At BCM we run a different kind of publication; we like to get to know our subjects and our readers, and we’d like for our readers to get to know us as well. As this pool of mountaineering is a small one, it serves us all to get to know each other.
In this Editor’s Note, we will be giving you a glimpse into the life of what we like to call our “fearless editor,” Cass Légér; an editor who is always on-call, never sleeps and puts everything into this publication, making sure our bases are covered.
We sat down with the editor and asked a few of the following questions that came from the staff and readers over the course of 5 months.
Do you ever sleep?
We have a running joke in this team of whether or not you ever sleep. What’s the deal?
No, Actually. As you and Rob, who I am sure wrote this question, know, I do not ever sleep. My job is to drive this publication forward and that includes being available at strange hours as most of the climbers, sponsors and teams I connect with can be all over the world at any given time. I sleep when I catch a break. But my mind doesn’t let me sleep well anyway, so we just keep working.
Where are you taking Base Camp Magazine?
I plan on driving BCM as far as I can take it. I have very detailed plans laid out and while we are young, everything I have done has been done with months of planning, sometimes years. We ran Dispatch beta testing for two years before launching Dispatches with Fredrik Sträng. Coverage of expeditions is a priority, but it needs to be done in a more personal way. Readers aren’t coming here for a weather report on Elbrus. They are coming because they want to know what it’s like on Elbrus, what climbers are feeling and experiencing up there. So we give them an inside look.
We pay very close attention to highlighting sponsors and partners of the climbers we feature because, without them, many of these dreams would not be possible.
Will you offer sponsorship in the future?
That is a good question, and our plans are to eventually move toward creating sponsorship grants. These grants will go toward expeditions that show promise, that have qualified members on the team and commit to professionally and responsibly undertaking the goal of the expedition. We will start with small grants and later expand from there. Any grants we extend will come with samples of gear and food from our sponsors. We want these adventurers to know there are options out there, and we want them to try them and recommend them to others if they like them as well.
In the famous words of Mallory, “because it’s there.” Next.
Who are your favorite climbers/teams?
My favorite climber is Ed Viesturs. I just really enjoy everything about him. If I had to choose someone who is no longer with us, I’d have to say, Sir Edmund Hillary. I think his philanthropical efforts are something that changed Nepal forever. His legacy lives on in continuous generations. He genuinely loved Nepal.
In terms of commercial teams, I’ve always held Adventure Consultants I high regard. I worked with the company’s general manager, Suze Kelly, on an article about the mountaineering and wine scene in Mendoza, Argentina once and I’ve been a supporter ever since. Even prior. I also liked Rob Hall, AC’s original owner who died during the 1996 Everest Disaster, as a climber. Of course, Messner is on the top of that list.
Generally, I also like the Swedish climber Fredrik Sträng, but that’s a whole other chapter. I think he is an excellent and experienced climber, but what I enjoy about him is his intelligence, his thirst for life.
What is your favorite mountain? Which 7 Summits list do you recognize?
I like all mountains, even the ghastly Puncak Jaya. I recognize Messner’s list.
Denali or Mount McKinley?
Denali for sure. I am an advocate for the preservation of the culture of indigenous peoples around the world. Denali was “Denali” before it was McKinley or Bolshaya Gora.
We just launched Antarctic coverage on the site. Why Antarctic?
Honestly, I guess I just always wanted to be there. I am not a very “people person” in the form of wanting to be around masses of random people. Antarctica is pristine, it is cold, it is solitary. That’s where I find peace in my mind and I understand why explorers go there. I know there are many who feel the same, so I want to highlight this.
On a nonpersonal level, there is a lot to still be explored about Antarctica from the effects of climate change to weather patterns. It is also a fascinating environment and any explorer who ventures there to undertake a project like a solo South Pole crossing is going to meet the limits of endurance. This is an ignored field. No longer.
Now to Get Personal
When do you think mountaineers should stop climbing, at what age?
Really? That’s not even a question I think I am authorized to answer. I think, to a mountaineer, the mountain is a lifeline. It’s like the air they breathe, which ironically, at high-altitudes, has less air.
