1955 - 1989
Summit Magazine was founded in 1955 by Jean Crenshaw and Helen Kilness. Originally focused on skiing, it "gradually became the nation's magazine for discourse on all things mountain," wrote John Harlan III — editor of the magazine in the 1990s — in Summit's Summer 1995 issue.
Jean and Helen established Summit's headquarters in a cabin in Big Bear, California, which they named Summit House. There, in the basement of that "strange building ... full of trap doors and secret rooms," as MaiLee Hung writes in Summit Journal's new Spring 2024 issue, Jean and Helen self-published the magazine for 35 years, printing it and binding it themselves. It began as a monthly and transitioned to a bimonthly. At it's height, Summit had over 10,000 subscribers.
Within the magazine, reports on cutting-edge first ascents in the mountains and on technical rock ran alongside everyman trip reports about the local hills.
David Roberts served as the Rocky Mountain editor for a time, and Royal Robbins spent decades as the rock climbing editor. The list of illustrious climbers that wrote for or were featured in Summit during Jean and Helen's 35 year tenure is a veritable who's who of 20th century American climbing: Yvon Chouinard, Fred Beckey, Alrene Blum, Galen Rowell, Layton Kor. The list goes on and on.
In 1989, Jean and Helen sold the magazine.
For more great history on Jean and Helen, read Katie Ives' "A House of Stone and Snow," which appeared in Alpinist magazine's Spring 2015 issue.
1990 - 1996
David Swanson, a former president of the Explorers Club, acquired Summit from Jean and Helen in 1990. Under the editorial direction of John Harlin III, the title relaunched as Summit: The Mountain Journal, a beautiful, glossy quarterly. Harlin, who later authored The Eiger Obsession and served as editor of the American Alpine Journal for a decade, pushed Summit into longer-form, more polished storytelling.
In this period, Summit's contributors included Jon Krakauer, Mark Jenkins, Chris Bonington, Heinrich Harrer, David Roberts, Steve Roper, Lito Tejada-Flores, David Stevenson, and many more.
Swanson leased the rights to another publisher in 1996, when two more issues were released. These were the last issues of Summit until 2024.
2023 - Present
in 2023, Michael Levy acquired Summit and rebranded it as Summit Journal, a biannual, print-only journal devoted to long-form storytelling and large-format photography. The debut issue, Summit's first in over 27 years, was released in February 2024.
The future of Summit is very bright.