Kelly Cordes

KCordes_low-res The Tower_LoRezBOOK DETAILS:
December 2014
Hardcover, 6×9
400 pages, 150 photos

ISBN 9781938340338
$27.95 US / $30.99 CAN

eBook: ISBN 9781938340345
$14.95 US /  $16.50 CAN




Kelly Cordes (Estes Park, CO)

Author of The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre


Stephanie Ridge | | 512-481-7681 | Twitter: @stephanieridge


  • Freelance writer whose bylines include Rock & Ice, Alpinist, and other climbing magazines
  • A former editor of the American Alpine Journal, a publication documenting the world’s most significant climbs
  • Elite alpine climber. Career highlights: First ascent of the Azeem Ridge on Great Trango Tower, Pakistan; First link-up of Tiempos, Perdidos and the upper West Face ice routes on Cerro Torre, Patagonia; First ascent of Personal Jesus on Nevado Ulta, Peru; First ascent of The Trailer Park on London Tower, Alaska; First ascent of Deadbeat, Thunder Mountain, Alaska; First ascent of Ring of Fire, Thunder Mountain, Alaska
  • Alpine Climbing Ambassador and Field-Testing Coordinator for Patagonia
  • His book is a deeply-researched, real-world exploration of the Cerro Torre controversy. It raises fundamental questions like: What role should equipment play in climbing? Who has the right to alter a route, or a mountain? What is the impact of history on our ethics in the mountains? What is the point of alpinism: the summit or the climb?


At the southern tip of Argentina rises a 10,262-foot tower of ice and rock named Cerro Torre. Considered by many the most beautiful—and dramatic mountain—in the world, it draws the finest alpinists from around the globe.

Controversy has swirled around Cerro Torre since 1959, when Italian climber Cesare Maestri claimed its first ascent. His climbing partner died on the descent, and generations of climbers attempting to retrace his route have found only contradictions to his claims. In 1970, enraged by the doubts and obsessed with proving his success, Maestri used a gas-powered air compressor to hammer hundreds of bolts to be used as ladders into Cerro Torre’s flanks.

The Compressor Route became a highly contentious issue in the climbing world—and, in the decades that followed, it became the most popular route on the mountain. In 2012, when two young, idealistic climbers removed many of Maestri’s bolts, the controversy erupted anew.

What role should equipment play in the accomplishments of climbers? Who has the right to alter a route, or a mountain? What is the impact of history on our ethics in the mountains? And, most fundamentally, what is the point of alpinism: the summit or the climb? This chronicle of hubris, heroism, principle, and epic journeys offers a glimpse into the human condition, and explores reasons why some pursue extreme endeavors that at face value have no worth.


  • Why two young climbers’ removal of some old bolts on a mountain ignited a huge controversy
  • Determined to climb: The line between passion and madness
  • How we climb: In an overtly meaningless pursuit, what do our actions say about us?
  • Total freedom: Do what you want, just don’t wreck the place. Is climbing’s self-regulating system sustainable? (And why it works surprisingly well.)
  • The Continuum of External Aids: From free-soloing naked to taking a helicopter to the summit, what comprises acceptable use of equipment in climbing?
  • Matters of Influence and Justification: The gradual acceptance and eventual rejection of the Compressor Route
  • The Impact of a Myth: How Cesare Maestri’s 1959 story forever shaped Cerro Torre
  • A Distant Spire: How Old Patagonia became New Patagonia
  • Reinventing History: Misconceptions about Maestri’s Compressor Route
  • The story behind the story: How layers of history unfolded on a mountain an ocean away
  • The Symbolism of Relics: Can you desecrate a desecration?

Return to experts page

Are You Ready To Go From Author To Influencer?

Schedule your free assessment call now!