Kelly Cordes

Age: 42, Years climbing: 17, Hometown: Estes Park, CO, Favorite product: MIURA


Do you clip bolts, plug cams, stack pads, or crush ice?

It sounds cliché, but I love it all. Plus it keeps me from getting bored. I don’t boulder much, though – I really enjoy it, but the ground falls are too much these days. Starting to make some longevity rules for my battered body: no more hitting ledges or the ground. When I cheat, though, I stack the pads high.

How long have you been an athlete with La Sportiva?

I’m new with the La Sportiva team, and honored to be involved.

What are some of your lifetime climbing goals?

I find it best to not have goals, that way I won’t be disappointed if I don’t achieve them. Ahem. But when I’m more optimistic, it’s simple: To keep climbing. I have more specific and ever-changing short-term goals. I’ve been more fortunate than I ever dreamed possible with the climbs I’ve done in the mountains. I’m lucky and grateful. But I still want more, just because it’s a never-ending thing, this love for climbing and the mountains.

Do you have a claim to fame?

I’ve got a girl’s name, I’m short and I have a low IQ.

Do you have any vices?

Good tequila and good coffee.

What makes you tick as a climber and in the real world?

As a climber, what I love most and always remember are the times I’ve been thousands of feet off the ground in remote mountains, with nobody else within sight but a good friend on the other end of the rope. So wild and so intense, nothing I’ve known compares. As for the other part of the question: Honestly, I have little interest in the “real world.” I think that too much of it focuses too much focus on meaningless bullshit like this endless obsession with money and accumulating crap. I know, aren’t I a ray of sunshine?

What drives you to climb? The money? The groupies? The fame? What?


What is your favorite movie?

The Big Lebowski

Do you have any nicknames? Explain:

Not really, though friends occasionally still call me Sketchy Kelly. When I first learned to climb, back in Missoula, MT, I was such a walking disaster. 100% enthusiasm, 0% knowledge. Soooo psyched. And soooo clueless. I jumped on everything but didn’t know how to place pro or build anchors, nearly got myself killed several times but somehow survived (I’m not dead yet), and, unbeknownst to me then, Missoula climbers were calling me “Sketchy Kelly.” Not in an endearing or joking way, either, but like, “Whatever you do, don’t go climbing with that Sketchy Kelly dude, he’s bad news.” Indeed I was. I wouldn’t have climbed with me, either.

What’s the longest you’ve gone without sleep? Why?

Forty-some hours on a climb – depends on how ya count. If you don’t count hallucinating and a few hours of drifting between hypothermia and sleep, then high-40s. If that stuff counts as sleep, then low-40s. But in college, at Penn State, one year I did this awesome thing called the Dance Marathon, that raises a ton of money for kids with cancer and their families. I was on my feet for 48 hours for that.

If you had to be named after one of the 50 states, which would it be?


What did you have for lunch yesterday?

A sammich and lots of coffee.

If you could hook up a thought monitor to your head, would you see pictures, hear words or would music be playing?

A combination of all, but mostly words and music. The words are usually conversations with myself, sometimes positive, sometimes negative. Sometimes it drives me nuts.

What really scares you about climbing?

Not climbing. I’ve been seriously injured and had some close calls, and, still, the worst thing is being unable to climb. Nothing makes me anywhere near as happy. I’m in this life thing for the quality, and I’ll accept the risks in exchange for the rewards.

If your life was made into a movie, what would it be called?

The Dude Abides with Badder Santa and Flashes Blue Steel

Where would you live if it could be anywhere in the world?

Here, in my small cabin in Estes Park, Colorado. And I wouldn’t mind having a tiny cabin in El Chalten, Argentina, for December through March.

Have no food or have no gasoline?

So it goes. I’ll deal.

Do you wish you had sexier feet?

Nope. Couldn’t care less about that sort of thing.