Kelly Cordes

Kelly specializes in margaritas and maximizing outdoor time. This minimalism influences his climbing, which includes new alpine-style routes in Alaska, Peru, Patagonia and Pakistan. Professionally, a stint at Pizza Hut (flexible hours, free leftovers) led to years of shack dwelling, which, somehow, led to a living climbing, writing and working for Patagonia’s field testing department. He is the author of The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre.

Crash-Test Dummy

Who gets hypothermia on purpose? This guy.

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
Into the Whiteout: Climbing with Simon Richardson in Scotland

It had been a while. I don’t climb in weather like this. I stay inside and drink coffee. But I dutifully marched through the whiteout, following Simon as he navigated by compass toward the highland plateau of Cairn Gorm. He was searching for a particular block of rock, from which we would rappel into nowhere…

Kelly Cordes
7 Minuten Lesezeit
Sometimes More Than a Game: On Climbing Responsibly

When I think about climbing, I don’t think about summits. I see serrated ridgelines rising and falling between earth and sky, and sunlight slipping between spires, casting the shadows of giants onto rubble-strewn rivers of ice below, curving, moving, bending with the passage of time. I remember my partners and I, roped together with no…

Kelly Cordes
2 Minuten Lesezeit
Excerpt from “The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre” by Kelly Cordes

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…

Kelly Cordes
7 Minuten Lesezeit
Tying the Room Together – 2014 American Alpine Club Annual Benefit, featuring Yvon Chouinard

“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…

Kelly Cordes
6 Minuten Lesezeit
Colin Haley’s Photos of Climbing Season in Patagonia: “Patagonia Vertical,” the Book

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…

Kelly Cordes
5 Minuten Lesezeit
Colin Haley’s Photos of Climbing Season in Patagonia: What We Carry

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…

Kelly Cordes
7 Minuten Lesezeit
Colin Haley’s Photos of Climbing Season in Patagonia: Season Goals

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.…

Kelly Cordes
9 Minuten Lesezeit
The Last Ride of a Midlife-Crisis Mullet

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,…

Kelly Cordes
5 Minuten Lesezeit
On Cerro Torre: A Case Study in Human Behavior, Ideals and Actions

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…

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
Notes from Squamish

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…

Kelly Cordes
5 Minuten Lesezeit
Going Monk: Channeling Zoolander on a Climb

I gotta dig down, I gotta go monk. Ever seen Zoolander? Of course you have. Me, too – about a hundred times. It’s a hilarious spoof on the world of male modeling, and there’s that classic scene of the “walk-off” challenge when, between rounds, Hansel digs deep and pulls out what’s needed to win the…

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
Returning to Climb in Alaska, First Class

Dude at curbside didn’t budge from his chair. Gave me a bored look. “Can you take my bags?” I asked. He sighed. “How much they weigh?” “‘Bout 65 pounds each. I already checked ’em in online.” “Still gotta take ’em inside,” he said, barely moving. “They’re too heavy.” “You sure? Because I’m allowed three 70-pound…

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
Captain Bumbly and the Hammershark

Dammit Hammershark, I mumbled as CFS and I began rapping from Mammoth Terrace – 10 pitches up El Cap – to the ground, in the dark. Someone had forgotten our food bag. Granted, Hammershark had nothing to do with it, but he was outvoted. (We had to blame someone.) CFS and I were the last…

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
The Free Triple: Tommy Caldwell & Alex Honnold Free Climb Mt. Watkins, El Cap & Half Dome in 21:15

“The best thing about screwing up,” I said, speaking from a wealth of experience, “is that you can only improve from here.” Tommy had just forgotten his climbing shoes. He and Alex Honnold – a climbing dream-team if there ever was – were 45 minutes into the hike for their first climb in an utterly audacious Yosemite linkup: the…

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
How Climbing Rumors Start: A Story from Rocky Mountain National Park

“I hear Tommy had to carry you out of the Park the other night,” the Danimal said over the phone. “Carried ya in his strong arms like Kevin Costner with Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard.” Dammit. So this is how rumors get started. Rewind. First, last weekend, me and my special lady friend (SLF) did this: Pretty nice little Saturday,…

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
Climbing in Patagonia with Jim Donini: Birdwatching (Part Four)

In early 2009, Kelly took a trip to Northern Chilean Patagonia with climbing legend Jim Donini. Here, Kelly revisits his notes from an adventure with Jim. This is the final part of a series of short posts from their trip. Click to read the first, second and third. Birdwatching As we start down from the top of the snow…

Kelly Cordes
3 Minuten Lesezeit
Are Climbers Selling Out?

Dave Graham wasn’t holding back at the Outlook. For those who don’t know, Graham is one of the best rock climbers to come along in the last decade. We were guests on a live on-stage radio show, by ClimbTalk, at the Outlook Hotel and Bar in Boulder last Monday. The various guests talked usual climber-talk,…

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
Climbing in Patagonia with Jim Donini: Porch Angles (Part Two)

In early 2009, Kelly took a trip to Northern Chilean Patagonia with climbing legend Jim Donini. Here, Kelly revisits his notes from an adventure with Jim. This is the second in a series of short posts from their trip. Read the first here. Porch Angles Just before dark, utterly worked at the decidedly unimpressive altitude of…

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
Climbing in Patagonia with Jim Donini: Entry Fee (Part One)

In early 2009, Kelly took a trip to Northern Chilean Patagonia with climbing legend Jim Donini. Here, Kelly revisits his notes from an adventure with Jim. This is the first in a series of short posts from their trip. Entry Fee I’ll be damned, the old man was right. Chilean friends universally flashed doubtful looks…

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
How Kelly Cordes’s Mullet Ended Up in The New York F*%king Times

