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Being Barney Rubble: Kelly Cordes Climbs with Sonnie Trotter and Alex Honnold

Kelly Cordes  /  4 Min Read  /  Climbing

Above: Looking up from the base of the Dawn Wall, with Tommy’s camp visible. Photo: Kelly Cordes

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Damn, I thought as I glanced around, I’m like Barney Rubble at a superhero convention. Sonnie Trotter to my left, Alex Honnold to my right. I know what you’re thinking: Did you owe those guys money? Or maybe: Oh, one of those high school intelligence tests, “Which does not fit in this group?” Sonnie is poised and eager to try to repeat The Prophet, and Alex just raced up the Nose in like two and a half hours (among a bizillion other things recently). Pretty wild, sometimes, this small world climbing thing.

Earlier in the day Tommy and I played phone tag – I stood along the road, looking at his portaledge while babbling on his voice mail: “Dude, can you see me? I’m wearing an orange jacket and waving: Hi Tommy, hi!”

“What are you doing?” my special lady friend asked.

“I’m waving to Tommy, but he won’t know it’s me until he listens to his messages. Huhuh, this is so cool!”

She just stared.

Is it lame that I’m 43 and a “fan” of my friends?

Anyway, we’re road-trippin’, not only because it’s fun but because I need to get my sorry ass back in condition. Not just rehab condition – I’ve done that, and post-surgery rehab has indeed become my life’s specialty – but I need to build back my climbing base. Pakistan woke me up; I got continually altitude sick, and my leg got so hammered that some days near the end of the trip I could barely limp to the cook tent. I’d long prided myself on always being fit. Not being ready sucks. But it’s also a wake-up call. I need more mileage. Hence the road trip, a fine way to spend the money I saved (first time in my life, that) by working a ton last year, while out of climbing commission. I never gave a shit about the stock market anyway.

Seeing these climbers and their drive inspires me, and helps motivate me. Interestingly, it doesn’t necessarily inspire me to try to free solo Half Dome, or rock climb 5.14, but it inspires me to do one simple thing: to live. To live right, which to me includes doing what I love, keeping decent values, and trying to avoid the recipe, the formula. I’ve never been the athlete these guys are, and certainly with my Kelly 0.50 body (everything advanced these days gets called a 2.0, and so…) I never will be anyway, but I’m damn glad I did what I did when I could do it. Didn’t wait for some future that might never come, didn’t make excuses. And so I’m a gimpy bastard now, it doesn’t mean that I’m done. Even if we climbed the Nutcracker slower than Alex and Hans ran up the Nose, or that to us the Serenity-Sons linkup – which I’d never done (whoa!?!) – was enough to leave me limping and to make us fall into a deep sleep. Because I think being done comes when I’m no longer enjoying it; and now, almost as a bonus, I’m also learning to enjoy the days when all I can do is walk among the amber leaves of autumn, touched as they are with green while blanketed with the Valley’s first snow.

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Serenity Crack, Yosemite Valley, CA. Photo: Kelly Cordes

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Sons of Yesterday, Yosemite Valley, CA. Photo: Kelly Cordes

This place inspires me, the walls inspire me, the snow and sun inspire me, my friends inspire me. And we all know that one of the greatest things about climbing is how everyone can tap into passion at their own level. On my walk the other day, while leaves crunched underfoot I thought about how even if I can’t climb like Tommy, Sonnie, or Alex, well, the way that Barney Rubble used to make the Flinstonemobile move with just his legs whirling in circles was pretty damned cool. The cartoonish image made me chuckle, and also made me think that maybe with some more mileage, I’ll get there, get somewhere, get wherever I want to be.

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Yosemite sensitive guy shot. Photo: Kelly Cordes

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