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    An Excerpt from The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre by Kelly Cordes

    By Kelly Cordes

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    At the wind-scoured southern tip of Argentina, between the vast ice cap and the rolling estepas of Patagonia, rises a 10,262-foot tower of ice and rock named Cerro Torre. Considered by many the most beautiful and compelling mountain in the world, it draws the finest and most devoted technical alpinists from around the globe. Reinhold Messner, the greatest mountaineer in history, called it “a shriek turned to stone.”

    I began work on my book in spring 2012, after the Compressor Route de-bolting controversy. On a broad level, I’d gained a glimpse into Cerro Torre’s complex and layered history during my dozen years as an editor for the American Alpine Journal. On a personal level, I’d grown familiar with the spectacular mountain in January 2007, during my climb with Colin Haley. But once I began my book research, I became intrigued by how the intertwined stories of Cerro Torre—this wholly uncaring, inanimate object—seemed to reflect the best and worst of human ambition, and how often our actions are fueled by the power of belief. My notes and threads related to the main stories could fill several volumes.

    Continue reading "An Excerpt from The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre by Kelly Cordes" »

    Tying the Room Together - 2014 American Alpine Club Annual Benefit, featuring Yvon Chouinard

    By Kelly Cordes

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    “Holy guacamole,” I mumbled to myself. “There are a lot of ties in this room.” Lots of exquisite dresses, too.

    I was at the recent American Alpine Club Annual Benefit Dinner, which begs the question of place: What was my broke ass doing in a VIP seat, wearing a borrowed bow tie, at a fancy fundraiser?

    It just so happens that I know people who know people who know people. Well, OK, the secret to my magic trick: Patagonia was the title sponsor, Yvon Chouinard the keynote speaker, and the dinner was in Denver – an hour and a half from my cabin in Estes Park.

    I agonized over wardrobe. As a person, I’d planned on jeans and a T-shirt. After all, it shouldn’t matter how you look on the outside. Then again, we have cultural norms, and I didn’t want to disrespect anyone, no matter how silly the norm. Ahhh, the issues that burn.

    [Above: We... are... family... Kelly CordesKate RutherfordSteve HouseLynn HillYvon ChouinardBrittany Griffith and Timmy O'Neill. Photo: Lee Pruitt] 

    Continue reading "Tying the Room Together - 2014 American Alpine Club Annual Benefit, featuring Yvon Chouinard" »

    Dirtbag Diaries: Benighted

    By Fitz & Becca Cahall

    DBD_5541643Great stories often have these five words, “and then it got dark.” But how can carefully executed alpine starts and planned summits turn into watching stars dot the sky? Well, getting benighted can happen for a few reasons. One: unforeseen circumstances. Two: complete denial of reality. Or three: getting too comfortable in the dark. Kelly Cordes, Ryan Peterson, and Jay Puckhaber share their tales of being out, long after the sun has set.


    Audio_graphic_20pxListen to "Benighted"
    (mp3 - right-click to download)

    Editor's note: On March 15, 2013, The Dirtbag Diaries logged their two millionth download. It's an amazing milestone. If you've enjoyed this podcast as much as we have, if it has "spurred your courage to try something new, to quit a bunk job, or say yes to a deep seeded belief while others told you to play it safe," then please pledge your support for the show.

    Together we can help Fitz and Becca evolve the show and reach the next two million downloads. Thanks for listening.

    [Graphic by Walker Cahall]

    Making Tommy

    By Kelly Cordes

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    Do you ever wonder how the greats became great? Of course there’s no easy answer, no definitive answer, never a formula – they’re human, and human factors interact in infinite ways. Opportunity, natural talent, innate drive, developed drive, mental toughness, perspective, thought processes, influences, dedication, work ethic and who-knows-what-else, in various, mysterious combinations along the space-time continuum of life, probably covers most of it. OK, got it? Yeah, me too.