Silence. So rare, so nice. Four recent days of disconnected bliss – from the e-world, that is. But fully connected in more natural ways, like with climbing, food, friends, a river and beer. My only reading was on paper, not on a screen. It was nice, anyway, until a leisurely check of my phone messages upon our…

Kelly Cordes
5 Minuten Lesezeit
Skimo in a Suit

Bang. The gun went off. I was wearing a suit. First time in a couple decades or more (for the suit, not the gun). All black, like Johnny Cash. But I wasn’t robbing a train or singing the Folsom Prison Blues; I was doing a randonee ski race. Don’t think I’ve done a formal race in…

Kelly Cordes
5 Minuten Lesezeit
Cerro Torre Controversy: Get Rid of Compressors Already

Seems most of us have moved on from the latest climbing world drama. Thank god. So I’ll sneak-in a quick suggestion that nobody can disagree with: Put the compressor in a museum. Uh-oh. I just remembered that this is climbing. And this is the Internet. I should revise my assertion: nobody reasonable could possibly argue…

Kelly Cordes
3 Minuten Lesezeit
Miscellaneous Thoughts on National Margarita Day

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…

Kelly Cordes
6 Minuten Lesezeit
Explaining the Controversy on Cerro Torre

Late afternoon January 16, Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk sat on the summit of Cerro Torre, making a decision. Backup. For starters, let’s be clear: None of us has an inalienable right to summit anything. If you aren’t capable of climbing a peak after a manmade path has been removed, nothing has been stolen from…

Kelly Cordes
7 Minuten Lesezeit
A Pilot’s Photos and Stories from Alaska’s Lost Coast

Wolf, bear, human – in August 2010 Cameron Lawson and Brett DeWoody took a wild, 350-mile bicycle and packraft journey from Yukutat to Cordova, along Alaska’s “Lost Coast,” following bear and wolf tracks, navigating heinous brush and swollen river deltas, engaging in true wilderness under their own power. Lawson, a photographer and a pilot, had…

Kelly Cordes
3 Minuten Lesezeit
Lines of Eleven

Note: On this blog in 2011 I wrote over 30,000 words in 40 original blog posts (to TCL readers, I apologize for the resultant drop in your IQ). I also edited and introduced another seven posts from other authors, and wrote a little on my personal blog (where I put my inappropriate rants). So I…

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
The No Resolution Resolution

“What’s your New Year’s Resolution?” folks ask. They don’t really ask me, though, because I’m wary of holiday parties (depends on how much booze is there) and go, Huh? Is that like a “five-year plan” or whatever? I heard a person recently talking about how ten is the new five, or something – like now…

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
Kelly Cordes Climbs with a Teen

Mid-morning it hit me for the millionth time: this is ridiculous. Only, at this point in my life I rarely think of it as ridiculous-stupid. More like, ridiculous-ok-fine-so-what, with a chuckle-twist on the side. It was my inaugural day of taking the tools for a walk, 2011, and my friend Artley and I carried packs…

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
Special Places: Hyalite Canyon

Some places seem special, and I can’t always articulate why. I think it’s the smell of the air, the look of the place, the memories it holds. In a sense, Hyalite Canyon, near Bozeman, Montana, one of countless canyons in the American West of similar scale, isn’t extraordinary. Until you begin to unlock its secrets,…

Kelly Cordes
7 Minuten Lesezeit
Being Barney Rubble: Kelly Cordes Climbs with Sonnie Trotter and Alex Honnold

Damn, I thought as I glanced around, I’m like Barney Rubble at a superhero convention. Sonnie Trotter to my left, Alex Honnold to my right. I know what you’re thinking: Did you owe those guys money? Or maybe: Oh, one of those high school intelligence tests, “Which does not fit in this group?” Sonnie is…

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
The Facebookification of Climbing and the Decline of All Things Real—or Not

Tuesday night, November 1, 9:58 p.m., posted on Tommy Caldwell’s Facebook page: “No send tonight. But the craziness of the situation struck me. Trying to climb 5.14 by headlamp during a super intense wind storm. Strangely invigorating. I love the experience but am still overwhelmed by the magnitude of this project.” I’ve often been a…

Kelly Cordes
5 Minuten Lesezeit
Tommy Caldwell: Family Affair on the Dawn Wall

When I see a photo of someone climbing a severely overhanging 5.14 limestone sport route, I marvel at the physical prowess. Amazing. And though I can’t imagine being that good myself, I can see how some people can do it; I can sort of imagine it. At least I can see the holds. But 5.14+…

Kelly Cordes
4 Minuten Lesezeit
Notes from Pakistan – Part 1

I just returned from seven weeks in Pakistan, where I took a few notes: • Getting from the States to Islamabad went smooth as silk. Best airline ever? Emirates. “Baller,” as Hayden put it. Side note: “Baller” is not, as I’d ignorantly guessed, a crude reference. Rather, it originally referred to great basketball players, usually…

Kelly Cordes
5 Minuten Lesezeit
Being a Beginner While Learning to Tango

Early winter in Estes Park, tourist season finally over and the town asleep, I stood in an empty backroom at a local bar. “Tango,” said Jay, “is the dance of passion. It’s a dramatic cat-and-mouse game – teasing back-and-forth, graceful, seductive.” It’s so fun being a beginner. My girlfriend and I soaked up our fifth…

Kelly Cordes
3 Minuten Lesezeit
Picture Story – Exhaustion

Welcome to the first day of Fall, and a fresh installment in our occasional series of posts for the more visually oriented. For a lot of folks, autumn is the time of the last great hurrah. No bugs, perfect weather, decent daylight. Whether it’s a alpine route or long days on the water, this time…

Kelly Cordes
2 Minuten Lesezeit
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