Saturday, January 24, 2009

Alpine Cragging at the Frey

Rapping with Monte Tronodor in the background

Alright all you cubicle jockeys, dirtbag rock monkeys and other riff-raff out there- grab a beer, kick yer feet up, and enjoy the latest cheap thrills coming at you from the Fin del Mundo in Patagonia.

La Tapia

I just got down from 14 days of great tower climbing up in the alpine playground known as Frey. Just a 4 hour hike out of the town of Bariloche, this place has got it all to keep even the diehard crack addicts and slab masters happy. But what really gets this place on the worldwide climbing map is the sheer amount of towers which end in super small summit needles.

Camponile Esloveno
Amir and I did 2 separate trips up there, as the initial haulbag load of almost 90 lbs (food and gear for 7 days) nearly killed me.

Me climbing up the 5th pitch of Imaginate (Camponile)
We climbed on nearly every major formation, completing several long notable routes on the Camponile Esloveno, Torre Principal, and the Cohete Lunar. Frey is known for its sandbagged grades, and didnt disappoint in this regard. Much of the climbing is pretty heads up, which makes for quite an exciting experience on lead here.

The weather stayed pretty good for the most part: we only lost one full day to a storm that blew in, and had several late starts due to morning squalls. Some of the days definitely gave me some preperation for heading down south, the wind coming over the Andes on the Camponile and Principal was pretty intense.
The scene up there is much more hectic than Arenales, as there are many more non-climbers hiking through, and much more crowding on certain classic routes,. but the spread out nature of climbing at the Frey mitigates some of these downsides.
Over all, it was a great 2 weeks, getting a lot of routes ticked off with Amir before I take off in a couple days to head down south and he heads back to the states.
Hopefully I can figure out a way to get pics off my camera soon, so again, all the shots are from Amir.
Until the next one, which will be coming straight from the deep down south, the icebox of El Chalten.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Success on Cerro Rincon

Cerro Colorado

Hola chicos and chicas, coming to you live from Bariloche, in the middle of the twister that just touched down, the newest installment of the Patagonia Sufferfest 2009!
After Arenales, I was unable to get a ticket down to Bariloche to climb at the Frey due to New Year´s crowds, so Amir and I went back up to the Cordon del Plata to do some more climbing at altitude, and I hoped to have a bit more success on some of the peaks in the back of the valley that I got too sick to climb earlier on last month.
We went out with light alpine packs and based ourselves out of Refugio San Bernardo where we could cook our food and sleep without having to take tents out with us. The trade-off is that the refugio is only at 9,000 ft. With three days out there to spend before needing to be back in Mendoza to catch our bus, we had limited options.
Day one we climbed Cerro Adolfo Calle (13,470 ft) for acclimazation, an easy trekking summit in the middle of the valley.

Summit of Cerro Adolfo Calle

The next day we just hung out around the refugio, sleeping and eating lots of food, as we planned to leave at 2am the next morning to attempt Cerro Rincon at the far end of the valley, in a single push. This would shape up to be a big day.
We left the refugio at 2:15am, hiking by headlamp. We reached Campo Salto (13,500 ft) at 7am, and rested for 30 minutes or so in the mess tent drinking hot tea and stretching, and trying to warm our cold fingers.
View towards Mendoza from below Campo Salto

Underneath the Supercanaleta on Rincon

The glacier and Cerro Rincon on the right, Cerro Plata in the background

We left shortly thereafter, crossing Stepanek Glacier, underneath the impressive but out of season Supercanaleta, to gain the East Ridge of Rincon. It was a long slog up the ridge to 15,500ft where we took our last break before the final push up to the summit ridge and to the top. The problem: this far into the season the normal snow couloir leading up to the summit ridge becomes a postholing nightmare through deep penitentes (suncups). We opted to flank the couoir through a series of rockbands. It took us 2.5 hours to routefind through some pretty nasty choss, but we finally hit the long summit ridge. I am feeling pretty toasted at this point, and am making a strong case for heading back, but it is purely physical exhaustion and not symptoms of AMS, so Amir pushes me on, and by 1:30pm, we are standing atop Cerro Rincon, at 17,017 ft. The views west towards Chile and unknown chains of peaks in the distance were breathtaking. The Andes are BIG.

The final summit ridge.
On the way down, negotiating the foul rock bands was no fun, and we got lost in a thick fog whiteout for 30 minutes or so before we navigated our way back onto the east ridge and down to Salto.
The clock stopped when we hit the refugio again, for a total time of 16 hours 25 minutes, 8,000 ft gained to the summit (16,000 total).
Amir on summit.
Me at summit

Sadly these are the only pictures I have for now, for some reason my camera isn´t working, so all photo credits go to Amir.
I am now in the Frey, having climbed sick granite spires for the last 6 days up there and leave tomorrow for another 8, so pictures and updates will soon follow.