    It’s a fascinating topic, and the superb filmmaker Chris Alstrin’s short piece on Patagonia Ambassador Tommy Caldwell gives us a few glimpses into one of the greatest rock climbers of all time. Tommy’s also my neighbor – part of a great crew of friends in Estes Park, Colorado – and one of my heroes (by way of disclosure, I helped with writing and story development for the video).

    [Above: Frame grab from Making Tommy. Hit the jump to watch the video.]

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    Climbing Season in Patagonia – Patagonia Vertical, the book

    By Kelly Cordes

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    Guidebooks come in all forms. The kind that I like the most are more than mere guidebooks; they have bits of history, interesting information and stunning photos. They inspire me. By necessity, they can only be written by a true expert. They don’t hold my hand, but they have the essential info, the things you need to know, while giving you the credit of assuming that – in the case of alpine climbing, anyway – you already possess a basic level of competence. Which, seems to me, is fair enough for an alpine climbing destination like the Chaltén Massif in southern Patagonia, Argentina.

    The massif is home to so many stories, so many legends, so much vision from such great climbers from around the globe; some from previous eras, some still active, some just getting started.

    One of Patagonia’s greats is Rolando Garibotti, who grew up in Bariloche, Argentina. He first visited the Chaltén Massif in the mid-80s – back then, El Chaltén had a single house. Garibotti was 15 years old, and he and a friend climbed Aguja Guillaumet. His passion had been ignited, and it’s been burning ever since.

    [Above: One of the last pitches of Cerro Fitz Roy’s Supercanaleta. The summit can be seen in the upper left. Photo: Rolando Garibotti]

    Continue reading "Climbing Season in Patagonia – Patagonia Vertical, the book" »

    Climbing Season in Patagonia – What We Carry

    By Kelly Cordes

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    I don’t know how Brittany does it. Or, if she’s being honest – and I think she is – how she enjoys it. I look at the scattered pile of junk in our El Chalten cabaña, and think back to her post. I’m suspicious. You’ve got to watch out for those wayward gypsy women, you know.

    I hate packing. It stresses me out. I think it through, write it down, rethink, this shirt vs. that, these mountains vs. those, the conditions and ambitions, the projections of what we’ll climb. And not climb. For this trip to Argentine Patagonia, I had a goal: be ready ahead of time. Like chilled-out, not stressed, spend time with the lil’ woman (a.k.a. special lady friend, SLF) – that sort of ready – and enjoy the week before leaving. Check.


    Every year, Patagonia ambassadors, along with climbers from around the world, visit the small town of El Chalten in Argentina. Their goal: climb huge granite peaks in the Patagonia region, some of the most challenging in the world. Follow the updates from our ambassadors and friends on these Patagonia channels and #vidapatagonia:

    Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  Tumblr  Pinterest_logo


    The climbing gear entails minor tweaking, but important tweaking. If you’re without a crucial piece of gear, it can mean no send. Equally important, though: You have to enjoy your non-climbing life. It’s essential for sending psyche. No psyche, no ruta, no cumbre.

    [Above: Pre-trip packing hurricane, from casa de Cordes. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    Continue reading "Climbing Season in Patagonia – What We Carry" »

    Climbing Season in Patagonia – Season Goals

    By Kelly Cordes

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    I came here with one goal. A New Year’s goal, despite my avowed no-resolution resolution of a year ago: Don’t un-send the Torre.

    My prolific spray about the single climb I’d done in Patagonia, a link-up on Cerro Torre with Colin Haley in 2007, might lend the illusion that I’ve climbed a lot here. Nope. I’ve just been meaning to climb a lot here. Anyway, now I’m here and I ain’t touching the Torre because a guy like me needs to protect those memories, not undo them.


