Alpinist Editor-in-Chief writing about 45-year-old freelance writer Michael Ybarra who died the other weekend climbing on California’s Sawtooth Ridge:
The series of essays he wrote for that newspaper [The Wall Street Journal] introduced a wider audience to a genuine, in-depth experience of the climbing life, from someone who actually knew what it was like to have an ice block strike his helmet partway up Cerro Standhardt and to hear the sound ringing in his ears as it nearly knocked him out; from someone who had gazed up at El Capitan before attempting to climb the Nose in a day and seen “the night sky…ablaze with stars”except for the black void that looms overhead, cleaving the heavens in two.” Michael could translate an alpinist’s experience of risk, immersion and commitment in such lyrical, funny and disarming terms that even a non-climber might understand.
Fortunately it’s becoming more commonplace to see intelligent writing about climbing in mass publications like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, but there’s no doubt that Ybarra’s ability to write about our world in a such an engaging yet genuine way will be sorely missed. Thoughts go out to his friends and family.
More on Ybarra in this obituary in the Los Angeles Times as well as this compilation of quotes from his articles for The Wall Street Journal. His column on the death of John Bachar has always been a favorite of mine as well.