A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre Of the peak of Cerro Torre, Kelly Cordes has written that the wind is the hunter on Cerro Torre, and the climber is very small prey. What he writes in The Tower bears this out.
|Manufacturer||Published by Patagonia in 2014|
The Tower by Kelly Cordes has created a book about a magnificent killer of a mountain – so challenging to climb that when a team led by Jim Bridwell arrived to make an ascent, everyone bar Bridwell took one look and took off. Eventually, Bridwell ascended with Steve Brewer instead, who had turned up on spec, (Bridwell’s take on climbing; if you’re not scared, you’re not having fun. For him, Cerro Torre would fit the criteria).
Cordes’ history of this remote and storm-ridden Patagonian peak is fascinating and very comprehensive – one can’t fault the diagrams, photos, and timeline – but The Tower offers much more than this. His material is a mixture of narrative and thought-provoking questions about what goes on in climbers’ heads and what is really important in climbing – and also in life. How important is it to be truthful about what you have achieved? Looking at the still-running controversy raised by Maestri and Egger’s claimed ascent of the summit of Cerro Torre in 1959, which was disproved by the Ragno di Lecco Club who had the necessary ice climbing equipment to make it up in 1974, Cordes examines our human need to have heroes to believe in; to this day, some people in the Trentino area of Italy still believe Maestri’s story against all the evidence.
He examines the ideas around climbing being merely a method of getting to the summit however it is done, or whether it is more important to achieve this by fair means, leaving the mountain unscarred. He also looks at the place modern technology – for better or worse – plays in today’s climbing world. In 1970 Maestri, with a team, again attempted the south east ridge of Cerro Torre, taking a steam compressor with him and drilling in four hundred bolts. The summit was not achieved. In 2012 Kennedy and Kruk were the first to reach the summit taking this route. They removed many of the bolts, creating huge disagreement about their action both among climbers worldwide and in El Chalten, the town near Cerro Torre, leading to locals rioting and brief jail time for “vandalism” for the two climbers. This bit of the story is one of the most peculiar accounts I have ever read.
Cordes’ writing ranges between the thorough, and sometimes moving, description of events, and the more lyrical. He describes the mountains as being sacred transcendent places, places of inspiration and consequence where trust and actions and honesty matter. He talks emotively of his own Cerro Torre ascent in 2013, some years after a big climbing injury, when he went to El Chalten with a friend – taking his own full alpine climbing kit just in case. Snatching a sudden window in a bout of terrible weather, they had a tough but rewarding ascent.
Of returning to climbing after his fall, Cordes says: God, how I miss the wildness, the unpredictability, the way my energy moves unencumbered with the mountains…When you fall in love, it’s hard to let go.
I am passionate about mountains but don’t climb them: Cordes gives me much more insight into what draws people to doing it than most climbing writers.
Find The Tower in our webstore here.