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

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Patagonia’s Cerro Torre, considered by many the most beautiful peak in the world, draws the finest and most devoted technical alpinists to its climbing challenges. But controversy has swirled around this ice-capped peak since Cesare Maestri claimed first ascent in 1959. Since then a debate has raged, with world-class climbers attempting to retrace his route but finding onl Patagonia’s Cerro Torre, considered by many the most beautiful peak in the world, draws the finest and most devoted technical alpinists to its climbing challenges. But controversy has swirled around this ice-capped peak since Cesare Maestri claimed first ascent in 1959. Since then a debate has raged, with world-class climbers attempting to retrace his route but finding only contradictions. This chronicle of hubris, heroism, controversies and epic journeys offers a glimpse into the human condition, and why some pursue extreme endeavors that at face value have no worth.


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Patagonia’s Cerro Torre, considered by many the most beautiful peak in the world, draws the finest and most devoted technical alpinists to its climbing challenges. But controversy has swirled around this ice-capped peak since Cesare Maestri claimed first ascent in 1959. Since then a debate has raged, with world-class climbers attempting to retrace his route but finding onl Patagonia’s Cerro Torre, considered by many the most beautiful peak in the world, draws the finest and most devoted technical alpinists to its climbing challenges. But controversy has swirled around this ice-capped peak since Cesare Maestri claimed first ascent in 1959. Since then a debate has raged, with world-class climbers attempting to retrace his route but finding only contradictions. This chronicle of hubris, heroism, controversies and epic journeys offers a glimpse into the human condition, and why some pursue extreme endeavors that at face value have no worth.

30 review for The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre

  1. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    From the moment I looked at the cover of this book I was captivated. There are few peaks as charismatic and beautiful as Cerro Torre, and yet it is often overlooked in alpine story telling in favor of bigger peaks or more traditional peaks, but that does not mean Cerro Torre does not have a history and story as fraught with bravery, controversy, and drama as the best of them. Cordes takes you on a tour of the history of alpine climbing by telling the story of Cerro Torre, from the first attempts From the moment I looked at the cover of this book I was captivated. There are few peaks as charismatic and beautiful as Cerro Torre, and yet it is often overlooked in alpine story telling in favor of bigger peaks or more traditional peaks, but that does not mean Cerro Torre does not have a history and story as fraught with bravery, controversy, and drama as the best of them. Cordes takes you on a tour of the history of alpine climbing by telling the story of Cerro Torre, from the first attempts (and lies) to the current, breath-taking new routes that are being explored. I think, for me, that is what made the book so alluring. It was never just about Cerro Torre, it was about the history and the evolution of equipment, the evolution of the philosophy of climbing, the fight about any-means and fair means, the honor of climbers, the honor of countries, and the honor of nature. Cordes loves mountains, and he loves this mountain, and he loves his tribe of climbers, and his charisma and devotion to all of them shine through the book as he attempts to discover the truth behind not just Maestri and Fava’s (almost certain) deception regarding their first ascent but behind our motivations for conquering mountains. This might just be my favorite book on climbing. I love Into Thin Air, but where that one is tragic, I think Cordes’ book is a celebration. Despite the sometime-loss of life, or limb, or the heart breaking lies that have been told, he still celebrates the awe of this peak, the things that can and have been done once people put their heart and soul into it, and the fact that no matter what we do, Cerro Torre will continue to stand. If you are not familiar with climbing or geological terms than Cordes includes a great glossary at the back, but if you are using the Kindle version it’s not always easily accessible. I recommend reading with your phone nearby to look up terms.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ralph

    I was sucked in from the first page. Of all the very many climbing books I've read this one ranks among the very best. The writing is crisp, clear and at times humorous. Kelly does not shy from the incredible controversy of the early ascents of Cerro Torre, and he presents the facts as he sees them. I enjoyed that he started off the book with the traditional accounts of the first ascent of the peak, then slowly peels away the layers of fiction from the truth. The book brings us up to the latest I was sucked in from the first page. Of all the very many climbing books I've read this one ranks among the very best. The writing is crisp, clear and at times humorous. Kelly does not shy from the incredible controversy of the early ascents of Cerro Torre, and he presents the facts as he sees them. I enjoyed that he started off the book with the traditional accounts of the first ascent of the peak, then slowly peels away the layers of fiction from the truth. The book brings us up to the latest ascents and current state of climbing in Patagonia.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jurij Fedorov