But that’s something completely dependent on their abilities and whether they are still able to safely traverse the treks and climb the faces of the mountains without posing significant risks to themselves or others. In other words, climb until you can’t climb anymore, and know when that time comes. For years, authorities have tried to regulate age restrictions on mountains and it just never works out, most recently Nepal’s attempt to ban climbers over 50. In the end, it all depends on the person.
Is there a mountaineering tragedy that you feel more than others?
Yes, two. The 1996 Everest Disaster has always tugged at the strings of my heart. But I would say that the number one spot is taken by Toni Kurz and how he ultimately died on the Eiger. I think the circumstances of having fought for so long and so hard only to be caught up by a knot in a rope that leaves you suspended indefinitely is soul crushing. His final words, “I am finished.” before he gave up have haunted me. I don’t think it’s a story I will ever forget.
UPDATE: To date, the mountaineering tragedy I have felt most deeply was that of Tom Ballard. He died very young, at age 30 on Nanga Parbat.
Tom was just a very beautiful person and completely devoted to the mountains. He died three years younger than his mother was when she died on K2. In our remembrance piece for him, I note at the end that there is a poetic nature about their loss. They eventually came to lay just miles apart on neighboring mountains.
You are an expert at reading people, how and why?
I actually do this without thinking, and to be honest, it’s not intentional. Writers spend our lives asking questions and interpreting people’s feelings and frame of mind based on how they answer these questions. We are more adept at noticing underlying emotions the subject may be having than the average person. In many cases, in just a two-week timeframe of studying and speaking to someone, we can (or at least I can) detect where this person is in their life, what their frame of mind is and what they are going through.
It actually takes a lot to not step in and try to therapeutically address the demons I see in them. I have to constantly remember that being read isn’t something they asked for, no matter how beneficial my words may be to them. I think that’s the hardest part. Knowing the things I know and remaining silent. So I am glad I did not pursue a degree in psychology. It weighs you down.
There was one climber, in particular, I was working with. I knew off the bat that the last two years of his life had pummeled him. I could tell by how he spoke that at the turn of the year, he wasn’t the same person – a piece of him was missing. He had lost the ability to thirst for what was previously something he lived off of. Everything just seemed wrong and the attempts he made to get himself out of that space were attempts to grasp a new perspective on life. To live again.
It’s noticeable when you speak to them or see them speak from one video to the next where in their life things started to change. They answer questions differently, they look tired. When you speak to them, it’s the same. Specifically, in mountaineering, you will encounter characters who are battling themselves to extremes. Sometimes, unnecessarily, but that’s not my place to comment on.
Give people a sense of who you are. What are some of your favorite things?
I like mountains, I like cold weather. I am at home where there is snow, are northern cabins and wood fires. I like to see my breath when I breathe in cold weather. I enjoy good wine and quality, close people. In life, I am very caring. I care about people who suffer. I especially care about the elderly.
I like to listen to people. I don’t like to tell them what to do. I’d rather know what their issues are and advise them on what I think, not what they should do. Sometimes, people just need to hear out loud what their problems are. Once they do that, they can sort out the rest. When I make a friend, that is a friend for life. I have a saying, “Find someone who makes you smile, and then, make that person a friend.”
My favorite film was the same for many years until 2019. I had the pleasure of watching the film TOM made by Kottom Films. They awarded us the opportunity to watch the film after the untimely death of Tom Ballard. We were working on a remembrance piece for him. To-date, that is my favorite film. I think it will be my favorite film for a long time to come.
Beer, wine or hard spirits?
Beer and wine. I am a wine editor as well, so yeah. I like beer from Belgium and wine from France, Italy and New Zealand.
Are you religious?
That is a question that requires too much time to answer. Let’s just say I don’t believe life consists of just a series of lucky or unlucky streaks, but this is something that I’d have to discuss over some wine and a fireplace because there are always questions. Lots of questions.
Final question, and tread carefully. Do you believe Mallory made it to the top or no?
I plead the fifth. I will not answer that. You are not trapping me. I do have a belief on that, but I think it is something that I will take to my grave. We will never know if Mallory made it, if he died on the way down. So, I guess when we are no longer alive, we can ask him when we see him on the other side.
To ask the editor a question, email us at submissions at basecampmagazine dot com.