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    To Suffer Well

    by Kelly Cordes

    Kc - cfs IMG_0815(LR)

    I think back a few weeks to when I found my friend Craig 52 miles into a grueling mountain run, wobbling on the trail like a baby deer. He held himself up with his trekking poles, grinned and told me he was fine. Uhhh, you don’t look fine, dude. I’d joined him for morale toward the end of his first 100km (62 miles) race, and, naturally (as distinctly opposed to "stupidly"…), he chose one of the toughest: the Kat’cina Mosa, which gains 17,404 feet of elevation. Craig (a.k.a. CFS) blew-up around mile 40. Nothing truly damaging, he just hurt. Bad. Legs gone, drunk-walk bad. For the last 20 miles. Damn that unassuming scrawny bastard is tough. Seven months ago he could barely walk around the block. Strangest thing, too: the happiest I’ve ever seen him was during the run (at least until he blew-up, and even then he didn’t complain) – goofy, shit-eating grin, chatting, laughing, suffering. Didn’t think once of quitting. Not for a second. I like that. Wish I had it more often.

    As he eventually trotted across the finish line, I was reminded, once again, of mental toughness.

    [CFS staggering along, only 10 miles to go… Photo: Kelly Cordes]

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    Trad Guy Sporto Tips

    Kc - trad guyIMG_3102(LR) I try to embrace all forms of climbing, and I can learn something from everything. Furthermore, the more things I’m willing to climb, the more fun I can have. Jack of all trades, master of none, baby. Wintertime? Don’t whine, ice climb. Only got a few hours? Clip some bolts near the road or go bouldering. Have a full day and clear weather? Head for the mountains. Raining everywhere? Gym climbing.

    Working at the harder technical forms, like bouldering and sport climbing, have paid dividends for my overall climbing (though I don’t boulder much – the ground falls don’t mesh with my battered body; and certain angles on sport routes are too weird on my shoulder; so it goes, we all must live with our limitations). Anyway, no doubt that rock climbing movement provides the fundamental base for all climbing.

    But on to the point of things: we all want to look cool. Or, at least, not terribly dorky (so says the guy with zero fashion sense). And nowhere else in climbing does coolness factor-in than crag-like settings such as sport crags, the gym and bouldering areas. In my attempts to embrace these forms, I’ve learned some tips – often painstakingly.

    [Lookout, it’s trad guy! Photo: Cordes collection]

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    Enduro Idiot

    “You guys are idiots,” Cousin Bob told us over the pay phone. “I’m coming to get you.”

    I don’t know which I do better, come up with stupid ideas or talk others into doing them. In my defense, I will say that my ideas seem a lot less stupid since being hobbled and wiser with age. Granted, I can’t say that the latter came on its own, versus being a de facto function of the former. But I’m getting smarter. Take, for example, last weekend. My good friend Craig Scariot (CFS) did the Kat’cina Mosa 100km mountain trail race. Me? I made margs and cheered him on (a.k.a. “crew” – when you’re as anti-social as CFS, that’s what you get).

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    [Hikers and runners along a trail in the Mont Blanc massif, France. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    OK, so I’m a huge fan of ultras – by the way, Krissy Moehl is defending her UTMB title and women’s course record (from 2009; race was cancelled last year) the last weekend of this month, so a big shout-out to Krissy - Gooooo Krissy, woohoo! – and, truth be told, I’m only a tiny bit jealous. I used to run, before shattering my leg. Used to be my favorite thing besides climbing. Little-known fact: I was the first woman finisher at the 1993 Seattle Marathon. In short, loathe though I am to admit it, I used to have a pony tail; and, of course, I have a girl’s name. So when I crossed the finish line, the announcer surely thought me an ugly girl and announced, “Let’s cheer home Kelly Cordes, this year’s first woman finisher!” I didn’t say a word – a person like me should take whatever he can get, and sometimes it’s the little victories in life that count.

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    I Know You

    by Kelly Cordes

    Kc - sky pond IMG_2233(LR)

    A breeze floats mountain air across my face and triggers of flood of chemicals to my brain. I feel something. Something familiar. I’ve been here before, at different times and in different places. Deep blue water ripples along the lake shore; stout green shrubs stand firm and stubborn against the alpine elements; orange-streaked granite encapsulates my world in the cirque. I stop on boulders beside Sky Pond, my planned turnaround for my hike-slash-gimpy-run workout, and gaze at the Petit Grepon. I feel myself there, climbing, and another flood of feelings courses through me. Though I don’t have my rock shoes with me, I wish that I did but know it’s probably best that I don’t as I scurry up the talus cone to the base and scramble around the rocks, just to touch them, to feel, to transport myself for a few precious moments.

