The Cleanest Line



By Kelly Cordes   |   Sep 16, 2011 September 16, 2011

by Kelly Cordes

We traverse a rare and beautiful band of bullet rock, smooth with long reaches and thirty-foot runouts, the universe dropping away to the valley floor. We’re getting close. Justin continues along the line of weakness, toward the northwest ridge 500 feet below the summit of Mt. Siyeh, Glacier National Park, Montana. For 15 years I had feared this face. Heard its stories, its legends, its reputation as a “death face.”

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[He’s down there somewhere…. Photo: Justin Woods]

Reputations can be a funny thing. Especially if they shut you down before you even try. To me Siyeh became a 3,500-foot monster that I could never be good enough to climb. Never been climbed in a day, forced bivies bordering on hypothermia, a death face, I heard. I heard.

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[Kelly on the final ramp. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

I start to giggle, and then wild hoots escape. I can’t help it. Mountains crumble and grow in every direction. Justin comes up and we unrope and scramble to the summit eleven hours after starting. From the top I chuckle in amazement at how easily it went after all these years. Same old story: Sometimes I build things up in my head too much. But that’s OK, I tell myself. It’s OK.

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