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Michael Kennedy: The Sharp End — Letter To My Son

In January, Hayden Kennedy and his climbing partner, Jason Kruk, tackled the first fair means ascent of the Southeast Ridge of Cerro Torre. On their descent, the two chopped the bolts on the Compressor Route, setting the route free for future climbers and settling themselves in the center of a great debate in the alpinist community.

This morning, Hayden’s father Michael Kennedy, a veteran alpinist and writer, published a letter to his son:

Remember one thing: all this noise is someone else’s story, not yours. People will try to pigeonhole you with their words, but you aren’t defined by what others think, only by what you know and by who you are, in your heart and mind. On Cerro Torre, you thought and acted with conviction and passion, making one of those decisive, spontaneous and honest gestures that can come only out of the uncensored soul.

When you head out in the future, other people will have expectations of you. Those notions will reflect their needs, desires, aspirations and fears. As best you can, clear your mind of the chatter. Don’t think about how your life or climbs will look to anyone else. Make choices based on your values, your analysis, your intuition and your dreams.

The story of the Southeast Ridge is one of the distance between our ideals and what we are willing to sacrifice to live up to them. As alpinists, we should strive to reach our dream summits with a minimum of means, leaving the least trace of our passage. Even in 1970, when Maestri placed all those bolts with the aid of a gas-powered compressor, his route was regarded as an atrocity, a “desecration,” as Mountain Magazine called it at the time. Yet as a community we’ve offered our implicit acceptance of the Compressor Route for over forty years. Through our collective laziness, complacency or greed, we’ve allowed it to become an institution.

Chopping the bolts was a reminder that we need to abide by what we say we believe in. For making that decision, some will call you and Jason heroes. Others will call you villains. Don’t buy into either narrative.

Read the rest of Michael’s letter to Hayden on Alpinist.com.

We are proud to welcome Hayden home to Carbondale for the 5Point Film Festival in just a couple of weeks. Hayden will take the stage Thursday, April 26, 2012 to speak about his historic ascent.