    This is a book about a fake 1959 first climb claim on Cerro Torre. Maestri was convinced by Fava to make up this claim after Toni Egger died on it. The author then goes over how the climb was later disproved as no one could find any marks from it higher up the mountain 30-40 years later. Then there is a second climb on the mountain by Maestri in 1970 where he puts up 400 bolts and makes the climb too easy for future climbers. 1 - Lost Time 2/10 Ops, not the strongest start to a book you can imagine This is a book about a fake 1959 first climb claim on Cerro Torre. Maestri was convinced by Fava to make up this claim after Toni Egger died on it. The author then goes over how the climb was later disproved as no one could find any marks from it higher up the mountain 30-40 years later. Then there is a second climb on the mountain by Maestri in 1970 where he puts up 400 bolts and makes the climb too easy for future climbers. 1 - Lost Time 2/10 Ops, not the strongest start to a book you can imagine. Just wordy ramblings about nothing. 2 - In the Beginning 6/10 The writing style is still overly clunky and not in any way fluent. It’s like it’s written by a person who doesn’t speak and reads 20 poems a day. But now we are introduced to some climbers and there is some tension here. Who will climb Cerro Torre first? 3 - Toni, Toni, Toni 6/10 Self-focus by the author. He interviews a son to a man, Fava, who helped Toni Egger and Maestri in their fake climb attempt in 1959. 4 - January 2012 9/10 Fun story about locals attacking 2 North American climbers who pulled down the 1970 bolt ladder drilled into the mountain. 5 - 1959 7/10 Maestri survives. Toni dies. This is about the fake story Maestri tells about the climb where they reached the summit. 6 - Aftermath 1959 6/10 Bit media stories. 7 - Doubt, Rage, and a Gas-Powered Compressor 8/10 The gas-compressor story. Some climbers failing to climb Cerro Torre start rumors about the Maestri climb being fake. So he returns to the mountain with a gas-powered compressor and just bolts “ladders” to the mountain side for weeks at a time with a big team. They even got a hut transported with them by helicopter. Of course this is an easy climb yet Italian media adores him for it. He made a statement he would repeat again and again: “Impossible mountains do not exist, but only mountaineers who are not able to climb them.” Which of course makes no sense as he didn’t climb any mountain here. 8 - Ragni di Lecco 7/10 A climber from the first real climb is interviewed in 2012. He doesn’t want to call the 1959 climb fake. But the book goes there now. 9 - Body of Evidence 8,5/10 His writing style is still weird. He often chooses to use obscure words instead of focusing on the points and story. It feels jumbled and feverish because of this. But the story itself makes up for it. We finally get some real evidence that the climb never took place and it's tension filled and moves the detective story forward in a huge jump. 10 - Origins of Belief 6/10 An interview with a woman who met some of the climbers. Not much info here. 11 - Poseidon and Zeus 7/10 Not much info. But he interviews an Italian friend of Maestri. The friend says the climb was possible and that no one has ever been on the route again so we don't know if the clear evidence is there. But the author explains it well: On the lower part you see his bolts everyone. On the top there is not a single trace of any of his bolts. So where did they go? Since Maestri has described several routes as the one he climbed there is no clear place to search. But none of the stuff he described is how any current climbing routes go. And people have even rappelled down places they couldn't climb on so they have explored a huge part of the mountain. Of course with modern drones this all can be filmed in a day with no climbing. So today you could find the traces if they were there. But I assume no one legit believes they will find anything. This book is from 2014 so right before drones made it big hence why the focus is on climbing and looking for clues instead of an hour of drone work. Which frankly counts a bit against the main claims as we would have 10 times as much info from a single drone. 12 - Cold Reality 8/10 Americans climbed Cerro Torre in 1977. 3 years after the first climb. They use a new route and new tools. The chapter explains that the ice tools making it possible to climb vertical ice walls were invented in the 60's. So in 1959 Toni would not have had them. And his body was found with old tools. According to Maestri Cerro Torre had a unique ice wall that year, never seen in any photos or by any other people at any time. He claims that this wall made it possible to climb the mountain. But with what tools? Unless he had modern tools it wasn't possible and they were invented a few years after the climb. So maybe they had early versions somehow, but it's unlikely. Even in 1974 they still didn't use those new tools on the Italian team that climbed the mountain. So in 1959 it seems nearly impossible to me unless you have some proof of this technology being there. My issue is also that if Maestri saw these super tools in use it's irritating that he didn't convey the info to revolutionize the climbing world prematurely. If he saw someone climb a vertical ice wall for the first time in human history, why not convey how he did it? 13 - Blessed by Bridwell 7,5/10 An American climber finds another climber down there and convinces him to climb the Compressor Route. They discover that even in 1970 Maestri didn't climb the mountain as his bolts stop before the top. 14 - The Grandfather Clause 7/10 Compressor Route is described as practically the only route to the top for 99% of climbers. 15 - Insight from Reinhold 7,5/10 Messner interviewed. The greatest mountaineer ever. He doesn't believe the 1959 story even though he lives in Italy. He says Fava is to blame yet there has not been a single bad word about Fava in the book so far. 16 - Examination of a Myth 6/10 About a blog-post published online disproving the 1959 climb. Very well studied and conclusive - apparently. We don't read it here. 17 - New Patagonia 8/10 Internet weather models make the climb 10 times easier and safer as you can avoid storms. This is a huge revolution, but the internet was still slow in 2003 in small villages. So there needs to be some improvements. They also need to learn weather models. 18 - El Arca de los Vientos 6/10 Getting a bit tired of the mini chapter reviews. It's my own fault for doing this. 2005 climb by Italians who believe the 1959 climb. They find no evidence of it. It's clear now the climb didn't happen. Yet one of them still refuses to admit it. Many don't want to offend Italians. 19 - Aftermath 2005 7,5/10 Old interview with Maestri. Before this we see a ton of great photos as in the rest of the book. 20 - Stop Making Sense 8/10 The author again says that many believe that 1959 climb. Well, people in a specific small town in Italy do where Maestri is a known person and helps new climbers. Not sure how many people actually believe it? But the older generation who grew up with the story does. Some of these points have been mentioned already quite a few times. 21 - Los Tiempos Perdidos 7/10 Author’s own climb on the mountain in 2007. A bit wordy chapter as he tries to make it poetic. But it’s an interesting climb for sure. I didn’t understand much here. 22 - A New Story 6,5/10 A 2007 American climb. Not really historical. We also learn a bit about tools used and how you can cheat with oxygen for example. Repetitive again as the bolt ladder is mentioned for the 10th time. 23 - The Democratic Republic of Cerro Torre 7/10 The very new small town decides to vote on the bolts after a meeting. They decide to leave them up. The town was created by Argentina just to claim the area from Chile. And the inhabitants who voted were not climbers who had climbed the mountain. It’s also a random vote. 24 - Demystification of a Massif 6/10 Another climb. This is in 2008. It frankly feels a bit pointless to describe these specific climbs in detail. And I can't even see what they did so it's not that interesting to read all these weird terms and descriptions. This is not really progressing the topic of the book. The climb is not that special and doesn't tell us something we couldn't already figure out. There is also more repetition of points here. I'm starting to think this book didn't have an editor. Which is a shame as there is a best-seller story hidden in this book. 25 - A Brief Commercial Interruption 8,5/10 This chapter is about David Lama and Red Bull. It's his famous try and later climb on the mountain. Red Bull bolted 60 bolts to the mountain to place camera men there. Later neither they nor Lama apologized, but after extreme online pressure Lama promised he wouldn't allow Red Bull to do it again. This is just horrible by Red Bull. Not even an apology or some fine? I'm disgusted. This chapter is hard to read because of the disgust you feel and at the same time the sadness of thinking about what Lama could have done with his life, as he unfortunately died young after the book was written. It's very emotional to read about his medals and childhood. This is a chapter that will make you sad. He obviously made a huge mistake here and now can never make up for it. It's his story and his climbing history he left behind by allowing Red Bull to do what they do worst. 