Episode 7: Hayden Kennedy: Alpine Taliban or Patagonian Custodian™? (Part 2)

Imagine the possibilities?

In Part 2 of my epic interview with Hayden Kennedy, we get to the bottom of the arguments against Jason Kruk and Hayden’s decision to chop the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre. Hayden withers under my pillorying verbal attack, let me tell you. Begging for mercy. I also beg PBR for a sponsorship. Do you hear me? I will do anything for you, my overlords.


24 Replies to “Episode 7: Hayden Kennedy: Alpine Taliban or Patagonian Custodian™? (Part 2)”

  1. This series of episodes is what inspired me to aspire to all the things I want to accomplish and experience. I am so sorry for your loss, I know –but cannot begin to comprehend– how much Hayden meant to you. His legacy will live on in every harrowing ascent, every ethical climb, and every humble introspection.

  2. I think that what Hayden did was the correct thing to do, he made the route follow more of the alpine style of climbing. A couple of my climbing a friends mentioned your podcasts to me last year, but stated listening to them on the drive home from red rock canyon. Great content so far

  3. This controversy reminds me of when Royal Robbins went to chop bolts on “EARLY MORNING”. At first, he was like these guys, “religiously defending El Cap.” But then he found that the quality of the climbing was higher than he expected, and also that “it was an awful lot of work chopping all those damn bolts. In the end, he decided not to continue. I think everyone really respected Royal for his honest reassessment of the situation once he got up there. Possibly these guys could learn from that.

    1. In this case, I think folks have gotten over it in the other way. But I see your point. Chopping bolts is an aggressive move and also an egotistical move, and really, an asshole move. Nevertheless, I dont think HK and JK regret it. At least not yet.

      1. In two days I listened to Part 1 and 2 of Hayden podcast and the hour and a half of Peter Crofts interview. There was a parallel circumstance in this climber’s lives. Croft chose to climb the route according to his style abd ethics while allowing the person who placed a bolt ladder next to a crack system to climb in his style. Croft didn’t feel the need to play God and decide (for everyone) how a route should be climbed. Imagine how deferential Croft would have been had he been climbing in a foreign country. Let the Argentinians decide what they want to do with a historic ascent (albeit very controversial). Didn’t a 30 to 10 vote in favor of leaving the bolts in tact give Kennedy and Kruk a reason to pause and step back?
        Kennedy obviously lived an amazing (and sadly brief) life but I’ll choose Croft’s more respectful approach. “My way or the highway” is usually not going to go over well.

  4. Fantastic set of interviews. Hayden appears to be an insightful and thoughtful man. I’m only 26, but I certainly wouldn’t mistake him for a boy.

    Keep up the great work on the podcast, Chris.

  5. Thanks for getting this out anyway Chris. Hayden is obviously a brilliant climber and kid, but he is just a kid and my view is that this was a naive mistake. It certainly didn’t serve to unify the climbing community.
    I should mention that I do work for Pabst… or whatever else is on sale…
    As a sidenote, reading about this Mudflap Girl in the Grizzer Crik has got me stoked to get off my lazy ass and go climbing again. I’ll let you know how it goes. I hope I don’t have to chop too many bolts… Once I’m back in shape I’m going to go back down to Chaltén and chop that sissy bridge across the Torre River in town and save them all from the sin of their own sloth and moral turpitude. Bridges? Maestri didn’t need no stinking bridges…

    1. I think the distinction to make here is that the compressor route took a face that represents one of the greatest climbing challenges on the planet and defiled it. Removing the bolts preserved this natural challenge and assured that it wouldn’t become reminiscent of the trash heap gaper fest that Everest has become. Unifying the “climbing community” seems far less important than preserving the great challenges that still exist. It’s a tragedy when the worlds greatest mountaineering challenges become the domain of anyone with enough money to bulldoze their way to the top. The bulldozer methods used to fuel egos seem far more naive than preserving one of worlds greatest climbing challenges.

  6. My god… halfway through this thing… just stick the knitting needles in my eyes right now… hipocrasy, empirialism and elitism at it’s best. I could go on forever about what a circle jerk this whole part 2 is.. but for me it boils down to this:

    A) You ‘boys’ had rapped your route and gone home: respect (not ‘Hero’, get over yourself).

    B) You did what you did and wasted all this energy trying to defend this elitist/empirialist bullshit: complete chumps.

    This issue should have been left for the locals of Chaltén to decide. If anyone was in a better position to chop this route it was Rolo, but he didn’t have the nuts and convinced these impressionalbe youngsters to do his dirty work. When Henry Barber was in the Valley he called it the Valley Christian syndrome.

    I’m still listening and I think I’m going to puke… “We did it for Cerro Torre…” How do you know what accpetable practice was before you were even born?

    God, how did Alpinism and our Christian Souls survive so long before these kids came along and saved us all?

    No mention of the Ferrari route, only “the easy way out”? Is that the only route on Cerro Torre?

    “Humility?” Wow…

    Pass me the knitting needles…

    1. Clay,

      Can’t argue with this too much. Elitism, certainly. I do take slight issue with the line “How do you know what accpetable practice was before you were even born?” History is certainly reviewable by subsequent generations. In fact, subsequent generations often have a perspective that can be more sharp than those who were involved. A contemporaneous event to the Compressor Route, the Vietnam War, is an example of something that is far better understood now than it was at the time.

      Thanks for listening. Hope you never found those needles.


  7. Hey Chris,

    Greetings from Canada! Love the podcast man, keep up the great work. I’ve recently relocated from the Canadian Rockies to Toronto and the transition has been rough for my climbing. Although there is still some good climbing to be found around here, its hard to get super psyched. Listening to the Enormocast turns a boring day at work into a psyche-fest of motivation and inspiration to get out regularly for some adventures. You and your guests passion is so obvious and it immediately connects with like minded people who just love to climb.

