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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
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 minuti di lettura
How Reputations Can Psych You Out of a Climb

We traverse a rare and beautiful band of bullet rock, smooth with long reaches and thirty-foot runouts, the universe dropping away to the valley floor. We’re getting close. Justin continues along the line of weakness, toward the northwest ridge 500 feet below the summit of Mt. Siyeh, Glacier National Park, Montana. For 15 years I…

Kelly Cordes
3 minuti di lettura
Taking Bivies One Night at a Time

The transition to darkness scares me. Fleeting rays of final light linger on the horizon. I stare down thousands of feet, where immense shadows from ice-capped towers overhead cast dark shapes into the valley below. I barely make out the specks of our tents at base camp. A fire starts. Our cook is warm, comfortable,…

Kelly Cordes
3 minuti di lettura
To Suffer Well

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…

Kelly Cordes
4 minuti di lettura
Trad Guy Sporto Tips

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…

Kelly Cordes
3 minuti di lettura
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…

Kelly Cordes
5 minuti di lettura
Finding Something Familiar—in the Outdoors and in Motherhood

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…

Kelly Cordes
3 minuti di lettura
Notes from Ten Sleep

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: • The official name is Ten Sleep. I thought my illiterate friends who pronounce it plural (“Ten Sleeps”) were mere simpletons. I…

Kelly Cordes
5 minuti di lettura
Postcards from Chamonix: Sleep Finale

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…

Kelly Cordes
6 minuti di lettura
Postcard from Chamonix: Wedding Gifts

“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 –…

Kelly Cordes
4 minuti di lettura
Postcard from Chamonix: Totally Casual

“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.,…

Kelly Cordes
4 minuti di lettura
Postcard from Chamonix: Access

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…

Kelly Cordes
4 minuti di lettura
What If There Were a Patagonia Dating Service?

by Kelly Cordes The latest from our friend and frequent contributor, Mr. We have so many ways to connect, and so it brings me great pleasure to present a new idea. We at Patagonia believe that the best connections bring us personal peace and expand our horizons, challenging us as peoples physically, intellectually, spiritually. For…

Kelly Cordes
3 minuti di lettura
The Best Covers of the American Alpine Journal

What makes a good cover? Well, as with most things, that depends. What do you want? Sex appeal? Eye candy? Or are you hoping to convey something more? The story behind the image means something. To me it does, anyway. Since 2000 I’ve been one of the editors of the American Alpine Journal, and we…

Kelly Cordes
4 minuti di lettura
Memorial Day Margarita Recipe

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…

Kelly Cordes
4 minuti di lettura
After an Injury, Trying Really Hard Is a Beautiful Thing

Over the years and all of these injuries, I’ve learned some things about success and failure. I’ve learned that there is one way, indisputable and proven through the ages, to ensure success. You lower your expectations. And so on my first day back climbing two weeks ago, I scanned the Boulder Rock Club for the…

Kelly Cordes
4 minuti di lettura
Five Stars for 5-Point Film Festival

Confession: I don’t usually like film festivals. I like the idea, much like I enjoy seeing live music – at least when it’s good, because then it’s great. Sure, you can listen to a Rolling Stones album, but seeing them live leaves you speechless. Not a great comparison, since at film festivals you’re still watching…

Kelly Cordes
5 minuti di lettura
Good vs. Honesty in the Greg Mortenson Debate

I’ve long had this idealistic notion that the ends don’t justify any means. It’s why I’m a stickler for truthful reporting of climbs. The half-truths, clever omissions and misrepresentations we sometimes see – and I learn about too often in my work – are just different forms of lying, and for what? If you can’t…

Kelly Cordes
4 minuti di lettura
Picture Story: Competency

A photographic exposition, in which the photographer herein pontificates on the significance of sufficient competency in the face of ample conditions . . . -Ed The joys of competency and individuality – The Chief and I seemed to have the latter down pat, anyway. I suppose we delude ourselves, which is part of the beauty…

Kelly Cordes
2 minuti di lettura
Picture Story: Conditions

Another in our occasional series of posts for the more visually oriented. This one goes out to all those lucky enough to charge off the couch and into the unknown without looking back or thinking twice . . . or doing much thinking at all, for that matter. – Ed This photo is from one…

Kelly Cordes
2 minuti di lettura
Remembering Climber Bean Bowers and His Battle with Cancer

Our friend and fellow Patagonia climbing ambassador Bean Bowers just finished his second round of chemotherapy. It all seems so weird, so different. One of the best things about climbing is the feeling of control in unknown, even chaotic environments. I love that. We all do. The most adventuresome among us—people like Bean—inspire with their…

Kelly Cordes
2 minuti di lettura
How Do We Tell Stories About Our Adventures?

The comments got me thinking. I’m talking about the comments on my last post, about adventure and youth. So many shifts, twists, turns, contradictions and evolutions that keep life interesting, and keep adventure and individuality alive. How do these shifts interplay with our desire to share our stories? Several commenters – here and on the…

Kelly Cordes
3 minuti di lettura
Thoughts on Refinement Ascents

While gazing into my navel and pulling out lint the other day, I wondered about adventure. It seems to me that, based on my admittedly unscientific observations of news reports and the ascents I encounter in my American Alpine Journal editorial job, refinement ascents are all the rage. By refinement, I mean something other than…

Kelly Cordes
3 minuti di lettura
Picture Story: Wind

A test of the elements atop the Bishop’s Cap, Glacier National Park, MT, with Justin Woods back in 2009. In early 2010 I destroyed my lower leg, and multiple surgeries later, culminating with several procedures this past Monday by my heroes at the Steadman Clinic, I’m on my way again. Though I might not look…

Kelly Cordes
1 minuti di lettura
No Exposed Bone (and a Margarita Recipe)

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…

Kelly Cordes
4 minuti di lettura
Thinking About Travel Fear on a Trip to Pakistan

I’m excited and worried about my Pakistan trip later this summer. Most people are good people, I think, but still, the world is a dangerous place. Then again, so is sitting on the couch with your seatbelt buckled. What to do? My Pakistan fears have nothing to do with jihadis, and everything to do with…

Kelly Cordes
2 minuti di lettura
A (Totally Unscientific) Search for the Lower 48’s Biggest Rock Faces

Introduction Little compares to Yosemite's El Capitan in majesty and sustained steepness. But contrary to popular lore, it’s not the Lower 48’s biggest rock face. It’s not even the biggest in the Valley – the south face of Mt. Watkins is bigger. Well, maybe. How do you measure? (OK, I feel the urge to crack…

Kelly Cordes
3 minuti di lettura
Fighting Forty (Part 5): One-Year Anniversary

The 5th and final installment in Kelly Cordes' series about perils and pleasures of aging gracefully while slaying stereotypes (the first installments are here:1, 2, 3, and 4). A series of significant injuries – the most recent a severely torn shoulder – forced Kelly to bow out of an exciting trip to Patagonia. In this…

Kelly Cordes
7 minuti di lettura
The Art of Layering for Belaying

Like flocks of swirling swallows or shimmering schools of tropical fish, our customers swoop in with mysteriously synchronized concerns and questions on a regular basis, prompting the need for ready answers. Times like these, nothing would be more handy than magically beaming knowledge out into the ether. Building on his " Another winter climbing tip,…

Kelly Cordes
3 minuti di lettura
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