26 - Contrast on the Southeast Ridge 6/10 A failed climb by the guys who took down the Compressor Route. This is like the last chapter. It’s pointless and doesn’t really tell us anything about the topic of the book. 27 - Seven Days 8/10 Just including all the climbs he can doesn’t work. But this is actually important stuff. It’s the David Lama climb that was made into a Red Bull documentary that has been watched by millions of people for free online. At the same time 2 other events take place. The North American climbers take down the 1970 bolts and a woman is hit by a rock on a mountain nearby and left there as her partner climbed down for help. They create a rescue team meanwhile the 2 dudes are arrested. The Red Bull helicopter films the woman on the mountain. She’s trying to climb down, but can’t. The rescuers are not told about her being alive. They try to climb up but can’t. Next day they find out she must have fallen down. David Lama does his climb. Basically everything happens over a few days. And it’s a very strong chapter despite me being a bit tired by all the stories in the book. This chapter would be extra great if you just pulled out like 5-6 prior chapters from the book. Then it would be to the point and effective. There is a greater book in here. 28 - Aftermath 2012 8/10 Great chapter ending to chapter 27. The 2 North Americans stay in town, are bullied some more and go home. 29 - Everybody Has an Opinion 9,5/10 The author clearly can write really well when he focuses on the points and story. This chapter is great. World media writes about the 2 North American climbers. They are hated in Italy too. Young people don’t hate them, old people do. The chapter goes over how people react to them and ends on a really funny joke that for sure made me rate it way higher. It’s very seldom that I laugh while reading a book. 30 - Cesare’s Letter 8/10 Maestri writes a letter to the author including a short unpublished chapter that was meant to be added to a book he wrote in 1999. He says that his 1959 climb took place and that you can never doubt a single climber as you will doubt them all. This is an attack on Messner. He also defends his 1970 climb and attacks the 2 Americans (one was actually Canadian). 31 - Growing Pains 8/10 A really good chapter. I enjoyed the discussions and clear style. He describes the new town and their eagerness to earn money from tourists. He ends up talking about the 1970 vs. 2012 bolt events. He’s repeating stuff. I swear it’s not just me repeating stuff in my review. He legit just repeats his points again and again in the book for some reason. 32 - Alone with the Truth 7,5/10 More Maestri interactions. It’s stuff from prior chapters, as always, but also expanding stories. Very emotionally personal chapter. 33 - The Man and the Mountains 6,5/10 It’s hard to rate these chapters. Again repetition, but there is a very good story about falsely attributed photos of the summit. In a restaurant photos from the top of the mountain proved a climb. The photos were attributed to Maestri. But they were photos from the 1974 climb - so not his. He didn’t even have a camera in 1959. 2 days after a climber had taken photos of the photos Maestri’s name was blacked out. I’m not sure why this needed a chapter for itself? 34 - Fact-Checking Interlude 7,5/10 Fava is a liar too? This is new. Messner had a statement about Fava being the liar, not Maestri. And this chapter shows that Fava may have made up his extreme rescue attempt in 1953. This is shocking. Maestri was likely convinced to lie by the man who invited him to climb the mountain and helped him from the base camp. This explains it all. 35 - My Truth 6/10 There is nothing new here. The epilogue is more philosophical stuff. My final opinion on the book What if I make the same point twice? What if I make the same point twice? I get the critical reviews. The book should have been 80 pages shorter at least to be a proper book that feels like a book and not a collection of essays and observations by a blog-writer. If it was 120 pages shorter it could even be a best-seller getting praise from big papers. It had those few extra climbing chapters that are fully randomly added into the book and feel weird and out of place. It would be smarter if he just linked to his blog, or whatever he has, in the book instead of this. There is a rational community online that knows how to structure an argument. They are like wolves completely pulling apart even slightly bad points. Someone like that should have read the book and suggested a few points to the author about how to argue a case. No need to repeat the same claims again and again and no need to mention vague ideas. Write down what story and point was made in each chapter then cut it down. The logic in the book is unfortunately lacking. You cringe while reading his arguments like “climbing is not a democracy”. I get some of his points, they are just so badly made. He knows how to describe an idea loosely, not how to make a case for it. Nothing here is argued step by step. It’s just stories and ideas loosely presented. He should have mentioned how climbers are egotistical, but that mountains and nature are for all so we can’t just misuse everything around us. So a democracy with personal liberty too. In my view we need to use things yet leave them in a better state. The author just tells us the mountains are old and that everyone can do anything he wants to the mountains because it’s not a democracy. But then when Red Bull used their bolts it was clearly bad - little discussion. Yet the main argument against the 1970 route is not about the destruction rather the author feels it makes the climb overall too easy. This is kinda a huge miss considering that he himself is a climber and should have sat down and talked this over with smart people. Then talked it over with rational people to be able to make the same points. I wanted this negative part out of the way. If you read this book and don’t think you will notice the negative stuff you are mistaken. The question is is the book good overall despite the silly stuff the author should have fixed in book editing? Yes, it is indeed a very strong book. An investigation of a fake climb. Stories and details about it to utterly disprove it. It’s a detective story and I absolutely adore those. It’s also the greatest climb in human history by far he is disproving here, not just some great climb. It’s pretty much an impossible feat using old equipment so there is no doubt this didn’t happen. But personally I’d skip these chapters: 1, 6, 10, 16, 18, 22, 26, 33 and 35. The books jumps in history and from person to person so you can always read them later if you think the rest of the book is great. It does feel like a blog writer decided to write a book and just did it himself. But it’s quite interesting as a story. I wonder if there is a much shorter and stronger book about the 1959 climb? I know there are other books about this and similar stories. But I have only read a few mountaineering books so I don’t know if this is one of the better books or not. It’s good, but for sure runs long and overstays its welcome. It’s also not smart in any way as the points are never deep or intellectual. Yet he does understand how tourism, geo politics, the economy and climbing works so he is in fact smart. Smart and good at arguing are just 2 different things. If you do pick up the book don’t be afraid of skipping chapters. You’ll likely even love it if you only read 75% of the chapters. Plus he just repeats the same points 15 times over so it’s not like you’ll miss much by being critical and doing the editing he should have done himself.