    Familiarity. I know you. I think of the forms it can take, how it feels like love in all of its ethereal and mysterious ways.

    [Spires rising in the Sky Pond cirque, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

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    Notes from Ten Sleep

    by Kelly Cordes

    In contrast to the mountains of Chamonix, but in a similar vein of easy access, I recently headed north to a beautiful spot in Wyoming called Ten Sleep. I took a few notes:

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    [Approaching one of the cliffs in Ten Sleep Canyon. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    • The official name is Ten Sleep. I thought my illiterate friends who pronounce it plural (“Ten Sleeps”) were mere simpletons. I have, however, learned that the name relates to travel distances expressed by Native Americans. Like it’s ten nights’ sleep from the nearest place (presumably the nearest climbing area). So I’m told. This distance thing must have been before cars got fast, because it’s not that far from other climbing areas. Of course I didn’t follow-up on any of this, so I still insist that it’s “Ten Sleep.” One letter? Sure, but standards matter. This is not ‘Nam, there are rules here.

    • Just outside the town of Ten Sleep (note the lack of “s” at the end) is Brokeback Road, which, being the astute literary type, made me wonder if this is where Wyoming writer Annie Proulx got the title for her superb short story (later made into an Academy Award-winning film), Brokeback Mountain. But then I noticed that, unlike the story and the film, the road outside of town is actually Brokenback Road (note the “n” in the middle). But it’s just one letter – whatever. Ten Sleep, why can’t I quit you?!

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    Postcards from Chamonix: Sleep Finale

    by Kelly Cordes

    Kc - janet appr cap IMG_0364(LR)

    Ahhh, sleep. Sweet sleep. I drifted off to the soothing sounds of a jackhammer. They’re doing construction at the Torino Hut. 24-7 construction. I’ve long thought of loading my music player with tracks of peaceful sounds like waves gently crashing, the pitter-patter of rain, or birds chirping on a beautiful spring morning. Or maybe a jackhammer.

    At 5 a.m. I dragged my groggy ass out of the bunk, stumbled down the stairs to the barely passable breakfast (but with a huge cup of coffee, thank Baby Jesus), and Janet Bergman and I walked the leisurely hour-or-so across the glacier to the base of the Grand Capucin, a spectacular spire on the Mont Blanc massif. Janet was in Cham for the same reason as me – we’re on Polartec’s Athlete Advisory Board, and this year’s meeting was in Chamonix. Devastating, I know. She was en-route to India, where she’s meeting some friends and her husband, also a friend of mine, Freddie Wilkinson, for an expedition. Me, I’d just slaved away for a couple of months with work, including shipping the American Alpine Journal, hopped a plane and asked them to book my return for two weeks after the meeting’s end. Perfect timing, too, as I’d just gotten cleared to return to the mountains following my last round of surgeries. Sweeeeet.

    [Janet Bergman on the relatively casual approach to the Grand Capucin (the big spire in the middle), from the Torino Hut. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

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    Postcard from Chamonix: Wedding Gifts

    by Kelly Cordes

    Kc - max zoe hotel IMG_0293

    “Just follow the scent of love and eternal commitment!” JT said.

    We were lost already. Or maybe not.

    “Yeah, c’mon! There’s booze!” Brittany chimed in.

    Zoe looked beautiful. And Maxime, what a handsome devil, fancy suit and all. And the ceremony? Short and sweet. (Ceremonies in France – at least if this was representative – are brief, and then you get to the important part: celebrating looooove!). Pretty vows, some nice words, then some papers – kind of like they were signing a car loan. Formalities finished, it was time to celebrate. To the reception, all aboaaarrrd!

    Editor's note: In the midst of our grief from losing Bean, Kelly Cordes lifts our hearts with a story about the joyful marriage of two Patagonia ambassadors: Zoe Hart and Maxime Turgeon. Congratulations Zoe and Max!

    We found our way to the Montenvers train station (I can’t recall how finding the train station in downtown Chamonix, just a few blocks from the wedding ceremony, became an issue…), had a drink, piled into train cars and started singing.

