Detroit auto executives, after making crappy gas-guzzlers that break down on the way to the crags, flew to Washington in private jets to beg for bailout money. A stampeding herd of mouthbreathers kicked off the holiday season of giving by trampling to death a Wal-Mart employee. Corrupt Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich may be shacking up in jail with Illinois’ previous corrupt governor. For Ponzi-scheme-scum and ex-Nasdaq chairman Bernard Madoff, apparently being a multi-millionaire wasn’t nearly enough. ‘Twas the season.

Blah, blah, blah.

Meanwhile, Patagonia climbers got rich with a two-week high-pressure system. Cerro Torre’s incomparable West Face saw more ascents than the bolt-ladder route on the other side. It was soloed, and summited naked. Norwegian badass Bjorn-Eivind Aartun grabbed American Cullen Kirk and the pair raced from the Niponino bivy to the summit in a mind-boggling 15 hours. It was Kirk’s first real ice climb. Wrote Aartun: “Imagine, it is comparable to having your sexual debut with Sophia Loren.”

The New York Times featured Fred Beckey himself, a man who debuted long before Loren and remains more active than she probably dreams of. Or maybe the other way around. Maybe they should find out.

Australian researchers revealed that headbanging is bad for you and encouraged “bands such as AC/DC to play songs like Moon River as a substitute for Highway to Hell.” How in the hell would anybody send anything? Four teams—two not even Polish—planned to attempt 8,000m peaks this winter, a thought that has many climbers considering Going to Brazil.

“We put the fest back in festival,” says accomplished climber and former Mr. USA runner-up Todd “the Bod” Offenbacher of his Lake Tahoe Adventure Film Festival. The fest included the Red Hot Go-Go Dancers and a break-dancing midget. Festival attendee Tommy Caldwell is now taking break-dancing lessons.

Dan Cappellini and Rolf Larson snagged a long-sought alpine route on the north face of Buck Mountain. Outside magazine profiled young buck Colin Haley and only used the word “extreme” once. When the magazine came out, Haley was outside with Rolando Garibotti linking-up Agujas Guillaumet, Mermoz, and Fitz Roy.

Fairbanks climber and Ph.D. candidate Jeff Benowitz presented his AAC-funded geology research at a major science conference. “In San Fran with 15,000 geeks…all these super smart folks just wanting to talk about themselves and what they have done lately. Minus the smart part, it’s not much different than a climbing gathering. But still, science has its Greg Collinses and Charlie Porters lurking in the shadows.”

Back in Patagonia, the sending spree continued with Bjorn-Eivind Aartun and Marius Olsen establishing a phenomenal ice route near the Poincenot serac. “It dropped a few tons to the side of us during the climb. It exploded on the glacier several hundred meters below. What a show!”

(The news says the real world is also crumbling.)

“Patagonia was generous, giving so much,” said Aartun. “The voodoo-like asado that our Argentinian climbing friends put up at the end was the best ever!”

—Kelly Cordes

Previous 500 Words:
December 2008