  4. 5 out of 5

    J.D.

    I came to this book from an NPR interview of the author and the nagging knowledge that—having lived for years in Argentina—I’ve never heard about Cerro Torre. Its neighbor the Fitz-Roy has been more famous and well-photographed, but on reading the tale of “the Tower” one can only wonder why Torre has been less popular. The story of the quest to climb this mountain, which is a thing better belonging to a SF movie set in a distant planet, involves dangerous climbs in awful weather, vertical walls a I came to this book from an NPR interview of the author and the nagging knowledge that—having lived for years in Argentina—I’ve never heard about Cerro Torre. Its neighbor the Fitz-Roy has been more famous and well-photographed, but on reading the tale of “the Tower” one can only wonder why Torre has been less popular. The story of the quest to climb this mountain, which is a thing better belonging to a SF movie set in a distant planet, involves dangerous climbs in awful weather, vertical walls and a topping, insanely large iceberg-like ice cube that looks unreal; it’s as much extraordinary as enthralling. I learned what mountaineering really means to its practitioners, and about the parallel society of adventurers bound by a personal code of freedom. At the center is the controversy surrounding the possibly fake first climb of Torre, which reaches mystery-novel levels, although it gets somewhat dull by the end (without spoilers.) The book, however, suffers from a dual personality disorder. It might have wanted, with all the historical photographs and full-page color views of the monstrous mount, to become a coffee-table item. But, in its standard hardcover format, there’s a lot of weird white space, and the text is unevenly distributed. Worse, there’s a lot of repetition and I had the feeling of reading some paragraphs more than once. This makes the central thread somewhat boring at the end, and ruins the delightful stories about climbers and their world. Finally, there’s also very little about Argentina, and not a single decent map that will allow me to precise where Cerro Torre is without the Internet. As an Argentine in origin, I can’t forgive this. Overall,this book is a good and original read and, for those like me who’d only climbed a couple of non-threatening mounts and sloped mountains—in my youth—and have never hang by a rope thousands of feet high, it’s an armchair adventure that deserves consideration.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bill Leach

    A history of climbing on Cerro Torre in Patagonia. A spire in the Fitzroy group with vertical walls, it was beyond current mountaineering techniques through the mid twentieth century. In 1959 Cesare Maestri claimed that he and Toni Egger had successfully climbed the north face of the peak from the Col of Conquest. However, Egger had fallen and died on the descent. While it was usual at the time to take climbers at their word, doubts arose that as to whether they had actually been successful. Sub A history of climbing on Cerro Torre in Patagonia. A spire in the Fitzroy group with vertical walls, it was beyond current mountaineering techniques through the mid twentieth century. In 1959 Cesare Maestri claimed that he and Toni Egger had successfully climbed the north face of the peak from the Col of Conquest. However, Egger had fallen and died on the descent. While it was usual at the time to take climbers at their word, doubts arose that as to whether they had actually been successful. Subsequent climbs from the Col of Conquest revealed no evidence of earlier climbs, lending no support to the Maestri claim of a 1959 ascent. An increasing number of leading climbers questioned Maestri's claim to have made the peak. In reaction to the doubts, in 1970 Maestri went to the extreme of using a compressor to install bolts using a 300 pound air compressor directly up the southeast ridge. The route ignored all natural features and therefore was at odds with the idea of climbing a peak "by fair means". This became known as the compressor route. In 2012, Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk climbed the SE ridge by fair means. On the way down they removed 120 of Maestri's bolts. Surprisingly, this resulted in significant outrage amongst a group in El Chalten, possibly as it meant they would have no longer have any likelihood of attaining the summit. The book is largely about the controversy surrounding the compressor route. The author reviewed all remaining evidence he could find and interviewed all extant persons who knew anything of the events. Included are accounts of the more important ascents over the years.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lloyd Fassett

    5/11/18 - saw the author give a talk at the High Desert Museum. He presents really well. 7/27/18 - There are some really good chapters in this book. Kelly Cordes has a future in writing. I wish he had stuck more to his personal experiences and the myriad of interesting stories around Cerro Torry though. This book was too much about the controversy about if an Italian was the first to successfully climbed it in 1959. He didn't. There's an overwhelming lack of evidence for proof, but the book is pr 5/11/18 - saw the author give a talk at the High Desert Museum. He presents really well. 7/27/18 - There are some really good chapters in this book. Kelly Cordes has a future in writing. I wish he had stuck more to his personal experiences and the myriad of interesting stories around Cerro Torry though. This book was too much about the controversy about if an Italian was the first to successfully climbed it in 1959. He didn't. There's an overwhelming lack of evidence for proof, but the book is pretty consumed by going through the details of something I believed from a summary paragraph. I'm more interested in the human drama and drive that leads people to climb, or race cars, cave dive....what is the payoff? What's it feel like to go back into that race car and to the mountains after the people around you have died? There's an incredibly touching story in the book of a female climber that dies that was more moving to me than the story of the Italian's supposed 1959 summit. As an adventurer myself, that woman's story will stick with me. I hope Kelly Cordes writes more. He's got a promising future, but this book is too much about a whacky Italian that gets more attention than he deserves. I made all my highlights visible, but here's a quote I liked in particular: "The mountains are sacred, transcendent places, places of inspiration and consequence, where trust and actions and honesty matter. Places where, in fleeting moments, I’ve known the beauty of belief to merge with the power of truth. Moments as fragile and precious as tiny crystals of rime, carried off by a furious wind."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lee Gingras

    I wouldn't recommend this book to a non-climber, as it's honestly a purist alpine windbag arguing over climbing semantics. For climbers, though, it's a really solid polemic on why fair means ascents matter and why historical truth is important, examined through the lens of Cinco Torre, with a special focus on Cesare Maestri's highly controversial ascent and subsequent bolting of the Compressor route. The narrative could be tighter with better transitions between timelines, and in particular he d I wouldn't recommend this book to a non-climber, as it's honestly a purist alpine windbag arguing over climbing semantics. For climbers, though, it's a really solid polemic on why fair means ascents matter and why historical truth is important, examined through the lens of Cinco Torre, with a special focus on Cesare Maestri's highly controversial ascent and subsequent bolting of the Compressor route. The narrative could be tighter with better transitions between timelines, and in particular he didn't do a smooth job of laying out the events of 2012. Overall, though, I liked it. Cordes quotes a statement from the Piolets d'Or awards that pretty much nails it for me: "It turns out that the physical presence of the bolts was not nearly as important as their psychological impact, and their tendency to focus attention on the manufactured path, rather than on the mountain's natural features that allow passage."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Germano

    This is by far the best book about mountaneering I've read so far. Very accurate yet enjoyable, if I had to find one defect I'd say that the various "episodes" are a bit disconnected. At any point in the book, it feels that everything has been already said, and nothing more is there... there's no anticipation of what will "happen". Yet, once accustomed to this, it's really interesting and engaging. One note: I'm italian, and probably the book as a whole reads differently to an italian, there's a This is by far the best book about mountaneering I've read so far. Very accurate yet enjoyable, if I had to find one defect I'd say that the various "episodes" are a bit disconnected. At any point in the book, it feels that everything has been already said, and nothing more is there... there's no anticipation of what will "happen". Yet, once accustomed to this, it's really interesting and engaging. One note: I'm italian, and probably the book as a whole reads differently to an italian, there's a sense of pride and involvement. The "villain" is italian, and also many of the "heroes" are. The author spends a lot of time commenting the italian ways, and I'm deeply impressed by his insights and quiet appreciation. It's always really interesting to read how "other people" see us. Priceless.

