THE MESS ON EVEREST
While stationed at Base Camp for two months this spring, senior editor Grayson Schaffer witnessed firsthand one of the most chaotic climbing seasons in Mount Everest's history, with 10 deaths. The overcrowding he detailed in "Take a Number" did not sit well with readers. "I've had a secret dream to climb Everest since 1976, when I first read Maurice Herzog's account of his successful Annapurna expedition," wrote Steve Whitmore, of Centennial, Colorado. "But after seeing last month's horrifying photos of the lines up the mountain, the dream is dead." "Where's the glory in telling a crowded bar 'I scaled Everest' and then having a sixtysomething couple go, 'Oh, so did we!'" wrote Chris Blauvet. Another commented: "One thousand tents at Base Camp? Waiting in line for two hours at the Hillary Step? My God, a trip to the mall seems more appealing." A few readers even noted a rather ironic juxtaposition in the magazine. "The page opposite the story's conclusion is an ad with a picture of Everest and the tagline 'Take the road less traveled,'" wrote Bill Paradies. "Are you kidding me?"
S.C. Gywnne's profile of Bikini Atoll and its ongoing recovery from atomic testing in the 1950s ("Paradise With an Asterisk") inspired many readers to express their shock at the cost of one of America's darker hours. One reader said "the story stirred me as few articles have before." Others were reminded of personal connections. "My father served at Bikini in Operation Crossroads in July of 1946 as an 18-year-old sailor," wrote Scott Johnson, of Spokane, Washington. "He was aboard the USS Apalachian, which had the dubious distinction of being the closest manned vessel to the detonations. He, like many others, slept on-deck and swam in the lagoon. Many of those sailors suffered the effects of cancer in later years. My father died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. What many veterans and their surviving heirs don't know is that they may be entitled to a settlement under the Radiation Compensation Exposure Act."
E-MAIL OF THE MONTH: ONE EXTREMELY LOYAL READER
"Love your magazine; it's our bible. When you said Aspen/Snowmass was a great place to live, we moved there as quickly as we could. I even found a job listed in your magazine, in Fort Collins, Colorado—only a four-hour drive each way. When you wrote about adventure dogs, we had ours put down because he didn't measure up. Now we're having another problem. After moving into our slopeside condo, we find that Aspen no longer rates in your latest poll and we must now move to Richmond, Virginia. I'm sure we'll love Richmond, but I really enjoyed the job at Fat Tire Brewery. Also: Do you have any recommendations on Best Children to Keep? We seem to have too many."
—DENNIS NOWARD, FORMERLY OF ASPEN, COLORADO
Sure thing, Dennis. Our advice: always ditch the middle kid.
We sized up over 70 cities for 2012's Best Towns ("Waterfront Property"). Of course, readers still found plenty to grouse about in our 19 finalists.
"Really? Bend, Oregon, doesn't even get an honorable mention?"
—MATT DEACON, FACEBOOK
"About Boise you wrote that 'the political climate (mostly conservative) won't appeal to the liberal-leaning crowd.' While Idaho is definitely conservative, Boise is quite liberal. The local saying is 'Idaho without Boise would be Mississippi.'"
—STEVE CHATTIN, BOISE IDAHO
"Dudes, no mention of windsurfing in Hood River? It was a windsurfer's town long before kiters were on the scene. To make up for it, you should run a cover article on the radness of windsurfing."
—TAURIN SPALDING, SEATTLE
"I find it almost laughable that Portland, Oregon, is not on the list. C'mon guys!"
"Thank you for choosing my hometown as the River City of the Year. Richmond is such a dysfunctional place, it needs all the help it can get."
—TIMOTHY THOMPSON, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA