The Cleanest Line

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    Current Events

    by Kelly Cordes

    Crazy world we live in. Somebody ought to sell tickets. Hell, I’d buy one. Some thoughts on current events, large and small:

    • Wednesday was National Margarita Day. It’s about time, what with all this recent climbing world drama. Surely a little drinky can soothe some nerves, maybe temper the frenzy. Me, I’ve been fine all along (calmer than you are, dude...) – but I guess when you live it, every day is margarita day.

    Related: Got an email that made me blush. By one reader’s count, I’ve posted at least six margarita recipes on this blog, including The Cleanest Marg (my first post as a TCL regular), The Shackboy Marg, The Damiana-Sotol Marg, The Memorial Day Marg, The Uri No-Exposed-Bone Marg, and The Trying Hard Marg. Whoa. I wasn’t keeping track myself, ya know I’m really not into the numbers. Sure, some people might feel compelled to say things like, like… “Greatest marg drinker ever!” or, “How does he do it? This marg rules!” or, “For being short and gimpy, he sure does make a damn good margarita!” or even, “I think Cordes is the world margarita champion!” But that’s just a vanity thing that I try to steer clear of. I mean, it’s really all about the experience.

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    Tortilla Español

    by Brittany Griffith


    Here’s a recipe that every dirtbag should learn to make; it’s exotic sounding, yet relatively simple to make from basic, easy-to-find ingredients. Also, since it requires nothing much more than a fry pan, spatula, bowl, and plate, this one can be made in your van or campsite.

    I first became familiar with the ubiquitous Spanish omelet (aka, Tortilla Español) on a climbing trip to Spain (surprise, surprise). This delicious, versatile, Spanish staple was offered in nearly every tapas bar we experienced. They even sell them in the grocery stores, sealed in plastic wrap. Tortilla Españols quickly became essential crag food since they pack easily, have lots of protein and can be enjoyed warm or room temperature.

    I’m going to use my climber friend, Andy, as my subject for the following reasons:

    1. He’s a dude, and, like our young friend Hayden from the Secret Weapon, is always looking for a way to impress the ladies with his cooking.
    2. He actually has his own chickens in downtown SLC and provided the eggs for the recipe (impressive, right ladies?)
    3. I love men in aprons.

    [Andy subscribes to Backyard Poultry Magazine and cans his own tomatoes. Photo: Craig Armstrong]

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    Sicily Climbing Vacation, Part 2: Pasta Con Le Sarde

    by Brittany Griffith

    FinishedproductFull disclosure: the following sardines and pasta recipe is not my own. And I know what you are thinking: “Sardines? Gross!” But have you read the fine print about sardines? Printed on the box of the Wild Planet ones I bought: “Ounce for ounce, sardines provide three times more calcium and phosphorous than milk, more iron than cooked spinach, as much protein as steak, and as much potassium as bananas. These sardines are considered a Best Choice for Sustainability by a consensus of environmental organizations.” My point? A) Sardines are where it’s at, and B) I recently came to appreciate the hidden virtues of sardines in Sicily (which actually led me to Point A… so maybe these are a little out of order, but, whatever… just stay with me).

    Editor's note: Today's post is part two of Patagonia ambassador Brittany Griffith and friends' Sicily Climbing Vacation. All photos by JT.

    Chris, Whitney, JT, Burr and myself had been in the car for over an hour. We were headed to the 2000-year-old ruins of Agrigento, and were hungry but couldn’t find a place to eat. JT, desperate for food, pulled the car over in front of a restaurant with a façade that looked like a Long John Silver's with fake anchors, fishnets, and other seafaring paraphernalia.

    Hesitatingly, we followed JT inside. The maître d’ put out his cigarette, warmly shook my hand and spoke to me in French. I told him, in French, that I was American. He smiled wide and then greeted us in English. He was large, bald, and missing a front tooth.

    Continue reading "Sicily Climbing Vacation, Part 2: Pasta Con Le Sarde" »


    - By Kelly Cordes

    Kc - dawn at dusk IMG_3472
    [Late-day light on the Dawn Wall, on Tommy’s final effort. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    I’ve long thought that the most wasted resource on earth is talent. Talent abounds, yet optimizing its potential requires devoted effort. Of course we also have to consider opportunity, and the whole talent-and-effort issue makes regular news. There’s the “10,000-Hour Rule” of practice, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his celebrated and best-selling book Outliers – underscoring the importance of effort.  Recently I read an article about intellectual giftedness – underscoring the importance of talent.

    As far as natural ability goes, exceptional athletes are everywhere. Those who fully maximize that talent through hard work and effort, however, seem rare; I suspect they have to love it, truly love it, deep-down love it. Not just love success, or even the idea of success. Not just talk about it, and not find excuses when things get grim.

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    Exploding Freezer Beer Pasta

    by Brittany Griffith

    [Another inspired creation is ready for a final toasting in the oven. All photos: Brittany Griffith]

    We leave for Sicily tomorrow and I have to admit that despite new-route potential on 300-meter-tall Mediterranean seaside cliffs, I’m almost as excited to eat and drink wine. I read in the Lonely Planet guide that, “Most Sicilian dishes fall into the category of cucina povera (cooking of the poor), featuring cheap and plentiful ingredients.” Sounds like a perfect dirtbag diet to me!

    I’ll no doubt come home with some great new ideas for dirtbag cooking, but until then, here’s another favorite of mine that is simple, tasty, and most importantly, uses only a couple of dishes.

    Exploding-Freezer Beer Pasta Recipe

    It’s a common occurrence at our house in Salt Lake City; a guest goes to the liquor store to get “real beer” (non 3.2 grocery-store beer), discovers that it’s impossible to purchase chilled “real beer” (yet another convoluted Utah liquor law), buys it anyway, brings it back home, becomes too impatient to wait until it chills in the refrigerator, puts it in the freezer, pilfers our liquor cabinet in the meantime, knocks back a few fingers of our best tequila, forgets about the beer in the freezer, and I find said beer in freezer the next morning when I go looking for the coffee.

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    Climbing, Catering, Community & Quinoa

    by Brittany Griffith

    When JT and I were in the desert of Algeria, our Touareg guides, after preparing an elaborate four-course meal for the two of us, would prepare their own and then eat it from a single big bowl. They’d sit on the ground, in a tight little circle, each with their own spoon, sometimes no spoon but a bit of bread instead, bent over the bowl, chatting, laughing and eating. Each time I watched them do this, I felt a bit left out and pined to be sitting there in the dirt with them. There was something about their closeness, both physical and intimate, and the cooperative sharing of food that was extraordinary.


    [A warm bowl of soup shared high in the Algerian Hoggar region. Photo: JT]

    I thought about all the meals I’ve shared throughout the years with my climbing friends and although we don’t eat from the same bowl (well, not usually) there is profound harmony between us, as well.

    Continue reading "Climbing, Catering, Community & Quinoa" »

    Memorial Day Marg Recipe

    by Kelly Cordes

    Steve h -- kelly black I like the idea of dancing skeletons. They seem happy and free. I like dancing, too, though I don’t do it much, at least not in public (be grateful; I just do the same disco moves over and over again while sporting my whiteman’s overbite). But I love the idea – movement for the joy of movement and expression. Kind of like climbing, in a way. Probably just as absurd, too. Imagine Martians coming down and watching people dance. Or watching people climb. And skeletons, well, let’s be realistic. All of us die. In climbing and any adventurous realms of living, we might die sooner than otherwise. No guarantees, of course.

    [Kelly looking into the awesome Black Canyon. Photo: Steve Halvorson]

    The Memorial Day weekend and the label art on a tequila bottle inspired these babbles (and a margarita recipe, of course). Which also leads me to apologize: I’ve received some flak for not giving kids’ versions of my margarita recipes, and for that I am truly sorry. Thus, in today’s post I shall include my well-researched kiddie version. I even asked my sister about it – right now I’m hanging with her and her adorable 18-month-old daughter, Fia, who’s fascinated by everything in her vast little world, so soon I’ll have her sample it.

    Continue reading "Memorial Day Marg Recipe" »

    Secret Weapon

    by Brittany Griffith

    -1 “Remember that spicy, peanuty sesame noodle thing you make? We want that again!” requested Sue this past spring. Sue had allowed me to stay in her house in Yosemite West for no less than 37 weeks over the course of a decade, and although it had been a few years since I had cooked for her, she still remembered this divine dish. It’s been my secret weapon as a fulltime climber/couch surfer for as long as I can remember. I’ve made it for foreign boyfriend’s families, a party of 30 in Camp Four and for a friend’s Midwest wedding.

