was born in Boulder, in early 1984, on the floor of a trailer. Its founder, Neal Kaptain, thought the climbing world should have an alternative magazine. George Bracksieck came by, wrote two reviews and helped in general, and by September was a partner. A year later Bracksieck bought Kaptain out.
“I hardly slept for the next four days and nights, editing, cutting and pasting #7, and getting it to press,” he recalls today, while moving back to Boulder from his recent home of Durango.
Sally Moser was his first real hire, and began at the magazine late in 1985.
“We worked well together for five years, often chuckling late at night over beers while writing captions and brainstorming headers,” he says. “We agreed that climbers shouldn’t take climbing too seriously, and we lampooned them if they did.”
He sold the magazine in December 1997, burned out but proud of a low-budget startup by then distributed around the world. The magazine has changed hands twice since.
I wrote several articles for Rock and Ice in its first year, and others over time, coming on board as staff with the new ownership, by climbers, in 2002. I saw George a year or two ago, when he yelled hello across the rock at the Pool Wall in Ouray.
The reasons why people work in climbing literature are the same that so many of us keep on climbing. Climbing is rich and demanding, with each route as different as a snowflake. It creates an exceptional level of sharing, one reason it is such a good sport to read and write about. So much dialogue is possible: on the approach, at the bottom, even on the route when you are encouraging each other or figuring out what to do. Climbing itself compels us: can we do the route/mountain/ boulder problem? Its literature creates an automatic device that makes the reader continue; Will he/she/they do it? The accounts inspire us, amuse us, make us sad, create vocabulary or feelings that become part of our shared awareness.
Looking through the early issues is a reverie. Many images give us dreams, but others are of faces now lost. The first cover shot was of Alex Lowe, on the FA of the Fang near Vail, Colorado. The magazine was often inventive and original, taking risks. Some, like “Romancing the Stone,” didn’t go over. But you had to admit the “clear lycra” idea, for a joke issue, was pretty funny. Some stories strongly mark the passage of time: a profile of Christian Griffith included light-hearted illustrations of his flamboyant attire as paper-doll outfits. Then the consummate rad boy, today he is a lion of the senate. Some old articles we like so much we have excerpted them. See page 40.
One of my tasks this issue, with the help of our intern Glenn Sharp, who perused 25 years of bound copies (my favorite among his Post-Its was an “OMG” of wonderment at a page showing a dizzying array of lycra clothing), was to put together a timeline covering 25 years of climbing. I could not make it complete. Oh, I wanted to. My first draft was over 5,000 words, when we had room for 1,500. One thing I had not been able to resist, in citing landmarks and some quirky events, was trying to tell some stories, even sketched in a few lines. Because climbing is all stories.