26 Sep DARIO RODRIGUEZ
Dario, could you tell us about the progress of your publication DESNIVEL, from its origins up until today?
We started to publish "Desnivel" in 1981, 25 years ago. At that time the mountaineering magazines published in Spain were all linked to clubs or federations, and no independent editor existed. It was a moment when changes in the climbing world were taking place – for example the birth of free climbing – and the new generations needed a publication with a vision which went against the establishment and informed them of all these changes and of its protagonists . On the other hand, Spain was
living a moment of intense cultural changes.
Franco, the dictator, had died a short time ago, people were breathing the air of freedom and amazement and showed a great interest in everything new. In Madrid, at that time, there was a movement known as "La Movida", which had a very interesting night-life and culture where alternative
magazines of every type were born. "Desnivel", in some way, participated in a similar movement which at that time was changing the world of mountains and climbing in our country.
You were the first to have a web-site parallel to your magazine. Was it a forced choice or did it come freely?
It was clear to us from the first moment: as the leader in mountain information on Spanish territory we could not ignore Internet! If on the one hand it was obligatory, on the other hand the fascination which this new means of communication held over us was very strong, above all if used in a certain way. In fact it allowed us to pass on information almost live from the editor’s office to our readers, giving us the opportunity of a direct interaction with them, something which the printed word does not
allow. We must not forget that printed magazine and the web are complementary to each other, with all the advantages and disadvantages. The printed page always arrives late, Internet is the leader in daily news and multi-media. For us, besides, it was a key moment to be present on Internet, since no less than 400 million people speak Spanish and with the printed magazine we reach 40 million.
Many European publications have suffered a crisis on account of the speed of the web, which always arrives before the news. How did you face up to this problem?
I think we are one of the few magazines – perhaps the only one – which took a risk from the beginning of Internet. In some ways we became our own opponents but it was inevitable!
What economic returns can you expect, according to you, from investing so much energy into a magazine which is only on a website?
At the moment we are earning very little. Our web magazine is in the red, despite the fact we have more than 4.000.000 pages visited a month. The problem is that we have moved too quickly for our market: in the shops in our country manufacturers and distributors have not risked very much (apart from a few isolated cases) on Internet. This is a very serious mistake; we have a wonderful bookshop in Madrid and 40% of the sales are on Internet.
What percentage of your media do you dedicate to alpinism, sports climbing, excursionsim?
In the magazine "Desnivel" we generally talk about the world of alpinism, ski-mountaineering, traditional and sports climbing in the most balanced way possible. We talk about excursionism in our magazine "Grandes Espacios", and of sports climbing in our publication "Escalar". We publish another magazine, "Outdoor", specialising in outdoor sports. We concentrate on specialized information and in this sense think that the excursionist, like the sports climber or alpinist, needs a specialized magazine devoted to the subjects that interest him.
In recent years Spain is becoming the leading nation in sports climbing. The achievements of Andrada, Pou, Usobiaga, Bereziartu, Fernandez and all the others have gone round the world. What are the reasons for this boom in Spanish climbing?
Spain, and above all Catalonia, is a real paradise for sports climbers. There are so many beautiful areas for climbing and also so many climbers, and these two premises create a lot of interest. The names you have quoted are only the tip of the iceberg and show the very high level of Spanish climbers. At the moment there is a very stimulating environment within the world of sports climbing, and there is also an important reality: there are so many beautiful areas for climbing scattered throughout Spain. So if Spain is a country with few possibilities for alpinists and ice climbers, it is certainly a true Paradise for sports climbers.
Have you ever made an estimate of how many climbers there are in Spain? What do you think the latest generation would like to read in your magazine?
It is very difficult, almost impossible to calculate, but in the "Spanish Mountain Federation" there are 70.000 members, a figure which includes excursionists, alpinists, skiers, climbers, etc. but there are also many climbers who are not members of any club.I think that young people want to see spectacular photographs and information on climbing areas rather than read. There is a lot of interest in practical information on subjects such as training, diet, injuries, etc. These are the subjects we discuss in our magazine "Escalar".
Seen from the east, the Spaniards have always been accused of scarce attention towards ethical aspects. There was the period of artificial climbing, when you were at the forefront. But often there was the impression that the ethic of always passing at all costs was what prevailed. Now with the Pou brothers and the wonderful achievements of Edu Marin in Norway, it looks as if something is changing, what do you say?
I sincerely don’t think it is like that. There has been some behaviour similar to what you describe, but our country’s great mountaineers have always behaved ethically correct. Think of the ascent in alpine style of Nil Bohigas and Enric Lucas on the South Face of Annapurna, for example. Or of the ascents of Jesús Gálvez and Adolfo Madinabeitia, like the first ascent of the Cerro del Àngel in Venezuela. I could speak of the incredible ascents of an unbelievable group in the sixties from Aragon, Alberto Rabadá and Ernesto Navarro, who achieved first ascents of very high level or, in recent times, alpinists like the Iñurrategui brothers. In Spain there are climbers with a very rigorous ethic, but very many of these personalities, to not say the most part, are practically unknown because of their discretion. As an anecdote I can tell you that some of our best alpinists, like José Carlos Tamayo, or the Cantabrian group known as "Los Cholos" (with a wonderful story of incredible openings and an uncommon ethic) do not want to be interviewed. I could cite many more examples to illustrate that what is said in the question is not true. Sometimes it happens that protagonists with unethical initiatives make statements to the media divulging these achievements, giving a distorted image of the reality of mountaineering in our country.
Returning to journalism, how do you see the current European panorama? What is needed, according to you, to regain the trust of the disappointed readers who no longer buy magazines?
We live in a very complex time. For many years the only way of keeping yourself informed was through magazines and mountain books. Now, if you need information about any rock-face, climbing area, etc. you only need to touch the keys of the computer and in a few seconds you have it. With this challenge before him, "Desnivel" is betting on the quality of the information, illustration and design. We try to do something special and different in every edition of "Desnivel". For now I believe that we have succeeded, and our sales are stable despite the competition from Internet.