    Cheers man!

    Ps. Been drinking more pbr than ever before… coincidence?

    1. James,

      Where’d you live in the Rockies? I’m a legend in Canmore (and my own mind)! Glad I can help out with the psyche. I’m only half joking about seeking the PBR sponsorship so keep swilling. If I could just talk to the right person at the right moment…


      1. I lived in Jasper, about 4 hours north of Banff. There is some really great climbing up there that is totally off the radar. Although I’m not quite a legend (outside of my mind), I had some legendary times! Next time I am out that way I will totally check out some of your routes in the Ghost and Canmore!

        Keep working on that sponsorship!

  8. Thank you Chris for nailing down Hayden for a few hours for this. I love the medium of the podcast especially for a topic like this one. Keep it up so I can keep listening!

    1. Thanks, Jeremy. I, too, thought that the topic and format in the HK interview really showed the strengths of the medium in presenting details and emotion. Being able to really go point by point added a lot to the larger conversation. HK told me that a bunch of people came up to him and said they really enjoyed those episodes and were thinking differently about the issue afterwards.

      Keep listening and tell some friends!

  9. Chris,

    That’s an interesting comment about Everest. I had never considered that things might be very different today if the Nepalese government hadn’t commercialized things they way they did. I hear Emily Harrington and Sam Elias are headed over there soon to do a summit climb. Any chance you could get them on the show before (or maybe after would be better) to get their POV about using fixed lines, ladders, etc. to summit the world’s tallest mountain? As climbers with mixed & ice experience, I’m sure they must have mixed emotions about the style used on Everest.

    1. Hey John,

      I guess I was talking out my ass having never been there, but I wasn’t at the fall of Rome, either, but I have opinions about what likely caused it. I look at some old National Goegraphics or read accounts from the 50s and 60s and it was the wild frontier. Now the Chinese have a paved road to basecamp on the Tibetan side, etc. Sam and Emily have left but I certainly know them well enough to have them on the show down the road. They are on the short list, anyway. Not sure how hard they can be on the scene there, though, being part of the TNF machine, ya know?

      I have another buddy leaving for the mountain to do some filming. He might have a better perspective when he gets back.

      Thanks for the comment and the topic ideas.


  10. One thing that never came up was the possible implications for other bolt ladders, say, the last pitch of the Nose. It would be way less clear-cut that what Hayden and Jason did down in Patagonia, but in a lot of ways, many of the same ‘rules’ (if you can call them that!) seem to apply. I’m with what they did down in Patagonia, but not sure how I’d feel about similar situations up on El Cap (or elsewhere).

    1. Patrick,
      Here’s the key bit for me, and this is esoteric, I know, but the intent surrounding the ascent. The Nose was done in a style that was appropriate for the day, and the climbers did their best with the technology of the day. In the end, by all accounts, they were forced to create that bolt ladder. With Maestri and the compressor route, he did not climb as hard as was possible and then use the bolts as a last resort to finalize an otherwise well-done effort, an honest effort. Maestri purposefully and cynically avoided cracks and features. A better analogy would be if the Nose had a bolt ladder 20 meters to the left of the Stove Leg cracks. Instead, Harding et al created pitons that would fit (the actual stove legs) and continued up the “line”.

      The more controversial part of the Nose is the chipped Jardine Traverse. Some say the route has not been freed because of that. Interestingly, Jardine had the very intent of making the Nose a climb for the masses. His intent was to make it attainable for everyone. Had he succeeded, I’m sure we would be at the same point as we are now with the Compressor. Everyone would be happily skipping up the Free Nose, while one line over, some hard men would be scrapping up a new free ascent of the 5.14 variety and grumbling about the use of the chipped route. Those climbing the chipped route would have to know they were faking something, but hey, we get to climb the Nose free so what the hell, right? Jardine was a jerk, but what’s done is done, etc. (Actually chipping to free, and pin scars being “chipping” for me falls in that intent realm, as well.)

      However, we know that this would be antithetical to everything we feel sacred about climbing. Disney World climbing. Everest, circa 2012, actually.

      Anyway, I digress. In the end, I don’t think all bolt ladders are equal. Hell, we’d not even be talking about it if Maestri had simply used bolt ladders to connect features. He skipped features, steered around with bolts, with a 200 lb COMPRESSOR, and it just so happen to be on the mountain that at the time was already considered the last great problem- not some obscure lump in the middle of nowhere.

      There are other bolts in the world that have been placed cynically, unnecessarily for sure. Some get chopped, some don’t, but one thing is not the other and analogy only goes so far to explain.

      Cerro Torre, 400 bolts, a compressor, siege tactics on a line that had been strongly attempted alpine style, and THE OPEN INTENT TO DESECRATE. Those factors combine this way are totally unique. They add up to something WE ALL AGREE IS THE WRONG WAY TO CLIMB.

      Time passes and the route becomes useful so everyone now wants to equivocate.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment, the above rebuttal comes with all due respect.


      1. Awesome rebuttal and all true, Chris. But Donini is correct when he says it is a local issue, whether it is a moral one or not. What would be really cool would be to hear from one of the dissenting voices from El Chaltén.

        1. Perhaps that can be done, the dissenting voices that is. Also, maybe Rolo would come on some day? Or are we tired of this already? Thanks for the conversation.

      2. Chris
        You made a great case for why Maestri’s ascent was shameless (and unlike Harding’s Nose ascent). I would agree, however, it has very little to do, in my opinion, with justifying the bolt chopping by two guys who don’t even live in the country. There are completely separate issues.

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