Friday, February 27, 2009

Aguja De la "S"oul

It´s been a long time since my last post, mainly because I haven´t DONE anything in the last few weeks! After the last attempt on de la S, there was a 2 week storm that either forced people to pack up and bail or to wait it out and endure a strange brew of Patagonian cabin fever.

Our cabana

With swollen rivers and deep snow, I was held captive my my gear cache at my high camp below the Rio Blanco glacier, so we sat out the storm in epic Patagonian fashion. Two long weeks were filled with seemingly unending asados (BBQs) with a live band courtesy Nico Favresse, Mason and Sean Villanueva, baking marathons, brief bouldering sessions at the Madsen boulders in town, and by going for days impersonating Borat.

Nico, Mason and Sean

Beckett crooning. Notice lack of opposite gender.

Nico on Vaca Muerte

When the weather forecast finally did show a 2 day window for the 22nd and 23rd, Wagner and I made plans to go back up and complete the Austrian route on de la S and retrieve my cache. I changed my flight back to the States so that this would be my last attempt- my patience was already worn too thin to wait for another good window.

Bivy Cave below Rio Blanco Glacier

We hiked up to the cave in good time and with light packs, arriving to find more food than I had thought I left, so we had a nice meal and settled in early. Waking up at 4:30am, we were on the glacier at 5:10 and making tracks up to the base of the route. As the sun came up and covered Fitzroy and Poincenot with a ruby red glow, I could not believe how much snow had actually fallen during the storm. All the open crevasses had been filled or covered over, and the SE faces of de las S and St. Exupery were blasted with rime ice.

Sunrise on Poincenot and Fitzroy

Wagner looking up at the route

Once we were at the base of the snow ramp, we were confronted with the harsh reality of Patagonia: climbing rock routes after a huge storm is dumb. There were two large slab avalanches that had come down the ramp (probably the day before), and the upper dihedral pitches were choked with snow and ice. With our backup route (the Bulgarian direct) also out of condition, we headed down.

The Calm before the STORM

On the way, the "good" weather decided to pack up as well, and was replaced by a mixture of snow, rain, and the strongest winds I have ever been in. At one point while hiking down from the cave, it was coming in so strong that I was being lifted OFF my feet and moved a couple meters!
So back down in town I began to pack up, and I bailed yesterday, taking a flight out of Calafate to Buenos Aires, where I sit and write this note. You can´t win em all, and for a first trip to Patagonia feel like I may not have accomplished any of the ambitions I came down with, but did get to stand on top of Cerro Solo, and now have all the beta and ideas for how to make the next trip down here that much better.

I'm OUTTA here!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Los Vientos de Patagonia

Hola chicos and chicas, Just got back down from an attempt on the Austrian Route on Aguja de la S, a peak next to the towering giants of Poincenot and Fitz Roy. The weather for the weekend was forecasted as being a good high-pressure system, but as it drew closer, looked as theough wind would play a large factor in determining the fates of most parties up in the mountains. Me and my partner hiked up from town to the Vivac de Cueva just underneath the glacier in about 7 hours, and made a camp just outside the cave due to high occupancy.

Despite getting an alpine start, making tracks across the glacier just as the sun was rising, and climbing the initial 150m 50/60 degree snow ramp in good time, we just weren´t able to make it happen with the weather window closing in on us.

The first half of the route, a clean dihedral system running up 300m to the col, is sheltered from the fierce westerly winds, but when it started snowing just as I finished leading the 4th rock pitch in boots, we decided to pull the plug as the summit was no longer an option.
The storm continued to close in, and as we postholed out, we were repeatedly knocked off our feet by some of the strongest gusts I have ever felt.

I left all my gear cached up at the cave, and am planning on heading back up after this week of poor weather clears out. For now, David, Blake, Paul and I are cozy in our plush A-frame and are getting ready for the big party we are having tomorrow night complete with 2 30 kilo corderos (goat) we are roasting on the BBQ! More news and pics to come, stay tuned.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cerro Solo

With a short weather windown forecasted this week, and with a limited amount of time available due to the work commitments of my partner Marcos, we decided on a climb that would we be able to do in a short trip from town and without having to hike a big load up to one of the primary basecamps.

Sunrise as we begin the ice pitch

Cerro Solo seemed to fit the bill perfectly. With a bivy site only 4 hours hike from town, we were able to leave at around 3pm and make it up there with plenty of time for a relaxed evening, and even a chance to get some actual sleep (on an alpine climb?!).

After crossing the tyrolean to the other side of Laguna Torre, we made it up to camp and chowed down on some leftovers we had brought with us from town. With enough daylight left, we hiked further up to scout out the couloir that would take us to the corner of the hanging glacier.

The next morning we woke up at 4am and took this route up to the glacier, but found out it was the wrong one, and this one had deposited us underneath the middle of the glacier! Instead of wasting hours climbing down and around/bailing to go get some breakfast, we decided just to go straight up, which ended up being a 50-60 foot pitch of AI2.

Fitz Roy and Poincenot

Now on top of the lower glacier, we were able to traverse and get onto the normal route which ascends the safest terrain through the upper glacier. One more short section of steep snow and we were on the summit, at 8:15am.

Summit shot with Fitz and Poincenot in background

The views over to Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy were remarkable, but looking west towards the Hielo Sur, the largest non-polar ice cap in the world, and the distant peaks of the Cordon del Mariano Moreno makes you realize how great the scale of things is here.

We descended quickly, as the snow was beoming quite poor and the snow bridges were too poor to be walked over safely in most cases.

Just a short hike out, and we were back in town for homemade pizzas and a cold Quilmes.

The weather looks good for this coming week, so stay tuned for more!

...internet is unbelievably slow here, it has taken me over an hour to post these 6 pictures, so there are more to come...

El Chalten

Some of you may be asking yourselves, "Is Ryan even IN Patagonia?
He just posts pictures of himself climbing in great weather, with no snow, often in T-shirts!" Well I wasn´t too sure myself until now...

I am now (and for the rest of my trip) in El Chalten, a dusty frontier town which serves the springboard for all the major climbing expeditions to the Cerro Terro and Fitz Roy groups. With the free camping no longer available in town, most climbers are no forced to rent apartments or long-term rooms to serve a their base camp in town, while keeping a stash of gear and/or a high camp up at either Niponio or Paso Superior for when the weather looks promising. Luckily I ran into a friend of mine from WWU, Blake Herrington, so I am sharing a room (the Cave) with 3 other dirty climbers and a Rodesian ridgeback named Obie.

Since arriving on the Nightmare Dust Bus from Bariloche, roughly 8 days ago, I managed to hike up to Camp Niponino to learn the approach (it is a very circuitous 7 hour glacier approach), and watch a pretty nasty storm blow in and cover everything with ice.

There wa also the Festival de Boulders a few days ago, which has become an anual event held a tthe beginning of February to commemorate the first ascent of Fitz Roy. I competed in the bouldering competition, which was much more of a large gathering of pysched climbers ust out having fun for the day, and it all ended with a huge party.

So far so good, I am still waiting for my partner to materialize- with Amir back in the states I forgot what a drag it is to be in a climbing area without a partner when the weather is good!