Cerro Torre: Resurrection of the Impossible
“Impossible”: it doesn’t exist anymore. The dragon is dead, poisoned, and the hero Siegfried is unemployed. Not anyone can work on a rock face, using tools to bend it to his own idea of possibility.
Some people foresaw this a while ago, but they went on drilling, both on direct routes and on other climbs, until the lost the taste for climbing: why dare, why gamble, when you can proceed in perfect safety? And so they become the prophets of the direttissima: “Don’t waste your time on classic routes – learn to drill, learn to use your equipment. Be cunning: If you want to be successful, use every means you can get round the mountain. The era of direttissima has barely begun: every peak awaits its plumbline route. There’s no rush, for a mountain can’t run away – nor can it defend itself.”
I have little of consequence to add to what has been written about this peak, I but I add my support for what Hayden and Jason. First and foremost for climbing the peak by fair means via what has been called the Compressor Route, and second for chopping the bolts.
There is no controversy on this topic. There are those who write, and there are those who climb. Those who do both have spoken:
As with great art, great climbs are not made by consensus. So in a self-regulated world where the participants broadly cite expression, anarchy and freedom as fundamental values – as they have since climbing began – who decides what to do with a controversial line of bolts?
Well, not those sitting on their asses, frothing at their keyboards about how Hayden and Jason were too young to make such a decision, insisting that they should have been consulted first, as if they’re owed something and could then grant or deny a has-been-never-was web-forum-climber stamp of approval. No, not them. And not those unable or unwilling to appreciate Cerro Torre on its own terms, or the ignorant who flew into a frenzy over a mountain, now somewhat restored, that they know nothing about. Nor those, like me, who sit from the comforts of home and agree with the removal.
No, the ones who got to decide were the ones with the courage and the skill to unravel and accept the mysteries of Cerro Torre’s spectacular southeast ridge.
One afternoon three weeks ago, those two sat talking on Cerro Torre’s summit, and Hayden said to Jason, “All of our heroes have been talking about this for 40 years. Let’s do it.”
The Removal of Cesare Maestri’s Bolt Ladders on Cerro Torre by Colin Haley
Sorry to be brutally honest, but I simply don’t have respect for liars. Maestri told the biggest lie in the history of climbing for the gain of his own reputation. Alpine climbing often relies on the honor system, and unfortunately people like Maestri ruin the system of honesty for all of us. Dishonesty goes beyond the simple game of besting one’s competition – consider for a moment that Maestri’s drive to be labeled the winner was so great that he didn’t even have the decency to tell Toni Egger’s mother and sister the true circumstances of how Toni died in the mountains.
The fact that Maestri also vengefully showed the world the most heavy-handed climbing style it has ever seen – the epitome of the “murder of the impossible” – doesn’t help him gain respect.
If Maestri were to come clean in his old age, and tell the world what actually happened during his 1959 Cerro Torre attempt, it would probably require more courage than any climb ever demanded of him.
Who committed the act of violence against Cerro Torre? Maestri, by installing the bolts, or us, by removing them?
As long as the hardware remained it was justification for the unreasonable use of bolts by others. We are part of the next generation, the young group of aspiring alpinists. This is a statement we felt other young alpinists needed to hear.
Our real feelings were confirmed by three young Argentine climbers we passed on the Torre Glacier while hiking out of the range. Their eyes lit up as they told us how inspired they were to climb on Cerro Torre now, to train harder, to be better. To rise up to the challenge that has been restored to the mountain. Two days later they would make a rare ascent of Aguja Standhardt, via Festerville. Respect.
A bunch of people climbed the Compressor Route and had fun, but now it’s a new era for Cerro Torre. Days after our ascent, young, talented Austrian alpinists, David Lama and Peter Ortner free-climbed their own variation on the Southeast Ridge. This news was greatly inspirational to Hayden and I, and is further proof that the bolts were unnecessary.
It would be hard to claim more authority than Comesana, who, upon hearing the news of our actions responded:
“In my name and the others that resign the dream to climb for first this fantastic mountain I claim for our rights to delete from the walls of Cerro Torre all the remainings – compressor inclusive – of the rape made by Maestri in the ’70’s and I think that no one – for any reason – can have more rights than ours.”
—Jason Kruk, Squamish, BC
—Hayden Kennedy, Carbondale, Colorado
“Patagonia’s Cerro Torre Gets the Chop: Maestri Unbolted (Photos)” – A well-balanced article on the recent events by climbing author and historian David Roberts, and Kathryn Sall. Via the Cleanest Line