Even if you’re not a climber, this is a fascinating story. It’s got all the elements of a good tale — a strong cast of characters, a stunning setting, tragedy and many complicated plot twists.
Once upon a time, an Italian named Casare Maestri and an Austrian called Toni Egger climbed one of the world’s most difficult peaks, Patagonia’s Cerro Torre, in 1959. Their success was marred by two significant factors: 1. Egger died after they summited, and 2. Maestri’s claim of success turned out to be a bold-faced lie.
Maestri returned to the climb in 1970 to defend his honor and climb the mountain once more, this time fixing thousands of feet of rope and using a gas-powered drill to install approximately 400 bolts up the granite spire. Again, he claimed success, although he was actually a few hundred feet short of the true summit — a minor detail he dismissed, saying this section was “not really part of the mountain,” because “it’ll blow away one of these days.”
Since then, Maestri’s route (called the “Compressor Route” because he defiantly left his drill bolted at the top) has been climbed by many mountaineers, but none have summited this ridge without new bolts or without using Maestri’s. Until now.
Enter two young heroes. Or are they villains? In December of 2011, Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk changed history. Not only did they climb the route “cleanly,” they removed roughly 125 of Maestri’s bolts as they rapelled.
This news circled the globe quickly, and the two are now being praised by some climbers and lambasted by others. To truly appreciate the full tale and the ensuing debate, read this detailed account at National Geographic.
Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk
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