    Every year, Patagonia ambassadors, along with climbers from around the world, visit the small town of El Chalten in Argentina. Their goal: climb huge granite peaks in the Patagonia region, some of the most challenging in the world. Follow the updates from our ambassadors and friends on these Patagonia channels and #vidapatagonia:

    Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  Tumblr  Pinterest_logo

    Patagonia on Facebook
    Patagonia on Twitter
    Patagonia on Instagram
    Patagonia on Tumblr
    Patagonia on Pinterest


     So Craig Scariot (formerly known as CFS) and I rolled into town with a ton-minus-one of possible objectives. We promptly ran into my good friends Chris and Justin. They’re animals, motivated, and had returned a few hours earlier from climbing Poincenot. Chris, aka The Chief, is one of my longest-running climbing partners, from back in the Missoula days (sordid story of me and The Chief here). Justin and I climb together back home in Estes Park, and he and his wife own Ed’s Cantina, my favorite local margarita eatery.

    [Above: Justin, The Chief, and Kelly at Piedra del Fraile. Photo: Crampon Craig Scariot]

    Continue reading "Climbing Season in Patagonia – Season Goals" »

    A Good Ride

    by Kelly Cordes

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    Shadows crept across the pavement, clouds reflected stars and headlamps crawled slowly up the road, bicycles under a full moon at 12,000 feet.

    A month later – just last week, in fact – I parked my beater Honda and stood on the sidewalk outside of Supercuts, on my way home from Patagonia meetings in Ventura, pondering the merits of going out on top. I’d spent five days in a bright red Camaro. Such sweet perfection.

    Our Estes crew had gone for a full-moon bike ride up Trail Ridge Road, in Rocky Mountain National Park – a friendly, fun ride. In it for the experience, you know. We left the parking lot, and Scotty D, Michael B, and me went out front, maybe-kinda fast. Freakin’ dudes. Can’t you guys do anything without it being a race?

    [Above: Scott DeCapio trying to lull us into complacency. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

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    Of Ideals and Actions

    by Kelly Cordes

    Perhaps an overly dramatic title. After all, it’s just climbing, and it’s supposed to be fun. That’s the cliché, anyway. Though often a disingenuous one.

    Then again, part of what we love about climbing is the escape from the daily b.s. of today’s world, the immersion into a place where we can move freely in wild places and act however we wish.

    Yes, act however we wish.

    Since the 1974 first ascent of Cerro Torre, by Italy’s Ragni di Lecco team, only three new routes have been established to its summit without using the Compressor Route’s bolt ladders to get there.

    I thought it would make for a cool story. (Cool side-note: Patagonia field testers and ambassadors were involved in all three of those ascents.) So I developed the idea and storyline, got audio and interviews from Rolando Garibotti, Colin Haley, and Hayden Kennedy, narrated the intro and transitions myself, recorded some field sounds, and selected and arranged the photos. We had audio and video gurus polish things up. The result, below, is a narrated slide show that rolls-through in video format.

    Continue reading "Of Ideals and Actions" »

    Notes from Squamish

    by Kelly Cordes

    I am loath to admit it, but Colin Haley was right. He’s been singing the praises of the Pacific Northwest in summertime, proclaiming it better than my beloved ‘Rado. At last, I humbly concede (although they pay for it the rest of the year, with continual grayness and rain). I’m wrapping up a trip to Squamish, and it’s been a touch of paradise. I feel it’s changed me and my cynical, critical, judgmental nature. Here, a few notes:

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    [Inspiration for my shift toward unabridged positivity. Namaste. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    • Day one, my SLF (special lady friend) and I go cragging in the afternoon, and I lead a thin slab in the full sun. It’s still like a million degrees cooler than back home, even in mid-summer. Sonnie Trotter happens to be trail running past, and as he looks up he probably thinks, who’s the idiot climbing that route in the sun? Silly tourist… followed by, wait! I know that mullet! Next thing we know, Sonnie comes up to say hello and chat. Says he wasn’t thinking that at all. T’was a pattern of friendliness that’s repeated itself in myriad forms during our stay. People here are so nice.

    Continue reading "Notes from Squamish" »

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