Friday, December 9, 2011

Patagonicos Desperados

Greetings from the hot and cramped internet cabanas of El Chalten! For the last 3 weeks I have been getting after it as much as could be hoped for here in the land of the worst weather in the world. Despite being just off the couch from a chest injury that threatened to put my season on hold, I got into town, met up with my climbing partner, and headed straight for the hills.

The forecast looked chilly, so we racked up ice screws and tools instead of rock shoes and cams, heading for the Guillot couloir on Guillamet, a nice ice and mixed outing. Instead, we got super warm weather and waist deep snow. We did not send.
Next week we got a great 4 day window, and headed up towards Paso Superior to attempt the Franco Argentine Route on Fitz Roy. Intending to go all the way to la Brecha, we had to break trail through knee deep snow for hours, then climbing about 200 meters of steep snow and mixed climbing before arriving at the bivy at 11pm. After 17 hours approaching, we were obviously not set up for success, and I reached my fatigue point after only 6 pitches up the Franco.

We descended the next morning back to Paso and slept all day in the sun, recouperating for the Whillians route on Aguja Poincenot (600m 5.9 60deg). Leaving at 2am from Paso, we wallowed for hours up the glacier, managing to cross the bergshrund easily, and headed towards the snow ramp which defines the route. Simul-climbing and briefly pitching out the long steep snow ramp, we made it to the shoulder in the mid morning, but not until after passing two funky mixed pitches whose belays were conveniently located beneath a torrent of cold water. The day was getting warm. We left the ice kit at the shoulder and started I began leading pitch after 70m pitch of rock, trending up and left around the formation, picking the line that offered the best mixture of fun and speed. After several hours we arrived at the summit block, took our turns straddling the narrow perch, and began the first of 17 rappels to make it back down the route. Lucky for us the rappels were pretty uneventful by Patagonian standards, despite being at times completely engulfed in the super thick cloud cover sweeping over from the west. Finally we got back onto the snow below the ramp, and had to confront our next big obstacle: the ´schrund. The bergschrund had melted out considerably during the heat of the day, and our nice and easy step across was now a 8-9 foot wall. With an incredibly unstable snowpack we couldn´t build a deadman to rap off, so I figured the best idea, at 3am and thinking only of the sleeping bag and water that waited for me at Paso jump. So off came my crampons, slack was given to me, and I went for it. Sounds crazier than it was, but enough to get my heart pumping! The descent after that was miserable-postholing for another couple of hours through hard crust over powder, the wind knocking you down ever few steps. Ugg.

Whillians Route on poincenot.

Rapping into the mist!

A few days of good solid rest down in Chalten was all we needed before gearing back up and going back up through Piedra Negra to climb the Brenner Ridge on Guillamet (350m 5.10+) during a one day window the day before last. There were a LOT of other parties on the route, and we managed to pass some of them, hang out with others, and generally have a nice little party train moving up the route. We summited in great weather, rapped back down the Guillot couloir and hitched back to town just in time to catch the empanada place before it closed.

Kind of a junk show. Moments later there were parties on all 4 crack systems...

Token summit alfajor pic.

Mermoz, Fotz Roy and the Torre Massiff

Now what? Lucky for me there is at least 5 days of crap weather on the horizon, so I can finally get a solid rest and do some laundry! ryan

No comments: