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    AAC's Young Gun Awards

    Cordes - P1010054 Last week we posted about some major grant deadlines and mentioned that, contrary to popular notion, most of the grants go to trips other than cutting-edge adventures. In fact, the AAC just announced the latest recipients of their biannual “gateway grant” – the Mountain Fellowship Grant, which awards young climbers (age 25 and under) tackling ambitious projects in remote areas. The award is 100% endowment-funded, and I love how it helps aspiring dirtbags undertake adventures they couldn’t otherwise afford.

    Many of the recipients over the years have evolved into America’s top climbers, and, as such, I suppose it’s contributed to the decline of many a potentially respectable lifestyle. Good stuff (I know, call me a bad ‘Merican – my advice to the kids: Go on adventures! Don’t work too much, and don’t buy into it all! Live cheaply, stay out of debt and go explore!).

    Where were we?

    Oh yeah, it’s my favorite of all the grants – I didn’t even start climbing until I was 25, and so I’m especially amazed by some of the adventures these “kids” do (I’m dating myself, I know, but indeed I’ve been writing about the perils of getting old, so…).

    Congrats to the young guns getting after it everywhere, including those who recently got some help from the Mountain Fellowship Grant:

    • Scott Bennett (25)—$600 from the Rick Mosher Fund for a possible first ascent of Cerro Pollone’s East Peak, Argentina.

    • Tyler Botzon (21)—$400 for to attempt on Ama Dablam, Nepal.

    • Christopher Carter (21)—$400 for ski mountaineering in Altai Mountains, Mongolia.

    • Sean Dormer (22)—$1,000 from the REI Challenge Fund for possible first ascents in Arrigetch Mountains, Alaska.

    • Hayden Kennedy (20)—$400 for a possible first ascent of the North Face of Chamlang, China.

    • Jewell Lund (24)—$400 for climbs in Kara Su Valley, Kyrgyzstan.

    • Jacon Mayer (23) and Max Talsky (23)—$600 each from the Boyd Everett Fund for the Cassin Ridge on Denali, Alaska.


    [Four years ago to the day, Colin Haley, 22 at the time and on his Mountain Fellowship Grant-awarded trip to Patagonia, gets psyched to lead the crux pitch of a new link-up on Cerro Torre. We did our route from Jan 5-7, 2007 - the grant for that route/trip was just for Colin – I was 38 at the time! Photo: Kelly Cordes]


    Two Major Climbing Grant Deadlines this Friday

    KC - Ruthgorge What could be better than getting your climbing trip paid for? Uh, pretty much nothing.

    At the basic level, that’s what the climbing grants do – and applications for two major grants, the Lyman Spitzer Cutting Edge Award and the McNeill-Nott Award, are due this Friday, January 1. So, get after it. Just a public service note.
     
    Granted (get it?) there is a little more to it. Filling out the form entitles you to nothing, but it would seem worth the effort if you’ve got a project that fits. Yet few apply (note: I’m not on any grant committees, but I’ve asked some of the people who are). I don’t know why, maybe it’s just a small pool that self-selects – the grants are competitive and, to my knowledge, none exist for run-of-the-mill things like repeating classic routes or road-trippin’ with your bros. Indeed, when we look at recipients of some of the major grants geared toward cutting-edge adventure, like the Mugs Stump Award, the Lyman Spitzer, the Polartec Challenge, and the Shipton-Tilman, they’ve supported some of the greatest alpine ascents in recent history. These objectives are almost always new routes, not refinement repeats (i.e. not first one-day ascent, first free ascent, first all-woman ascent, first American ascent, etc.), as impressive as these may be. To paraphrase a saying that, I think, gets attributed to climbing legend Jim Bridwell: “You don’t travel halfway around the world to repeat somebody else’s route.”

    [Alaska's famed Ruth Gorge, as seen from the summit of the Moose's Tooth. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    Continue reading "Two Major Climbing Grant Deadlines this Friday" »

    Fighting Forty (pt. 3) - Waking up puking

    Today we've got Part 3 in Kelly Cordes' series about the bout of injuries he's experienced this past year (here's the links to check out part 1 and 2). His most recent setback, a severely torn shoulder, happened shortly before his scheduled departure for a climbing trip to Patagonia. Part 3 brings us the details of the surgery and what it's like to start thinking about getting back into the ring. -Ed

    Kc - LT descent Holy hell did I hurt. The sort of pain for which they had me on a morphine pump in the hospital when I had broke my leg. But this was just a shoulder. Damn, I wondered, how soft have I gotten?

    I remember waking up in the recovery room puking. The surgery required far more than anybody had anticipated and, by all accounts, Dr. Hackett worked a miracle on my shoulder. I remember seeing him briefly – either in recovery or in the hospital room where they kept me overnight, I can’t recall – and he asked if I was sure that was the only time I’d dislocated it (I’m sure). “Because," he said, "it looked like a shoulder that’d been dislocated a hundred times. It was a mess.”

    That was two weeks ago, in what now seems like a haze of puzzle-piece images. The next day I writhed in pain, trying to override it with my brain but resorting to double-dosing the painkillers.

    [Scott DeCapio descends from the summit of London Tower, Ruth Gorge, Alaska, 2000, after his and Cordes’ new route, The Trailer Park.]

    Continue reading "Fighting Forty (pt. 3) - Waking up puking" »

    Fighting Forty (pt.2) - Knives, luck, and scars

    Today we've got Part 2 in Kelly Cordes' series about the bout of injuries he's experienced this past year (part 1 is here). His most recent setback, a severely torn shoulder, happened shortly before his scheduled departure for Patagonia. Kelly was helping Tommy and Becca Caldwell pack for departure last week - instead of joining them, as was his original plan. Kelly is likely still in surgery at the time of this posting.  May your surgeon's hand be steady, your pain pills heady, and your recovery complete and speedy, friend. -Ed

    Slide image The way the wind blows in Estes Park this time of year reminds me of El Chalten, Patagonia, especially on sunny days when I can see the mountains, or at least see the clouds enshrouding the mountains, as I walk the dirt road outside my house, and the way the wind feels and sounds and smells takes me there and it stings just a little.

    The MRI results floored me. I’d been feeling good and climbing near my normal level, albeit in the gym and with half an arm. “Really?” Dr. Hackett said over the phone, “You must have a pretty high toughness factor, because…” and he proceeded to describe the structural trainwreck of my shoulder, stuff that will not fix itself. The supraspinatus (of the rotator cuff) is hanging on by threads, its tendon torn through 80–90% on the humerus side, while the labrum (the gasket-like thing that primarily stabilizes the joint) is hanging off the shoulder, torn nearly 270 degrees of its circumference.

    I’ve never thought of myself as injury prone.

    [Photo: Cordes collection]

    Continue reading "Fighting Forty (pt.2) - Knives, luck, and scars " »

    Fighting Forty - Part One

    It's tough to say who's been getting more exercise lately, Kelly Cordes or his insurance policy. TCL regulars might remember his recent injury, a dislocation he wrote about back in October. As the surgery date approaches, Kelly's found himself in a pensive mood. Today we offer the first in a multi-part series where our hero takes a look at the myths, the excuses, and the stark realities that come with fighting the big four-oh. -Ed
     
    Halvorson - kc bugs Lights flashed and sounds clicked, buzzed and snapped in an eerie mash inside the claustrophobic rave party simulator otherwise known as an MRI machine. I thought of avalanches, and panic struck. Breathe, relax, hold still, if you were buried in snow and tragically not killed by the trauma, could you be at peace in those suffocating moments, grateful for everything you had?

    Freak accident. Again. Some bad luck, too, but people mutter this “getting old” bullshit and it drives me nuts. It drives me nuts because I think it’s usually an excuse people use to justify having spent the last 20 years neglecting their bodies, and they want some reason to continue doing so. I fight against that very thing because I love what I do. But I will admit that I’ve been searching for some explanation as to what the hell is going on with me – since February I’ve destroyed my leg, smashed my face, and now wrecked my shoulder. I don’t think it’s as simple as some stupid number, though, no matter who says it.

    And damn, I don’t like tight spaces. But the MRI had to be done for my shoulder. “Had” even whirls my mental cuisinart because it’s far from life-and-death, and people in far worse situations get far less. Despite my lower-than-average income, I’m extremely privileged simply to have health insurance.

    How did I get so lucky?

    [Another climb, a little more luck: Sunrise over the Bugaboos, en route to the South Howser Tower, August 2009. Moments before, just below the Howser Col, I grabbed a car-sized boulder that shifted and fell toward me, but in a split-second of lucky angles and reactions, I leapt and danced out of the way and we laughed it off down toward the route. Photo: Steve Halvorson.]

    Continue reading "Fighting Forty - Part One" »

    Sketchy Kelly Finds His Yellow Belly

    Kc - safety kelly_2290(LR) [Ed Note: Kelly lets us write the title, so of course we're going to take a chance to tease him. And it goes without saying, but we'll say it anyways for all those bone-heads out there who are too-cool for school: there's nothing yella-bellied about protecting your skull. Wearing a helmet is more than a fine idea, it should be regular practice.Yes, people wearing climbing helmets can still get their pictures into catalogs and magazines. So don't be too cool for your own good, or you might end up looking like this guy.]

    Who says you can’t reinvent yourself? Just because I used to be known as “Sketchy Kelly,” and just because I recently made the safest form of climbing as dangerous as possible, when I flipped upside down on an overhanging sport climb and used my head and face as a battering ram, that doesn’t mean I can’t become “Safety Kelly.” Never mind the black eye with a scar above, the five-inch scab on my scalp, sliced finger, surgical scar in my spine plus four more in my leg, and the tequila-induced banter about Disaster Style. Appearances can be misleading.

    After my faceplant, Tommy had left me a funny phone message, reminding me that I’m definitely bad at falling, and we need to have some “falling classes.” Sounded good to me. Obviously I need it. So soon after, Tommy, my friend Craig and I returned to the crag. On the approach I tried to explain to how it happened, and Tommy did the same as a couple of other friends who sport climb a bunch: He got this confused look, said he didn’t really understand, shook his head, and said there’s no way that could ever happen again. Still, scaredy Safety Kelly now wears his helmet every time, even sport climbing, even on top rope. (At least for now.) A little overboard, sure, but maybe it’ll help balance things out. Hell, the way I’ve been going, maybe I should wear it walking to the mailbox, to the grocery store, to the liquor store (not a bad idea)…. Safety Kelly, baby.

    We unpacked our packs and warmed-up. I led a moderate slab first, then we pulled the rope and Craig re-led. Tommy waited patiently, declining a lap. Fair enough, much in the way I probably wouldn’t bother warming-up on 5.4. He’d probably warm-up on the .12a in the wickedly overhung alcove area.

    “Do you guys wanna do that one?” he asked of the .12a. We shrugged. “’Cause if not, if you don’t mind maybe I’ll warm-up on the .13a.”

    Now this is just ridiculous in my world. Who the hell warms-up on .13a? (Lots of people, I guess, from pre-teens these days to the kid serving your coffee down in Boulder, to Tommy and his ilk – but some of us live in different universes.)

    [The new and improved Safety Kelly, ready for some serious top-roping action. Photo: Craig Scariot]

    Continue reading "Sketchy Kelly Finds His Yellow Belly" »

    American Alpine Journal Gems from 2010

    Kc - AAJ_2368 Climbing reports come in all forms. Some basic, simply giving the key details of a climb. Some tell a story, sometimes understated and sometimes overstated, sometimes hilarious and outrageous. And occasionally we stumble upon absolutely beautiful stories.

    I’m mostly talking about reports we receive for the American Alpine Journal, which is a yearly tome reporting the big new routes worldwide. It’s been published annually since 1929, and, for the last 10 years, I’ve been one of the editors. We strive for first-hand accounts from the climbers themselves, which generally makes for honest and authentic reporting.

    Again, it’s almost all big new routes – you won’t find reports from cragging or from tourists getting dragged up Everest. The reports range from major climbs that everyone knows about, to the less-technical but way remote and exploratory, to plenty of super badass climbs that went otherwise unreported (side note: in case you didn’t already know, there are a ton of low-key, under-the-radar, hard-men and -women out there).

    I’ve read thousands of reports in the last 10 years, and every year I make mental notes of my favorites. We on the editorial staff (all two-to-four of us, depending on the year…) call these “AAJ Gems.” They’re some of the best reports anywhere, I think, some of the best storytelling and best writing, often written by people you’ve never heard of.

    Jeff My vote for Gem of the year in the AAJ 2010 (which just came out and was recently mailed to AAC members and contributors) goes to someone many of us already know from the film 180 South: Jeff Johnson.

    [Top right: The 2010 AAJ. Photo: Kelly Cordes. Right: Jeff Johnson, courtesy Woodshed Films]

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    The Princess Cruise - Kate Rutherford and Madaleine Sorkin Free El Cap's Freerider

    20100625 FreeRider 2512

    I have approximately 30 bruises, I tried to count them but some blend together, and five gobbles (cuts or abrasions from the rock): one on the ankle, one on each shoulder, a small one on my hand, and a tiny one on my wrist. I feel like I fared pretty well on that huge physical endeavor called Free Rider.

    Editor's note: Patagonia ambassador Kate Rutherford and Madaleine Sorkin recently spent five days climbing The Freerider (VI 5.12+), a 3,000ft. route on the Southwest face of El Capitan. Kate shares her take on the climb here with photographs by haul bag maestro, Mikey Schaefer.

    Five years ago, I thought freeing El Cap was an impossible goal. The huge scale, logistics, and physicality of freeing a big wall seemed beyond me. Over the years climbing started feeling easier, I spent more time on big routes, and Madaleine and I built up our endurance together on long routes like Moonlight and the Northwest Face of Half Dome. Alpine climbing in Patagonia helped me understand huge objectives, and I learned to break down my intimidation by just focusing on one pitch at a time, just doing the task at hand.

    Continue reading "The Princess Cruise - Kate Rutherford and Madaleine Sorkin Free El Cap's Freerider" »

    Vikings of the Vertical Set Sail for Greenland's Big Walls

    DSC_0023Patagonia Rock Climbing Ambassadors Nico Favresse and Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll, together with Nico's brother Olivier, photographer Ben Ditto, and Bob Shepton (their esteemed sailboat captain) set off on their big summer expedition just over a week ago. You can find regular updates on their partner site Xpedition.be. For those not yet familiar with their unique trip logistics - or their penchant for bringing musical instruments along on their climbs - here's Nico's first post from the voyage (below). Stay tuned for more updates, including special musical jams beamed to us from the big walls:

    _______________________

    That’s it! We are super psyched to be going to Greenland in a few days. No long walk-in approaches this time (last expedition in Baffin Island we walked almost 600km in total) We’re going to be approaching some remote virgin big walls located on the west coast of Greenland by sailboat (basically straight across from Baffin Island).

    According to our sources there should be a huge amount of unclimbed walls in this area. The sailboat will be our base camp/music studio and means of travel and exploration. Our adventure will not only include the climbing but also the sailing since we will have to sail trough the icebergs and all the way back across the Atlantic to Europe afterwards.

    The spirit of adventure and our motivation to embark on an expedition with a smaller ecological impact and more by fair means, lead us to the idea to combine a climbing expedition with a sail boat for transportation. With a bit of research, Greenland seemed the perfect destination for this adventure.

    [The impossible wall - a virgin big wall. Photo: Bob Shepton]

    Continue reading "Vikings of the Vertical Set Sail for Greenland's Big Walls" »

    Returning to the Rock - Kitty Calhoun enjoys an El Cap Comeback

    Comebackn Informal or vb come back (intr. adverb)
       1. a return to a former position, status,etc.
       2. a return or response, esp. recriminatory
       3. To become fashionable again

    I am just leaving the belay on Pitch 5 of Aurora (5.8, A4), a steep, difficult aid line on El Cap. It has been five years since I was last on El Cap, and the experience had left me crippled. The arduous hauling and long descent with the haulbag “pig” was the last straw for my hips, eroded by a career as an alpinist and mountain guide with a passion for running. Two years later, both hips were resurfaced with metal and now, hopefully, I am “good to go.” I am about to clean the pitch distinctly noted as “no fun” on the Supertopo. It takes me way too long to clean the pitch but both my partner and I are patient and we carry on.

      Kitty @ 1st bivy-1
    [Kitty at belay station, before cleaning the "no fun" pitch. Photo: Kate Robertson]

    Kate Robertson loves equipment, so naturally she was drawn to ice climbing and it was in Ouray last winter that I met her. I expressed a secret desire to see if I could return to unfinished goals and a life of adventure. I am afraid of losing my mental and physical “edge” if I have to live with “restricted activities” - I am just not ready to lower the bar. So plans were hatched.

    Editor's note: Patagonia Alpine Climbing ambassador Kitty Calhoun began climbing in her home state of South Carolina at the age of eighteen, and started ice climbing in college. Kitty's climbing has taken her from Alaska to the Andes and the Himalaya. She led successful expedition to the West Pillar of Makalu and put up a new route on the West face of Middle Triple Peak in Alaska. Kitty has worked extensively with the Castleton Tower Preservation Initiative and "Chicks with Picks," a series of women's-only ice climbing clinics. She lives in Castle Valley, Utah when she is not out on the road. When asked what she would like people to know about her, she smiles and says, "I'm a mom and a storyteller."

    Continue reading "Returning to the Rock - Kitty Calhoun enjoys an El Cap Comeback" »

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