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The Cutting Edge

A podcast from the editors of the American Alpine Journal

The Cutting Edge brings to life stories from the pages of The American Alpine Journal (AAJ), the annual publication of the American Alpine Club (AAC). Each month, an AAJ editor interviews a world-class climber just back from a wild new route or expedition, with in-depth discussion of the tactics behind the climb, along with the highs and lows of these adventures. 

Follow along on iTunesSoundcloud, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. New episodes are shared the 15th of each month.

The Cutting Edge is produced by the AAC and hosted by Dougald MacDonald, editor of The American Alpine Journal. AAC members receive a free copy of The American Alpine Journal each August. (Join the AAC.) 

Special thanks to Jason Burton (www.jasontylerburton.com) for sound effects and original music.


Rungofarka (6,495m) is the central peak. The north ridge is a hard-to-see prow in front of the left skyline. The north face is central. Photo by Harish Kapadia. 

Rungofarka (6,495m) is the central peak. The north ridge is a hard-to-see prow in front of the left skyline. The north face is central. Photo by Harish Kapadia. 

Until 2010, the spectacular mountains of India's Zanskar Range had been off-limits to climbers for generations. This fall, American climbing guides Alan Rousseau and Tino Villanueva took advantage of newly available permits and made the first ascent of a stunning, 21,309-foot peak: Rungofarka. After first attempting the north face, Alan and Tino regrouped and spent four days climbing the north ridge and descending the west side, with about 50 pitches of climbing and difficulties up to M6 WI4+.

Andy Anderson, one of the AAJ's associate editors, spoke with Alan about climbing in a former war zone, what went wrong on the first try, the all-time greatest bivy site, and the seductive power of hidden cruxes. 

The elegant upper crux of the north ridge of Rungofarka, key to gaining the summit slopes. Photo by Alan Rousseau.

The elegant upper crux of the north ridge of Rungofarka, key to gaining the summit slopes. Photo by Alan Rousseau.

The dreaded six-inch crack near the end of Day 3 on the north ridge. Photo by Alan Rousseau.

The dreaded six-inch crack near the end of Day 3 on the north ridge. Photo by Alan Rousseau.

This episode of the Cutting Edge is sponsored by Cilo Gear, Grivel, and Beal.

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Stanhope (left) and Leo Houlding on top of South Howser Tower, 23 hours 36 minutes after starting.

Stanhope (left) and Leo Houlding on top of South Howser Tower, 23 hours 36 minutes after starting.

In late August, Will Stanhope and Leo Houlding linked the three biggest faces on the Howser Towers in British Columbia's Bugaboos, climbing them all free in 23 and a half hours. Stanhope, 30, a Canadian climber, had been dreaming about this unprecedented enchainment for eight years, ever since he first saw the remote western faces of the Howser Towers. In 2016, he teamed up with Houlding to free a 5.12 route on the Minaret on the west side of the Howsers and to scope the potential for the enchainment. After some rehearsal last summer, the two pulled off the completely linkup, climbing approximately 60 guidebook pitches up to 5.12+, plus complex alpine terrain to move between the towers.  

The AAJ's Chris Kalman spoke with Will about the planning for the enchainment, how to free climb so much ground quickly, and the primal energy boost from an alpine sunrise after 23 hours on the go. Find this episode on iTunes, Soundcloud, or your favorite podcast source.

Will Stanhope cruxing on the Chocolate Fudge Bunnies route on Central Howser Tower. Photo by Adrian Samarra.

Will Stanhope cruxing on the Chocolate Fudge Bunnies route on Central Howser Tower. Photo by Adrian Samarra.