Carbondale climber: It’s about the mountains
CARBONDALE – Carbondale native Hayden Kennedy has already established himself as a world-class climber at age 22, but he hasn’t let it go to his head.
In little more than a year, Kennedy solved a puzzle on a route regarded by climbers as probably the toughest in the famed Indian Creek area south of Moab. He spent time climbing some of the toughest peaks in the world in the Himalayas of Pakistan. He topped it off with Jason Kruk to become the first team to climb the southeast ridge of Cerro Torre in Patagonia by fair means.
Kennedy talked about his journeys Thursday evening at a presentation during the opening of the 5Point Film Festival, a creation of his mom, Julie Kennedy. The film festival, in its fifth year, has firmly entrenched Carbondale on the map of the outdoor industry and among adventure filmmakers.
Hayden wasn’t presenting just because he is Julie’s son. He’s representative of the world-class outdoor athletes the festival attracts to talk about their experiences.
Kennedy was self-effacing. He showed a slide of himself barely clothed and joked that his twig-size arms are sure to attract women.
He was humble. He credited his parents and growing up in the environment of Carbondale and the Roaring Fork Valley for making him the person he is. His dad, Michael Kennedy, is also a world-class climber and former editor and owner of Climbing magazine.
Most of all, Hayden Kennedy was respectful of the mountains. His presentation made it clear he doesn’t see himself as a conqueror of peaks but as someone blessed with the skills to be able to tackle some of the toughest routes up the toughest mountains in the world.
Proof in point was he and Kruk’s adventure in January on Cerro Torre, an incredibly steep peak called the “queen” of Patagonia by Kennedy.
“Every time you look at it, it takes your breath away,” he said.
It also has an interesting history filled with controversy. Italian mountaineer Cesare Maestri claimed he reached the summit via the north face with another climber in 1959. His partner died on the descent. The climbing community didn’t believe Maestri’s story that they made the summit. He was labeled a “liar,” Kennedy said.
“Ten years later, Maestri came back and came back with a vengeance,” Kennedy said. He was determined to climb the southeast ridge, and he brought along “a very interesting piece of equipment.” He used a gas-powered compressor to punch more than 400 bolts into the mountain. Kennedy showed a slide of the compressor still anchored onto the steep face of the mountain.
“He kind of wanted to desecrate this mountain because it had caused him so much turmoil and problems,” Kennedy said.
The “Compressor Route” has become the standard route up Cerro Torre. Kennedy and Kruk were inspired to find out if the route could be climbed without Maestri’s bolts.
They avoided Maestri’s bolt ladders, mostly free climbing. For safety, they clipped only five bolts placed by climbers other than Maestri. Hard work and perfect weather allowed them to reach the summit.
“It was a dream come true,” Kennedy said. “It’s like when you’re a kid and your favorite baseball player gives you his baseball bat. You’re just beyond psyched.”
On the summit, they had a “morale debate” about what to do with Maestri’s bolts – a debate that’s churned in the alpine climbing community for more than 40 years. There has been no consensus.
“There’s never been a democracy in climbing, and that’s why a lot of us climbers love it,” Kennedy said. “It’s kind of a rebel sport in some sense.”
They decided, while on the summit, to “take out” a good portion of Maestri’s bolt ladders. They chopped out roughly 140 bolts. Some climbers were mad; others were happy.
“At the end, it doesn’t really matter. We made this decision,” Kennedy said. “We wanted to give respect back to Cerro Torre.”
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Overall state champions in high school skiing are determined by combining results from Alpine and Nordic. Aspen swept both the boys and girls state titles in 2020, just as they did in 2018. The AHS boys also won the state title in 2019, while the girls finished as the state runner-up.