    Even if you aren’t a guest in someone’s home, this recipe is totally worth the effort for the following reasons:

    1. If you don’t put meat in it, it can last in your ice-less cooler for at least a couple of days.
    2. Impress PBJ/Powerbar underachievers by showing up at the crag with the leftovers for lunch. Bonus style points if you eat it with chopsticks.
    3. Dudes dig chicks that can cook (ask my husband or any of my ex-boyfriends, who are now starving and lonely).
    4. Chicks dig dudes that can cook.
    5. You can take a picture of your creation and post it on Facebook.

    When our dirtbag, van-dwelling, super-youth friend Hayden Kennedy recently stayed in our driveway for a week, I knew he needed my help. Now Hayden can crush the 5.14s and blaze up El Cap in an afternoon, but he’s a youngster with zero skills with the ladies. He needed a go-to, sure-fire date-clinching meal—and not just a lame pot of pasta and red sauce… he needed to know how to cook my secret-weapon meal. He knows little to nothing about cooking, but he eagerly strapped on an apron and believe-it-or-not was able to serve admirably as my sous chef. So ladies, if you see the super youth cruising the Valley floor or milling about in El Chalten, do yourself a favor and sweetly ask him to cook you this meal, but be sure you kiss him goodnight (at a minimum… huma-da-huma-da-huma-da-meeeeow!).

    [Hayden Kennedy: Ladies wanted, inquire within. All photos: Brittany Griffith]

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    No Exposed Bone (and a Marg recipe)

    Cordes - JW rap2 Shingu(LR) First off, I’m talking about my ankle. My cankle, still swollen from my broken leg and part of my next round of surgeries on Monday. My final surgeries, inshallah, making six in a little over a year. I’ve had enough. Should be minor, removing most of the hardware store in my lower leg, trimming my knee and cleaning-up my ankle. Should help my mobility. But there’s a chance they’ll find exposed bone on the weight-bearing surfaces of my ankle and have to micro-fracture, putting me back into a hellish recovery. Again. Doctors Hackett and Clanton, world-class surgeons at the Steadman Clinic, who focus on high-end athletes (thus begging the question of how I got in…), fully get it, know my climbing plans, and we’ve got a good plan. Clanton suggested we print T-shirts saying “No exposed bone.” I love it. But I started growing a hemlock tree, just in case.

    It’s just that I’ve been, I don’t know, down too long in the midnight sea. Like those times when you feel like you’re the Last in Line. It’s like being stuck 3,000 feet up something and you have to get down, but you just chopped one of your ropes. In which case, here’s a trick I’ve used to still do full-length rappels:

    [To getting down safely and enjoying good margs. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

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    Media Review (and marg recipe): Eastern Rises


    Last night I saw the best outdoor film I’ve seen in awhile. It’s about fly fishing. Huh? I’ve never fly fished and, honestly, I never really “got it.” I know there must be something there, though, because even if it makes as much sense to me as drinking margaritas in Russia, people love it, obsess over it like I do with climbing, and friends do with skiing and surfing. Tons of people at Patagonia go nuts for it. Cool. But still, I didn’t really understand the allure. Until last night. [Photo: Felt Soul Media]

    The 39-minute film is called Eastern Rises, and it showed at the opening night of Adventure Film Festival, the festival created by my friend Jonny Copp that's continuing onward in his memory. In short, Eastern Rises follows a few fly fishing obsessed guys who go to the ultra-remote Kamchatka Peninsula in Eastern Russia to fish (of course), traveling by ancient Russian helicopters, enduring Vodka culture, Sasquatch, Grizzlies, monster fish and encountering a variety of characters at every turn – and these guys fully fit-in, being quite far from the cardboard cutout types themselves. According to the film info, the Kamchatka’s coastline has “the most abundant and biologically diverse population of wild rainbow trout, salmon and steelhead that has ever existed on Earth.” Once they arrived, wow. You don’t have to care about fish to fall in love with the landscape, though I imagine it must be like the fishing version of an undiscovered and unbelievably pristine mountain range made for climbing.

    It takes more than pretty pictures, though, to make a great film.

    Continue reading "Media Review (and marg recipe): Eastern Rises" »

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