Letter: Callous treatment of Capitol Peak deaths in 5280 magazine inexcusable
January 4, 2018
In the summer of 2017, over a span of 43 days, there were five deaths on Capitol Peak.
Five sets of friends, families and communities were devastated by the tragic and unnecessary loss of dear friends, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons and community members who attempted to climb Capitol this summer and lost their lives in the process. We are still filled with overwhelming sadness and grief for those that are dearly missed.
The December issue of 5280 Magazine, which featured a prominent piece about climbing Colorado's 14ers and an accompanying cover shot of Capitol, was irresponsibly, unconscionably and callously written in the wake of these tragedies.
Capitol Peak is notorious for being one of the state's most dangerous 14ers, but the five lives it claimed this summer were unprecedented. In the previous 10 years, four people lost their lives climbing Capitol, but in 2017, five perished over a span of six weeks.
It was an insult to the memory of those we have lost that a widely read and respected magazine for Colorado's outdoor community, with a veteran editorial staff, had the audacity and gall to publish a story of this nature — in effect challenging readers to climb Capitol Peak if they had the "nerve" — and necessary skill, as an afterthought. As a major publication in the outdoor space, 5280 has the obligation and duty to equip their readers with the information and safety tips they need to be successful in exploring the outdoors and not romanticize or downplay the dangers of Mother Nature.
The language used by the authors was problematic, to say the least, insulting and devastating to read at worst. "The nerve" — as though a highly technical, dangerous climb can be taken as a dare or game. I am irrevocably disappointed in the staff of 5280 for such a callous turn of phrase, given recent events.
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Even more galling is the photo that snagged the cover of last month's issue, featuring a climber straddling the infamous Knife Edge Ridge without a helmet. Choosing to portray the climb as a cakewalk instead of a serious endeavor to the public implies that the route can be accomplished or "bagged" by the casual climber or even someone with little experience or knowledge of mountain safety.
Readers may very well attempt to summit Capitol unprepared, without the necessary skill level, after being exposed to magazine covers, social media and newspapers, given the nonchalant language and accompanying photos that are being published with little regard for human life.
Media should be taking the lead and promoting safe, sane and responsible outdoor recreation. Readers deserve a public apology, as well as a commitment that this type of article and language will never again be seen in the magazine. Editorial staff have a journalistic and moral obligation to do their research, prepare their readers and portray a realistic portrait of their recommendations.
Colorado readers, as well as the families of the five, deserve better.
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