On today’s episode of The Firn Line, we’ll get to know alpinist and author, Simon McCartney. Back in the late 70’s – the norms of mountaineering were transforming – moving away from the heavy siege style tactics of the past, to the light and fast “alpine style” path of the future. Although forward-thinking alpinists had been employing these tactics in the mountains for years, only a small group of climbers were climbing alpine style in Alaska – and two of these climbers were Jack Roberts and Simon McCartney.

Beginning in 1978, this confident and brash duo made the first (and only) ascent of the exceedingly dangerous north face of Mount Huntington. Then, in 1980 – the team upped the ante when they climbed the enormous 8,000 foot southwest face of Denali. Although the pair readily handled the technical difficulties on the face, it was the insidious onset of cerebral edema that nearly killed Simon high on the peak. Although Simon made it off the mountain after a harrowing descent of the Cassin Ridge – the experience affected him deeply, and he never climbed again. 

But the friendship Simon formed with his partner Jack Roberts never left him – and after 35 years, in a full-circle chain of events – Simon would write a book about the two life-changing climbs he’d shared with Jack. The book, titled “The Bond”, was published in 2017, and was an instant mountaineering classic, winning the esteemed Boardman-Tasker award.

A few months ago, I was fortunate to have a long conversation with Simon. We talked at length about the climbs up Huntington and Denali, the importance of his relationship with Jack, and what it meant for him to write “The Bond”.


The Bond

Evan Phillips



Alaska Rock Gym

The Hoarding Marmot