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
Crash-Test Dummy
Crash-Test Dummy
Kelly Cordes

Who gets hypothermia on purpose? This guy.

4 minuti di lettura
Into the Whiteout: Climbing with Simon Richardson in Scotland
Simon navigating toward the block of rock atop the Cairn Gorm plateau. Photo: Kelly Cordes
Into the Whiteout: Climbing with Simon Richardson in Scotland
Kelly Cordes

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…

7 minuti di lettura
Sometimes More Than a Game: On Climbing Responsibly
After hard crimping right off the glacier, Kate Rutherford sinks her fingers into the climbing above. Pointe Adolphe Rey, Chamonix, France. Photo: Bernd Zeugswetter
Sometimes More Than a Game: On Climbing Responsibly
Kelly Cordes

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…

2 minuti di lettura
Excerpt from “The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre” by Kelly Cordes
Excerpt from “The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre” by Kelly Cordes
Excerpt from “The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre” by Kelly Cordes
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…

7 minuti di lettura
Tying the Room Together – 2014 American Alpine Club Annual Benefit, featuring Yvon Chouinard
Tying the Room Together – 2014 American Alpine Club Annual Benefit, featuring Yvon Chouinard
Tying the Room Together – 2014 American Alpine Club Annual Benefit, featuring Yvon Chouinard
Kelly Cordes

“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…

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

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…

5 minuti di lettura
What We Carry
What We Carry
What We Carry
Kelly Cordes

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…

7 minuti di lettura
Colin Haley’s Photos of Climbing Season in Patagonia: Season Goals
Colin Haley’s Photos of Climbing Season in Patagonia: Season Goals
Colin Haley’s Photos of Climbing Season in Patagonia: Season Goals
Kelly Cordes

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.…

9 minuti di lettura
The Last Ride of a Midlife-Crisis Mullet
The Last Ride of a Midlife-Crisis Mullet
The Last Ride of a Midlife-Crisis Mullet
Kelly Cordes

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,…

5 minuti di lettura
On Cerro Torre: A Case Study in Human Behavior, Ideals and Actions
On Cerro Torre: A Case Study in Human Behavior, Ideals and Actions
On Cerro Torre: A Case Study in Human Behavior, Ideals and Actions
Kelly Cordes

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…

4 minuti di lettura
Notes from Squamish
Notes from Squamish
Notes from Squamish
Kelly Cordes

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…

5 minuti di lettura
Going Monk: Channeling Zoolander on a Climb
Going Monk: Channeling Zoolander on a Climb
Going Monk: Channeling Zoolander on a Climb
Kelly Cordes

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…

4 minuti di lettura
Returning to Climb in Alaska, First Class
Returning to Climb in Alaska, First Class
Returning to Climb in Alaska, First Class
Kelly Cordes

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…

4 minuti di lettura
Captain Bumbly and the Hammershark
Captain Bumbly and the Hammershark
Captain Bumbly and the Hammershark
Kelly Cordes

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…

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

“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…

4 minuti di lettura
How Climbing Rumors Start: A Story from Rocky Mountain National Park
How Climbing Rumors Start: A Story from Rocky Mountain National Park
How Climbing Rumors Start: A Story from Rocky Mountain National Park
Kelly Cordes

“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,…

4 minuti di lettura
Climbing in Patagonia with Jim Donini: Birdwatching (Part Four)
Climbing in Patagonia with Jim Donini: Birdwatching (Part Four)
Climbing in Patagonia with Jim Donini: Birdwatching (Part Four)
Kelly Cordes

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…

3 minuti di lettura
Are Climbers Selling Out?
Are Climbers Selling Out?
Are Climbers Selling Out?
Kelly Cordes

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,…

4 minuti di lettura
Climbing in Patagonia with Jim Donini: Porch Angles (Part Two)
Climbing in Patagonia with Jim Donini: Porch Angles (Part Two)
Climbing in Patagonia with Jim Donini: Porch Angles (Part Two)
Kelly Cordes

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…

4 minuti di lettura
Climbing in Patagonia with Jim Donini: Entry Fee (Part One)
Climbing in Patagonia with Jim Donini: Entry Fee (Part One)
Climbing in Patagonia with Jim Donini: Entry Fee (Part One)
Kelly Cordes

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…

4 minuti di lettura
How Kelly Cordes’s Mullet Ended Up in The New York F*%king Times
How Kelly Cordes’s Mullet Ended Up in The New York F*%king Times
How Kelly Cordes’s Mullet Ended Up in The New York F*%king Times
Kelly Cordes

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…

5 minuti di lettura
Skimo in a Suit
Skimo in a Suit
Skimo in a Suit
Kelly Cordes

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…

5 minuti di lettura
Cerro Torre Controversy: Get Rid of Compressors Already
Cerro Torre Controversy: Get Rid of Compressors Already
Cerro Torre Controversy: Get Rid of Compressors Already
Kelly Cordes

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…

3 minuti di lettura
Miscellaneous Thoughts on National Margarita Day
Miscellaneous Thoughts on National Margarita Day
Miscellaneous Thoughts on National Margarita Day
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…

6 minuti di lettura
Explaining the Controversy on Cerro Torre
Explaining the Controversy on Cerro Torre
Explaining the Controversy on Cerro Torre
Kelly Cordes

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…

7 minuti di lettura
A Pilot’s Photos and Stories from Alaska’s Lost Coast
A Pilot’s Photos and Stories from Alaska’s Lost Coast
A Pilot’s Photos and Stories from Alaska’s Lost Coast
Kelly Cordes

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…

3 minuti di lettura
Lines of Eleven
Lines of Eleven
Lines of Eleven
Kelly Cordes

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…

4 minuti di lettura
The No Resolution Resolution
The No Resolution Resolution
The No Resolution Resolution
Kelly Cordes

“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…

4 minuti di lettura
Kelly Cordes Climbs with a Teen
Kelly Cordes Climbs with a Teen
Kelly Cordes Climbs with a Teen
Kelly Cordes

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…

4 minuti di lettura
Special Places: Hyalite Canyon
Special Places: Hyalite Canyon
Special Places: Hyalite Canyon
Kelly Cordes

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,…

7 minuti di lettura
Being Barney Rubble: Kelly Cordes Climbs with Sonnie Trotter and Alex Honnold
Being Barney Rubble: Kelly Cordes Climbs with Sonnie Trotter and Alex Honnold
Being Barney Rubble: Kelly Cordes Climbs with Sonnie Trotter and Alex Honnold
Kelly Cordes

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…

4 minuti di lettura
The Facebookification of Climbing and the Decline of All Things Real—or Not
The Facebookification of Climbing and the Decline of All Things Real—or Not
The Facebookification of Climbing and the Decline of All Things Real—or Not
Kelly Cordes

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…

5 minuti di lettura
Tommy Caldwell: Family Affair on the Dawn Wall
Tommy Caldwell: Family Affair on the Dawn Wall
Tommy Caldwell: Family Affair on the Dawn Wall
Kelly Cordes

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+…

4 minuti di lettura
Notes from Pakistan – Part 1
Notes from Pakistan – Part 1
Notes from Pakistan – Part 1
Kelly Cordes

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…

5 minuti di lettura
Being a Beginner While Learning to Tango
Being a Beginner While Learning to Tango
Being a Beginner While Learning to Tango
Kelly Cordes

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…

3 minuti di lettura
Picture Story – Exhaustion
Picture Story – Exhaustion
Picture Story – Exhaustion
Kelly Cordes

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…

2 minuti di lettura
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