  9. 4 out of 5

    marianne

    Cerro Torre is a beautiful and legendary granite tower located in the El Chaltén massif in Patagonia. Once known as the “impossible mountain” and the world’s most challenging peak, it is still to this day a mystical peak that draws the world’s most revered and ambitious mountaineers to its walls. It's also the source of one of the most mysterious stories and farcical claims in mountaineering history. The controversy begins like this: In 1959, an Italian team led by Cesare Maestri claimed the fir Cerro Torre is a beautiful and legendary granite tower located in the El Chaltén massif in Patagonia. Once known as the “impossible mountain” and the world’s most challenging peak, it is still to this day a mystical peak that draws the world’s most revered and ambitious mountaineers to its walls. It's also the source of one of the most mysterious stories and farcical claims in mountaineering history. The controversy begins like this: In 1959, an Italian team led by Cesare Maestri claimed the first ascent of Cerro Torre… except it’s highly unlikely they actually reached the top. Maestri’s story upon his return was that his summitting partner, Toni Egger, was brutally taken out by an avalanche on their descent. And with him disappeared the expedition’s sole camera. Conveniently, that left only Maestri - and his word - as proof of their success. He returned to Italy a celebrated hero as the climbing world’s culture is generally a trusting one when it comes to bragging rights. But it wasn’t long before holes in Maestri’s story began to appear. It should be stated that Maestri still to this day asserts that he summited Cerro Torre in 1959. But throughout the ensuing decades, as more people were drawn to the area, the veracity of Maestri’s account was inevitably put to the test. The descriptions of the route he claimed to have climbed were totally inaccurate relative to the actual features, something that became terribly obvious once others had summitted. The other troubling fact was lack of evidence of his progress past a certain point on the Tower. Whereas he left a myriad of equipment affixed to the rock as he and his partner inched up the tower, this trail abruptly stops about one third of the way up and not a single piece of equipment of his has ever been found beyond this point. Ice mushrooms on Cerro Torre Perhaps most damning is Maestri’s claim to have climbed vertical ice at the top of the tower. For starters, the tools needed to climb vertical ice simply did not exist until the early 70s; climbers in 50s and 60s relied on unserated ice axes and wore soft boots offering no support. They could not (and did not) climb more than a couple of meters on vertical ice surfaces. Strike one. Equally concerning for his claim, the top of the tower has never had a sustained vertical ice climb, as it has always been covered in giant ice “mushrooms”. These surreal features are essentially large, billowing collections of precariously balanced rime crystals. They look like they belong in a polar Alice in Wonderland tale and are essentially unique to this mountain. Needless to say, they add a whole other layer of challenge to the climb, one that would have taken center stage in Maestri’s account. But Maestri never even mentioned them. Strike Two. What happened to Toni Egger? There is also the mystery of his climbing partner, whose remains, in parts, were found throughout the ensuing decades (yes, he was in pieces, poor guy). What really happened to Toni Egger? And his camera? It’s all too convenient that his camera disappeared alongside him. We’ll likely never know. The narrative is interspersed with descriptions of the important ascents of Cerro Tower, giving really great context to this peak’s intrigue, magic and inherent challenges. I like mountaineering, but I’m not obsessed with it; Kelly made these parts really accessible and interesting to someone like me, who has dabbled in but never fully caught the bug for this activity. Equally fascinating to me as the mystery of what truly happened in 1959 are the psychological aspects behind this story. Take for example the cognitive dissonance that is exhibited by Maestri’s closest friends and supporters, those who fervently believe that he reached the summit in 1959. As Cordes points out, we all have trouble seeing evidence where we just would rather not see it - Lance Armstrong and Michael Jackson are good examples of that. Then there is also intrigue in Maestri, who came back to the peak in the 70s with a huge compressor and affixed hundreds of metal bolts on one of its rock routes. He claimed, again, to have summitted, but later admitted he hadn’t. He’d stopped less than a few hundred meters short of the summit, claiming those last few meters didn’t matter anyway. Who is this guy exactly? I devoured this up in two days. Cordes’ storytelling structure is occasionally a little frayed, but the intrigue of the controversy and the detailed accounts of the peak’s historic ascents are enough to overlook this. The quality of his research on Maestri’s history with the peak is really robust, and the various real-life characters he has interviewed and writes about really pop into life. The peak itself takes on a sort of personality through the great history of its most important ascents, including Cordes’ (though he is very understated about it). Kelly’s regard for the peak permeates throughout these accounts, and I gained a ton of appreciation for this stunning, wild peak. I hope to see it in person one day, and I hope Maestri will come clean before he passes.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Raven

    An engaging and mindful read which covers alpine ethics, the history of mountaineering, and the accessibility of the mountains in all their complexity. The author tells a fantastic story, and he has a lot of historical material and access to people who were there in the early days of Cerro Torre to work with. I appreciate his commitment to truth, and unsparing look at how that evidence-based approach can cause difficulty in a mountaineering community where one's word is one's bond... and yet hyp An engaging and mindful read which covers alpine ethics, the history of mountaineering, and the accessibility of the mountains in all their complexity. The author tells a fantastic story, and he has a lot of historical material and access to people who were there in the early days of Cerro Torre to work with. I appreciate his commitment to truth, and unsparing look at how that evidence-based approach can cause difficulty in a mountaineering community where one's word is one's bond... and yet hypothermic people near the point of death can often have very different experiences of the same event. Recommended!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    A bit repetitive, in both prose and photography. Certainly self indulgent. The writing is never fantastic, but is usually good. Since I read it in the mountains, myself, I was in the mood for every story. The mystery of the faked climb(s) is not much of a mystery, and the bigger psychological mystery (of the cost of sustaining a lie for so long) is never resolved. But Cordes tries, and some lack of resolution mostly makes the book more thought-provoking.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tamara Covacevich

    Good book to understand the details around the - often mentioned - Cerro Torre. I read it because with my mountaineering club we are planning an expedition to Chalten and I am trying to read all the (few) books written about the area. It was pretty technical but everyone that reads it can get a good understanding of the situation.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Trevor James

    Oh man, this was so good! Kelly did a damn good job on his interviews, approach, and photo selection. Full of facts, history, and stories all pertaining to this incredible, controversial mountain. Thank you, Kelly! Excellent job.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lyndsey

    I love reading about mountaineering however I feel like I had to push myself to finish parts of this book. I wasn’t compelled to finish but did anyways. Parts of this book are very interesting and parts are very long and dull. Overall, I did learn about the history of these mountains.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Denis Lejeune

    Very nice structure, good writing, thorough investigation. More please.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shane

    To lengthy about the compressor route and the divide about whether or not Caesar actually climned to the summit and then the story about saving the girl who died lacked detail and timeline.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nico Wright

    Excellent history of the controversies of ascents on Cerro Torre from Maestri to Kennedy/Kruk and a brilliant polemic on climbing ethics in the mountains.

