Here's a brief summary of Patagonia:
The main aim of mine and Jon's trip was to climb Cerro Torre by its stunning west face, AKA the Ragni di Lecco route. Unfortunately, we didn't get a weather window long enough to get on the route. We required ideally three days, one to clear the route and about two to climb it, but would have probably pushed for it in a 2 day window if it had appeared. The longest true weather window we got during our trip ("true" meaning it was forecasted and stable), was one and a half days. Although when I realised the west face wasn't going to happen I was disappointed, i was just so impressed by other objectives i didn't find it hard to do a psyche transfer. Jon was the same.
However, the west face certainly hasn't gone out of my mind, and seeing it in the flesh has just increased my desire to climb it. For me at the moment, the west face of Cerro Torre is the most beautiful route in the world. Its just perfect in every way; form, position, climbing, line, and completely unique. To top it off, i want to climb Cerro Torre, but for me climbing the compressor route holds as much interest as entering a bouldering comp.
We arrived in Chalten, the small village close to Fitzroy late at night on the 16th of November. The first few days were spent generally sussing out the place, celebrating my 21st birthday and getting our bearings. We then set to work carrying a tent, lots of food and all our climbing kit up to an area Known as "niponino" which is in the Torres valley where we made a sort of advanced base camp. The idea is that you leave everything stashed under a boulder up there, so that you can spend your time down in Chalten until good weather arrives, then race up and launch at routes from niponino.
|Lugging supplies up to niponino|
The walk up to niponino is about 6 hours walking fast, which doesn't seem far, but it is. We were soon calling it the commute, reflecting how many times we were doing it to re-equip our stash with food etc...
|Approaching Standhardt from base camp, Jon using his light trickery...|
|First short pitch|
|One of the mixed pitches before the pendulum.|
|Pitch that leads to the beginning of the chimneys|
|Reaching Jon's belay 2 pitches up the chimneys.|
|Somewhere in the chimneys|
|high in the chimneys, a little deceptive, probably afew degrees over 90 here.|
The summit ridge consists of a slabby mixed pitch followed by 200 metres of snow and then a stunningly beautiful mushroom summit. The mushroom this year was pretty straight forward as it was excellent ice for both axes and screws.
|From the chimneys, a mixed pitch and 200 metres of ridge finds you here, with the spectacular summit just above Jon.|
|A 20 metre ice pitch up the summit mushroom, then you find yourself stood here, with Egger and Torre behind.|
After 20 mins on the summit, watching clouds roll over the western most reaches of the ice-cap we started to descend. We rapped the route mostly in the dark, not helped by two badly snagged ropes, both requiring a lot of climbing to free.
Exocet as a route is uber-classy. The climbing is just completely awesome, from the mixed and dry tooling beginning to the steep ice in the chimneys, to the final 20 metres of mushroom. The line also is just totally awesome, the kind of thing you would design as a fantasy route. Great day.
After climbing exocet we spent almost 2 weeks of bad weather in Chalten. This was spent generally "hanging out" with friends, which included sport climbing and bouldering sessions, drinking, eating and sleeping. We were checking the forecast as much as three times a day at some points, scrutinising the changes with every update. We were desperate for another weather window, but it was becoming obvious how unlikely a three day window was going to be. The forecasts from NOAA are very well displayed and very accurate. They're so detailed that when you do get a window, you're calculating the climb down to the individual hour in correspondence to the forecast.
|The Valley that Chalten sits in. Its quite often nice weather here, but any distance in to the mountains and it soon changes.|
|The Weather, the key is for the windspeed to drop beneath 7 knots, and the dew point-temperature lines to be spaced.|
Eventually another weather window showed itself on our computer screen. At first it looked sizable, and we were thinking about the west face. Then it diminished in size and looked like a window we may be able to climb the Supercanaleta on Fitzroy with- a not too hard but long route which has to be one of the best lines in the world. The closer the window was, the more it became obvious that it was going to be a day or less. There was also a huge amount of snowfall preceding the weather which made options difficult. After some thought we decided to try and repeat the east face of Cerro Piergiogio. Piergiogio stands proud at the very head of the Torres valley, sitting on top of a huge and complex jumble of glaciers which feed the main torres glacier. It has an impressive east face which looks completely blank from niponino, but when beneath it a chimney/corner system reveals itself. We knew it had been climbed once before over a few days with fixed ropes and aid, and that the summit consisted of a snow mushroom, but little else.
The morning we set out it was still pretty windy, which made walking up the glacier towards the steepening of the glacier pretty miserable. Its a lot of lateral distance as well as about 1300 metres height gain to the bottom of the face. A serac band forms the rim of the largest rise on the glacier before the plateau beneath Pollone and Piergiogio. To get round this we climbed a gully similar to Combe or Green on Ben Nevis which safely gained us access to the gently rising plateau, which in another kilometre or two led us to the bergschrund of Piergiogio. Throughout the walk in there was about 2 feet of fresh powder, which made the long approach far more energy-sapping than it should have been. For the first half we benefited slightly from Bjorn-Eivind Artun's track which then branched off to pollone (they had climbed a stunning looking gash up pollone the day before) however, they had been in snow shoes, so the track was barely beneficial. I think it took around 7 hours to complete the approach, which ended by literally swimming the last 50 metres and over the schrund, it was like winter in Cham without the skis!
|The east faces of Cerro Piergiogio and Cerro Pollone, from niponino.|
|Taking a brief moment after sunrise to admire the Torres. This was just after climbing the gully which gained us access to the plateau.|
|Three or four hours in to the approach and its still a long way away!|
|Jon Swimming to the schrund|
|Looking up, low on the face.|
|The first tricky pitch.|
|Aiding up the hairline crack.|
|Starting to free climb again.|