“Climbing is not a democracy. It never has been. That’s one of the things we love about it. Climbing is about freedom.” – Hayden Kennedy
I found out very recently that my non-fiction books outnumbered by hundreds the fiction books I have on my shelves. And, for non-fiction, what can be more prolific than mountain books? I have been devouring them since I started climbing many summers ago. A good mountain tale will take you with them and you will feel like part of the expedition.
The Tower is one of these books that you can’t stop thinking about and makes you spend the day anticipating the evening, when you will finally lay down and open the book to travel to a distant land, knowing that you will simply choose the book over sleeping. The distant land I refer to is Patagonia, a wild and incredibly beautiful place on Earth.
The region of El Chaltén, with some of the most iconic mountains in the world, like Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, carries also a dramatic story developed on the flanks of Cerro Torre. And that’s the story of The Tower – Torre means tower in Spanish.
Kelly Cordes did a brilliant research about Cerro Torre’s story throughout the years, since its beginning in 1958, when Cesare Maestri and Toni Egger claimed to climb it (Egger succumbed on an avalanche and the camera Maestri said it was with Egger was never found), passing through Maestri’s controversy of 1970, when he bolted the southeast face with the aid of a gas-powered compressor drill, the now famous Compressor Route, and arriving to today’s story, when Cerro Torre was finally free climbed by David Lama (our review here) and 120 bolts from the Compressor Route was chopped, in 2012. Cordes also climbed Cerro Torre himself, and knows very well the subject he is talking about.
No, I never thought I was going to be able to climb that mountain, but I did go to Patagonia to see it as close as I could and while I was at Torre’s glacier with a friend, I shot one of the most beautiful pictures of my life. Cerro Torre is such an elegant and imposing mountain that will be with you forever, once you set your eyes on it.
I also have another connection with those mountains, as it was on the flanks of Fitz Roy that I lost one of my dearest friends, a few years ago. But that is not the reason I simply love this book. A mix of investigative journalism with history and great story telling, Kelly Cordes brings you to the drama and makes you think about one of the most beautiful mountains on Earth trashed by egos.
The contrast between the old and the new, very centered opinions by the author and a twist at the end that I was certainly not expecting made it one of the best mountain books I ever read. Cheers to Cordes and his brilliantly written book!