  18. 4 out of 5

    SL

    Haven’t ready any climbing books. It was interesting.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Grant

    The Tower is a superb history of climbing on Cerro Torre, and the controversy that surrounds it. The book is well-researched and equally well-written, and I was strongly reminded of Jon Krakauer's writing. However, the book is not a strictly journalistic account, as Cordes is not shy about injecting his own experiences and opinion into the story, but I found this to be a boon and not a detriment. It includes awe-inspiring photos of the mountain, and helpful maps, timelines, and appendices. Anybo The Tower is a superb history of climbing on Cerro Torre, and the controversy that surrounds it. The book is well-researched and equally well-written, and I was strongly reminded of Jon Krakauer's writing. However, the book is not a strictly journalistic account, as Cordes is not shy about injecting his own experiences and opinion into the story, but I found this to be a boon and not a detriment. It includes awe-inspiring photos of the mountain, and helpful maps, timelines, and appendices. Anybody interested in alpinism and rock climbing should read this book, but I expect the subject matter and themes would appeal to those who aren't (yet) passionate about climbing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I listened to the author's narration of this book made available for free on his website. As a relatively inexperienced climber, I found this book fascinating. Cordes has a refreshing style, even if his timeline jumps around a little. Before hearing this book read, I'd never heard of Cerro Torre. Codes does a great job of publishing his extensive research on a huge mountaineering controversy, but this book is more than that. It's a journey into human motivations and deceptions, into the terrifyi I listened to the author's narration of this book made available for free on his website. As a relatively inexperienced climber, I found this book fascinating. Cordes has a refreshing style, even if his timeline jumps around a little. Before hearing this book read, I'd never heard of Cerro Torre. Codes does a great job of publishing his extensive research on a huge mountaineering controversy, but this book is more than that. It's a journey into human motivations and deceptions, into the terrifying risk and boundless joy of climbing, and into the foundational nature of freedom and responsibility. This is a book about the very nature of climbing. While the timeline jumps around a bit, it's easy to read and follow. If you are a climber, have ever climbed, or have ever thought about what climbing might be like, you'll enjoy this book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Reko Ukko

    Kelly Cordes writes a good summary of the controversy surrounding the history of Cerro Torre. It's nicely written and the chapters are nicely divided, jumping back and forth with the different protagonists of the story. The hardcover is a bit strange though, the layout suggests that it maybe wanted to be a coffee table book (I actually bought it under the impression that it was, it felt like that in the marketing), but it's not and thus some of the nice pictures are perhaps a bit wasted. Also lot Kelly Cordes writes a good summary of the controversy surrounding the history of Cerro Torre. It's nicely written and the chapters are nicely divided, jumping back and forth with the different protagonists of the story. The hardcover is a bit strange though, the layout suggests that it maybe wanted to be a coffee table book (I actually bought it under the impression that it was, it felt like that in the marketing), but it's not and thus some of the nice pictures are perhaps a bit wasted. Also lot of white space in the text layouts which is very strange and if laid out like a regular book, it probably would have been half the size it is. Nevertheless, it doesn't bring anything massively new to the table, but it's a pretty thorough sum-up of what happened in Cerro Torre, to the best of the author's ability to find out, given that some of the key people are already fairly old or deceased. It also delves into how the pedigree of mountaineering changes throughout the years, who do the mountains belong to and who has the right to change them given how few people are actually skilled to enjoy them.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    This is a great read. I'm not a climber and have no desire to hang off mile-high cliffs, but I love mountain adventure books and this is a stand-out. I finished it the day after I got it from the library. The fascinating part of the story is the controversy surrounding Cerro Torre's early ascents. Cordes examines the history in a rational, analytic way, and he's not afraid to arrive at unpopular conclusions and disagree with some highly-respected people in the climbing world. With personal experi This is a great read. I'm not a climber and have no desire to hang off mile-high cliffs, but I love mountain adventure books and this is a stand-out. I finished it the day after I got it from the library. The fascinating part of the story is the controversy surrounding Cerro Torre's early ascents. Cordes examines the history in a rational, analytic way, and he's not afraid to arrive at unpopular conclusions and disagree with some highly-respected people in the climbing world. With personal experiences on Cerro Torre to back up his own credibility, this book is a well-crafted mix of historical narrative, personal adventure story, and rumination on climbing ethics. I'm withholding a star simply because Cordes strays into jargon somewhat often, and while I'm familiar enough with climbing to be able to figure out his meaning from context, I think many people wouldn't. The glossary at the end of the book could have been better highlighted.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Arianna

