Truth be told, Kelly Cordes didn’t really want to work with me. My very first task as the new AAJ editor in February 2002 was to talk Kelly into staying on in his part-time position gathering reports from new routes in North and South America. The editorial transition had been abrupt, and Kelly wasn’t sure what to make of it. But he was fanatically devoted to the AAJ's mission of documenting the world's new mountain routes as told directly by the world's first-ascent climbers: in their voices, no hype, no bull, no spray, all respect. And so began my courtship of Kelly, which blossomed into a friendship that yielded the most productive and enjoyable professional partnership I’ve been lucky enough to share.
I didn’t know Kelly when I first telephoned him, though I knew I needed him. A decade younger than me, he was already an Alaskan hardcore who knew everybody (his ventures to Pakistan, Patagonia, and the Alps were still in the future). I didn’t think there could be anyone more integral to mountains and climbing than Kelly.
Turns out I was wrong. Lindsay Griffin, across the Pond in Wales, has been the editor of the Mountain INFO column (for a series of magazines) since the dinosaurs roamed—that is, back when EBs were modern and sticky rubber was science fiction, not friction. Lindsay had consulted for the AAJ's editors over the years, and that’s how I began our correspondence. Kelly and I would ask him if wed missed any noteworthy ascents from faraway places. Lindsay responded with multi-page treatises about how this and that “new” route had actually been climbed twice before, the first four decades previous and then again by a team from East Timbukistan, but each was really a variant and there was some doubt about this and that, and on it would go. It quickly became obvious that I needed Lindsay for “The Rest of the World” as much as I needed Kelly for the Americas. Dougald MacDonald called him “The Brain.”
Which brings me to Dougald. Right from the beginning in 2002 Dougald advised me from his role on the AAC’s board of directors. He had a long background in publishing, and his passion for the AAJ was immediately clear. A few years later I had the opportunity to bring him in professionally, editing features and consulting on everything. He moved on to other publications, but wow, did I ever benefit from his tenure at the AAJ. There’s no one more qualified to run this globe-spanning show, and that includes me. As it turns out, Dougald will take over as executive editor. I couldn’t be more pleased.
When Dougald sent manuscripts to our copy editor, Joe Kelsey, I might see a return comment from Joe about how useless he felt—there was nothing to fix. I tried hard to impress Joe myself, with little effect. But Joe sure impressed me. All of us—Kelly, Lindsay, Dougald, and I—sent our supposedly edited copy to Joe out in Bishop, where he’d read it between walks with his two golden retrievers (see their photos on page 26). The articles invariably came back leaner and clearer. You, the reader, can be thankful for Joe’s sharp digital pen. But, personally, what I cherished were his between-the-lines comments that had me laughing out loud more times than I can count. Sharp plays on words and daggers to egos (what? Climbers with egos?): there should be a book of Joe’s wit.
This is my last AAJ—my 11th—and editing this journal has been an honor and a privilege. The explorations conveyed in these pages are the heart and the soul of mountaineering, and of me. Though I’ll miss the climbs and the climbers you see in these pages, above all it’s my colleagues I can’t imagine being without These people are as good as they come. I wish I could do justice to the joy it’s been working with them.
John Harlin III Editor