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EPIC Award: Kruk, Kennedy Ascent of Cerro Torre

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Today we officially launch our EPIC award, a new industry and outdoor-world prize that will highlight adventurers, athletes, gear designers, activists, and artists who affect notable change in the outdoors world. For 2012, we plan to award six EPIC prizes, and this week we’re jumping in with two recipients, Jason Kruk of Squamish, B.C., and Hayden Kennedy of Carbondale, Colo., who in January made a history-altering and controversial ascent of Patagonia’s famous “Compressor Route” on Cerro Torre.

The highly-condensed back story is. . . In 1970, Italian climber Cesare Maestri led a now-infamous expedition to Patagonia’s Cerro Torre, a stunning and then un-climbed vertical granite peak. With the aid of an unorthodox “tool” (a gas-powered compressor drill hauled up the face) Maestri and his team equipped 1,000 feet of blank rock with hundreds of permanent bolts, marring the face in what Yvon Chouinard has written was “perhaps the most egregious example of alpinism’s egoistic ‘manifest destiny’ philosophy, one that calls for conquering the mountain by any means.”

Kennedy, Kruk and Cerro Torre

For decades, the “Compressor Route,” as it’s been dubbed, was an embarrassment to many in the climbing world. But this year, in a bold and controversial move, the two young North American climbers, Kruk and Kennedy, climbed Cerro Torre and “cleaned” a portion of the Compressor Route to bring the stone back to its pre-Maestri state.

Essentially, the duo climbed a version of the “Compressor Route” line but did not use the ladder of bolt anchors from Maestri’s expedition. Instead, the pair free-climbed most of Cerro Torre, one of the world’s most difficult peaks, and then on the way down they removed more than 120 of the drilled-in iron bolts that scarred the face.

Kennedy and Kruk on the ascent

A major controversy ensued in the climbing world (see comments on this story to start), with one side cheering Kruk and Kennedy, and another side saying they “destroyed the history” of the route by cleaning the line. But we at GearJunkie applaud the pair’s effort and deem it worthy of an award. In a recent interview with GearJunkie, Conrad Anker, one of the world’s most renowned alpinists, said Kruk and Kennedy would be a good nomination for the EPIC Award. He wrote that the incident “puts the whole impact question into perspective. Worthy [of an award].”

Seconding Anker, in a recent essay Yvon Chouinard wrote “Thank God there are a few young climbers like Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk who exemplify the best qualities of alpinism.” He continued, “The magnificent southeast ridge of Cerro Torre has been unshackled and can now be an inspiration to future alpinists who have the courage to climb rather than merely summit by any possible means.”

Cerro Torre in full view

Congrats to Jason Kruk and Hayden Kennedy, our first EPIC award winners in 2012! Your feat, as Anker said, is worthy of recognition on more levels than one. Epic all around.

—See our EPIC award page to view all winners and nominate an “epic” individual in your sphere.

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