    I bought this book on a whim from Amazon and I quite enjoyed it. Centered on the he said/she said of Cerro Torre, one of the hardest climbs in the world and most controversial (you'll find out why), "The Tower" is written from a climber's perspective and delves into the world of mountaineering, specifically traditions behind mountaineering. It's an interesting study of trust, passion, and human motivation. A novice climber myself, I found the premise of the novel intriguing and the included stor I bought this book on a whim from Amazon and I quite enjoyed it. Centered on the he said/she said of Cerro Torre, one of the hardest climbs in the world and most controversial (you'll find out why), "The Tower" is written from a climber's perspective and delves into the world of mountaineering, specifically traditions behind mountaineering. It's an interesting study of trust, passion, and human motivation. A novice climber myself, I found the premise of the novel intriguing and the included stories about other climbers hard to walk away from. I also found myself aching to go to Patagonia (summer trip, anyone?). Though somewhat hard to get through in places, "The Tower" reawakened my excitement about climbing. Which is actually a bummer, because winter. But if Cerro Torre's covered in rime and ice and 60 mph winds and people climb it, why should winter deter me, right? If nothing else, it was an inspiring read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    "Never has a technical peak, especially so far from any population centers and mainstream hype, drawn such unmitigated and even unhinged passion. And never has a mountain been so influenced by one person, as Cerro Torre is by Cesare Maetri." Remember that multimedia article covering the 2012 Stevens Pass avalanche? That got all kinds of press and recognition for being 'groundbreaking online journalism'. This book reminds me of that but in paper form. Kelly's placement of pictures, diagrams, perso "Never has a technical peak, especially so far from any population centers and mainstream hype, drawn such unmitigated and even unhinged passion. And never has a mountain been so influenced by one person, as Cerro Torre is by Cesare Maetri." Remember that multimedia article covering the 2012 Stevens Pass avalanche? That got all kinds of press and recognition for being 'groundbreaking online journalism'. This book reminds me of that but in paper form. Kelly's placement of pictures, diagrams, personal narrative, interviews, and historical research are all carefully timed. Listening to an interview of him he said, while laughing, something along the lines of "the book was horrible to write, tons of work, I never want to do it again, I can't believe I ever wanted the task." Well it turned out great.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sam Ley

    By a climber, for the climbers, this story about the complicated history of Cerro Torre starts as a light history about the attempts to climb one of the most difficult peaks in the world, and evolves into a piece of excellent investigative journalism into a world of lonely victories, public deceit, extraordinarily challenges, and tragic deaths. While the terminology can be fairly technical for the world of alpinism, the book does a great job of approaching the issue of truth. As Cordes points out By a climber, for the climbers, this story about the complicated history of Cerro Torre starts as a light history about the attempts to climb one of the most difficult peaks in the world, and evolves into a piece of excellent investigative journalism into a world of lonely victories, public deceit, extraordinarily challenges, and tragic deaths. While the terminology can be fairly technical for the world of alpinism, the book does a great job of approaching the issue of truth. As Cordes points out in the book, as well as in talks, how you value truth in “pointless” pursuits such as who climbed which peak first, says a lot about how you view truth overall. If truth matters, then it matters in all things, and this is just as important in the wilds of Patagonia as it is in our daily lives.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I received this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway. I'm not very knowledgeable, nor a particular fan of mountaineering but I did find this book fascinating. The time and effort that enthusiast put into this sport is phenomenal, and they should definitely be acknowledged as among the best athletes in the world. I enjoyed the vew into the growth of the sport from the late 1950's to present day although I must admit I kept hoping someone wouie find some evidence to validate the story of Maestri's c I received this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway. I'm not very knowledgeable, nor a particular fan of mountaineering but I did find this book fascinating. The time and effort that enthusiast put into this sport is phenomenal, and they should definitely be acknowledged as among the best athletes in the world. I enjoyed the vew into the growth of the sport from the late 1950's to present day although I must admit I kept hoping someone wouie find some evidence to validate the story of Maestri's climb of Cerro Torre.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    What a great book! Extremely well-researched, with great photographs, interviews, & cross-references. Though it covers a broad scope of information- mountaineering ethics, history, cultural and political environments, etc- it's all well-centered around an engaging central character, namely Cerro Torre, and its attendant cast of characters and climbers. An excellent expose' in the vein of Krakauer's early mountaineering books. What a great book! Extremely well-researched, with great photographs, interviews, & cross-references. Though it covers a broad scope of information- mountaineering ethics, history, cultural and political environments, etc- it's all well-centered around an engaging central character, namely Cerro Torre, and its attendant cast of characters and climbers. An excellent expose' in the vein of Krakauer's early mountaineering books.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Carlo Martini

    It's a well-written and fascinating story, but after a few captivating chapters it gets stuck on climbing ethics, and the book turns into an all-out bashing of anything that is not "climbing by fair means" or "alpine style". The whole story of climbing on Cerro Torre goes in the background, and the focus is only on who climbed what by what means. It becomes boring and only attractive to a a small range of specialized readers who can understand the issues pertaining to the debate. It's a well-written and fascinating story, but after a few captivating chapters it gets stuck on climbing ethics, and the book turns into an all-out bashing of anything that is not "climbing by fair means" or "alpine style". The whole story of climbing on Cerro Torre goes in the background, and the focus is only on who climbed what by what means. It becomes boring and only attractive to a a small range of specialized readers who can understand the issues pertaining to the debate.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gerald

    Beautiful and deadly mountain. With questionable claims of conquests, specifically first ascents, the book provided an interesting look at the integrity, or lack thereof, found in the mountaineering community. Along side the storyline of false claims, came the controversy surrounding creating crutches (installation of bolts into the rock) which allow the less skilled to achieve that which only the elite could achieve otherwise.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tyson Titensor

    Not sure if I'd recommend it to a non-climber, but for someone wanting to understand what climbing style means and how it evolved this is probably the best book I've read. Required reading for any student of climbing history. Very well written and I hope Mr. Cordes goes on to write additional books.... Not sure if I'd recommend it to a non-climber, but for someone wanting to understand what climbing style means and how it evolved this is probably the best book I've read. Required reading for any student of climbing history. Very well written and I hope Mr. Cordes goes on to write additional books....

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