Last weekend I learned of the demise of Climbing magazine in print, as everyone else did: on the internet.
I was actually surprised. My personal prediction was that magazines that have more bullshit than valuable stories and art would be dead within five to ten years. But, the Outside mega corporation managed to expedite that process.
by Luke Mehall, publisher of The Zine (banner photo by Jake Burchmore)
I started climbing in the late 1990s, and at the time “the mags” were the equivalent of Mountain Project, Instagram, and The Climbing Zine rolled into one. Other than the Masters of Stone films, they were the main source of climbing media. I poured over every detail in each issue, and most every climber I knew had a coffee table full of issues Climbing and Rock and Ice. And if they were really distinguished, there were a couple copies of The Alpinist.
In the mid 2000s I began contributing to these publications, and it was thrilling to see my work in print. After a while I was writing so much that I had stories that would be rejected, so I started looking for different outlets. And, simply put, that’s why The Climbing Zine exists today; I had stories that no one else would publish so I made my own publication and published them.
I had zero intentions of starting a business with The Zine I simply wanted people to read my stories, and at the time, print seemed like a good option.
There are enough struggles from my time with The Zine that I could write a book about it. But because you’re reading this on the internet, and if your attention span is as short as mine while reading online, I better get to the point.
To be perfectly honest, the demise of Climbing and Rock and Ice in print is good business for me. We are now the last widely distributed rock climbing print publication in the United States. In a way, I get to have the last laugh, my little publication that started 12 years ago, as punk rock inspired black and white stapled together zine has outlasted some major players in the game.
Alas, I have no time to celebrate, because The Zine itself is facing some major challenges. Print prices have nearly doubled in the last year or so. Shipping is going up. All of this is the reality that our little publication faces.
In some ways The Zine mirrors what Rock and Ice and Climbing were decades ago. Long form stories. Stunning photography. Random bits about the dirtbag climbing life.
I will say the one thing we do differently and perhaps the best of all climbing publications, is that we don’t use the standard hero’s journey, which is actually bullshit. We portray an honesty that readers are hungry for. We write about our pain and struggles, just as much as our sends. Storytelling in climbing is heading towards an exciting and evolved place, and we are happy to be a home for it.
And we need your support. Earlier this year we launched our “Keep The Zine Alive” campaign, an effort to add 1,000 new subscribers to help offset the skyrocketing print costs. People have stepped up and we are closing in on 300, which means 700 left. All of that might not sound like a lot, but it will ensure we can keep this dream alive.
You’ll notice I used the word bullshit a lot in this piece, and it’s no coincidence. I think Climbing gave into the bullshit. Our sport is not one where “5 simple tips” will help. It’s a lifetime activity that will demand every ounce of our strength and willpower. As the publisher of The Zine, I’m trying my best to bring y’all raw storytelling and art.
Please support us at these links below if you dig what we are doing.
Or simply send some dough to our Venmo: TheClimbingZine