NZAC Future Direction in Periodical Publications

NZAC has long been the foremost publisher of writing and images by New Zealand climbers. Our premier publication, since 1891, has been the New Zealand Alpine Journal. Commonly referred to as simply The Journal, it is described on the Club’s website as ‘a record, source for research and a forum for reflection’. As well as a showcase for our members’ talents and a hub for our community, The Journal forms the primary historical record of NZAC and New Zealand mountaineering activity.

NZAC began publishing The Climber magazine in 1992 to cater for those with an appetite for more frequent updates on climbing and Club news, and for information on climbing destinations, opinion, equipment and books. In particular, The Climber provided a home for the rapidly-increasing number of rock climbers in Aotearoa. Issued quarterly, the magazine is now 113 issues old and outnumbers the volumes of The Journal. It attracts a broader readership and significantly more advertising revenue, which funds not only printing costs but also some written and photographic contributions.

The Journal and The Climber have grown increasingly alike

In recent years, the distinction between these two publications has been eroded. In the age of the internet, a quarterly publication no longer fulfills a role of timeliness, nor is it the best place for accessible information or notifications of Club events. The Journal still functions as a record of Club members’ activities, but as the nature of members’ activities has changed, so The Journal’s role as a record of significant first ascents has decreased. More rock climbing accounts and more reflective pieces have increased the overlap with articles published in The Climber. Rock climbing is no longer widely considered a lesser form of mountaineering, and its popularity as a practised activity outstrips mountaineering. NZAC today represents all forms of climbing and fosters broadly inclusive mountain culture. It is time that the Club’s premier publication did the same.

The value of The Journal to members will be maintained and extended

The NZAC Board have accepted a recommendation from the publications committee to combine The Journal and The Climber into a single new-look Journal, published twice yearly.

The committee recognises The Journal is dear to many New Zealand climbers. It is valued as a lasting record, as a reference, and as an iconic physical object that holds memories, emotions, ideas and communities within its pages. As climbing information is increasingly available online, the committee thinks the value of a high-quality printed publication is appreciated by almost all our members, and is seen as an integral part of the membership value of the Club. In continuing to produce one periodical publication, it is important that it is still identifiably The Journal and upholds that proud tradition.

The Climber has, over the years, developed its own form of excellence. In particular it has become a strongly visual publication. Visual appeal will be a key attribute that The Climber brings to the combined publication. This should be welcomed not only by the readership of The Climber that isn’t shared with The Journal, but it will also hopefully encourage advertisers that currently support The Climber to also support The Journal.

Climbing in Aotearoa

The new, combined publication will strive to uphold these values:

  • the tradition and historical significance of The Journal;
  • the highest quality articles and imagery we can produce, justifying its value as a premier print publication;
  • a broad inclusivity that welcomes climbers of all kinds; and
  • increased visual appeal for both climbers and advertisers.

Merely discontinuing The Climber and continuing The Journal would fail to uphold these values. This is why a merger of the two publications is the best solution. As the tradition of The Journal is more significant, the new publication should be referred to as a journal so that it might still be considered ‘The Journal’. However, the term ‘alpine’, despite being present in the publisher’s name, is not as inclusive a term as ‘climber’. Many climbers who read The Climber undertake their activities without ever heading into alpine regions. A similar argument might be made that some who venture into the alpine regions (for example, skiers) don’t consider themselves climbers and their activities are better expressed by the word ‘alpine’. However, we suggest this is of lesser importance. The majority of those heading into the alpine regions are doing so for climbing, even if their primary focus may be skiing or some other type of descent rather than the climbing itself. Furthermore, these activities are nominally catered for by other existing publications. New Zealand climbers are solely represented by the publications of NZAC.

We recommend the title of the new publication reflects its dual heritage by maintaining the title New Zealand Alpine Journal (or NZAJ) but enhanced with a strapline. We think this new/old publication offers a unique opportunity to promote and reflect our unique heritage and so we propose using the strapline ‘Climbing in Aotearoa’. This dual approach speaks to the history and tradition of The Journal while also acknowledging the parallel history of The Climber and welcoming those readers.

A new format will create visual impact while maintaining readability

Page size for the new journal will be 230 x 270 mm. Binding will be sewn as The Journal currently is, with a 250 gsm jacket but without folding flaps. Each issue will be 70 to 100 pages in full colour.

The page size of The Climber is more image-friendly than The Journal, being the same or closer to the common aspect ratios of the majority of modern photographic images. The squatter format of the journal does not allow photographs to run full page unless they are heavily cropped. Making the page size more photo-friendly will not diminish the experience of the written words contained, and it will improve the visual impact and allow more flexibility in terms of layout.


We propose publishing the new Journal in May and October each year, but with the first issue appearing in the place of this year’s Journal in December 2020/January 2021. The seasonal timing will allow publication of articles primarily on summer and winter climbing respectively. Publication in May and October will appeal to advertisers as it precedes the winter and summer climbing seasons respectively.

A refreshed website is crucial to this proposal

Content from The Climber that is less appropriate for The Journal should be able to be easily presented and accessed online—along with new media content—on a blog-style platform. Currently the Club’s website is unstable and cannot efficiently provide information and services to members and non-members as was originally intended. Improving the functionality of the existing website is a crucial part of this publishing proposal and will allow the site to become an online hub for New Zealand climbing over time, one that provides all appropriate club services—including the new membership system—as well as news and climbing information.