    [The happy newlyweds (that’s Max on the left, Zoe on the right) outside the Hotel. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

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    Postcard from Chamonix: Totally Casual

    by Kelly Cordes

    “Hot damn, how cool,” I said, flipping my mullet to the side. “Totally casual day in the mountains? Yeah, I’m in. Rock on.”

    The forecast was for marginal weather, so I met Chip at a very civilized hour – quite civilized, in fact (everyone says “quite”). Time for coffee, breakfast, and then, by 9 a.m., nearly 10,000 feet higher we exited the tunnel atop the Aiguille du Midi téléphérique. 12,600' elevation. Howling winds. Blowing snow. Uhhh, casual? A sign warned us that we were on our own.

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    You walk through a little gate and onto a foot-wide, knife-edge snow ridge; one slip and you’re done, save for a partner versed in the Alaska Belay (jumping off the other side of the ridge – and I’m quite certain that, to his credit, Chip has no idea what I’m talking about). No safety net, no guardrail, nothing. An American lawyer’s wet dream.

    [Chip Chace exiting the top-station of the Aiguille du Midi. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

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    Postcard from Chamonix: Access

    by Kelly Cordes

    I’m in Chamonix, France, for a couple of weeks. Weather started bad on the Mont Blanc massif, so we drove through the tunnel and climbed sunny rock in Italy. An 800-foot roadside dome with 40 routes, all bolted. The bolts weren’t too close, nor were they beside cracks. The routes had little placards fixed to the rock, indicating which route went where. People of all ages climbed, seemingly as normal for a Sunday afternoon as watching the game back home.

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    [Parapenters (the wee white dots in the sky) soaring above Chamonix, and the south face of the Brévent. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    The next two days, as clouds enshrouded the high peaks, I climbed on the south face of Le Brévent – an otherwise two-hour approach takes a few minutes thanks to the super-fast-whisking-action of these tram-gondola thingies called téléphériques (téléphériques also access the serious mountains across the valley – Mt. Blanc, Grand Capucin, Grandes Jorasses, the Dru, and on and on and on.) We’d finish our cappuccinos and leave at the civilized hour of 10 a.m. or so, climb a four-to-six-pitch route, and be back down sipping wine and eating cheese at an outdoor café by 3 p.m. Quite civilized, indeed.

    Kc - IMG_0089
    [Walker Ferguson coming up the final pitch of the Frison-Roche route on the south face of the Brévent. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

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    Getting Satisfaction on the North Face of North Twin

    by Hayden Kennedy

    Today's post comes to us from Hayden Kennedy about a climb he recently attempted with Jason Kruk. Anyone who’s paying attention these days is blown away by the progression. The talented youth just keep getting after it, and it’s not just in cragging and bouldering. The serious alpine has always attracted only a few inspired stragglers, and today’s story comes from one of the best. Hayden Kennedy has redpointed 5.14c, free climbed El Capitan, and he and fellow youthful badass Jason Kruk have summited Fitz Roy in burly conditions. Oh – and he’s just now old enough to go to the bars (in the U.S, that is – it’s only 18 in Canada). Here’s a great piece on a great face by two great young climbers. -K.C.

    Hk - N Twin IMG_1187

    “It’s just you and me and a big alpine face, this is what we came here for!” Jason Kruk says as we pack our bags at my van before embarking on an alpine-style push on the north face of North Twin. The North Twin is a beast of a mountain and it is one of the biggest and hardest north faces in the Canadian Rockies. The north face is about 5,000 feet and maintains hard climbing the entire way. It has only been climbed three times in 37 years and each of the three teams were leading alpinists at their time. George Lowe and Chris Jones made the first ascent of the north face in summer 1974; it was a groundbreaking route done in impeccable style. It would be another 11 years before alpine climbing legends Barry Blanchard and Dave Cheesmond established the North Pillar route, in perfect alpine style over four days in August 1985. Tales of horrendous rock fall, scary climbing and a long approach terrified people, and the face loomed over alpinists like a huge tidal wave about to crash. In April 2004 Steve House and Marko Prezelj made the third ascent of the face in mixed conditions; during the climb Steve dropped his boot shell, forcing Marko to rope gun the rest of the route. The stories and the legends of the North Twin make any alpine climber shiver just a little bit.

    [Jason Kruk climbing the mental crux of the route, M7-ish choss. Photo: Hayden Kennedy]

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