Opener

The New Yorker recently ran a painfully funny satirical piece about social media and publishing in the modern age. Yes, it’s mayhem. Time to jump on board. So, I got my Facebook going (hate to admit it, but it’s addictive) and even Twitter (no idea how to use it). Not that chaos is anything new. Reminds me of going climbing, actually, especially the early days back in Missoula, when we knew nothing and threw ourselves at everything. Nobody epitomized the ideal better than The Chief, and somehow I keep returning to a trip we made to the Canadian Rockies…

His dented, pea-green hatchback with its plexiglass side window sped way too fast into the Canadian border patrol station. The interrogation began immediately. No “hello,” no “where you going,” nothing. First words:

“When was the last time you smoked pot?” the woman cop in the booth asked The Chief.

The twitchy redhead, with his scraggly, unkempt beard, long hair and tattered clothes snapped his head to the side.

“Oh, dude. Like, years, man. Years!”

The Chief back at the High-Speed Pod after an epic ascent, and bumbling descent, of the north face of Mt. Edith Cavell, ca 1996.

The Chief back at the High-Speed Pod after an epic ascent, and bumbling descent, of the north face of Mt. Edith Cavell, ca 1996.

God damnit, Chief, I thought, burying my head in my hands.

“Please pull into the port on your left, sir.”

The Chief’s continued, incessant chatter answered the search-guard’s questions before he finished asking them (yes, The Chief had been through this before). The dirty-sock stench wafting from the gear-pile trainwreck in the back of the small car elicited only a sigh. The search cop’s head hurt from the Chief’s ongoing barrage. He just wanted it to stop.

“Well, I guess you’d have to be pretty stupid to bring anything across, eh?” said the guard.

“Yeah, that’s right, man, I mean, look at me! Dude, like, you don’t think I get searched every time I come up here? And another thing—”

“—OK, ok, enough, just…stop. Yeah, eh, so…just be on your way.”

We hopped in the High-Speed Pod and sped up the Icefields Parkway, The Chief not missing a beat.

“See, that was my plan – hey, grab me another beer, will ya? – I knew that he was going to ask about…” and on, and on, and on.

Johnny Cash bellowed through the speakers, competing with our prattle over climbing objectives and the regular sound of cheap beers popping open (this was back when we were all stupider than we are now). We sped north, trying to decide.

A-strain? Exit pitch missing.

GCC? Too big, too far.

Humble Horse? Wait, which one’s Diadem?

Edith Cavell? A 4,000-foot north face, only 5.7. Plus, the guidebook said something like, “A competent party can climb the face comfortably in a day, given an early start from the parking lot.” Competent, early…sounded like us.

We rolled in to the trailhead in the dark and drizzle, low clouds obscuring the face. We set the alarm for 3 a.m., woke at 4:30, stumbled toward the face and promptly got lost. Thirty hours later we were still lost.

And so it continues. When I feel like it, and maybe sometimes when I don’t, I’ll post stories, rants, and random thoughts. Like it or not, the world is changing, no? But maybe some things never do.

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~ by Kelly Cordes on October 21, 2009.

9 Responses to “Opener”

  1. Kelly, It is amazing how past stupidity somehow morphs into timeless and cherished memories. Stories like this are the heart of what climbing is about. The shared folly and the intensity of the connections blundering through the world. It ain’t half as much fun if you can tell someone else about it later. Keep the words flowing- it cheers up at least one old climber.

  2. I meant to write it ain’t half as much fun if you can’t tell someone about it later. The tales keep the climbing world together.

  3. Kelly,

    What can I say, Ann started watching Project Runway on TV and I ended up here!

  4. Kelly, Appropriately enough, your Thursday spam letter got caught in my spam filter, and only today did I make the mistake of finding it. So, when are you going to get to work, eh? But seriously, this was fun as I’m sure your blog-site will be, and I look forward to attempting to keep up with your antics, virtually if not virtuously. But I still won’t be your Facebook friend, no way. Twitter away, I won’t hear you. Cheers, juan

  5. Hey again, Kelly. I see that I’m “logged in as Kelly Cordes.” Yikes! This almost makes me spill my mescal on my keyboard.–juan again

  6. I know that guy and pea green car in the photo and can easily put together that border crossing. Amazing you guys made it over there. Cant wait to read more of the great climbing stories.

  7. Facebook, Twitter and a blog? What did you give up to find all this energy or is it a prescription?

    You have to love those border memories…

  8. Thanks for the comments — yeah, good times for sure. So fun to recall the memories. I can see all of us ex-Missoula guys nodding our heads, laughing at these things.
    Steve, hope I can live up to the bar set by distracting you from Project Runway :).
    And Juan, you bastard! Man, I have to figure out how to keep you and Dougald from having admin privileges here…seems I was logged-in under our alpinebriefs site when I created this blog. Any wordpress.com experts out there? Need to figure out how to fix this. Can’t have my boss logging in as me…I shudder to think of the things he might want to say under my name (insert John’s sinister laugh here).

  9. Thank you! Laughing out Loud, i mean LOL! The Chief…

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