Thursday, December 29, 2011

Patagonia sin Pare!

The sending spree continues! December in Patagonia has seen unprecedented amounts of hot weather and beautiful windless days in the mountains, with windows coming every week it seems like barely enough time to refuel relax and catch your breath before turning around and marching back to new objectives.
After the Brenner Route on Guillamet, I vowed that postholing and bergshrunds were a thing of the past, and got stoked on rock climbing in the Torre Valley. The approach is pretty long to get up to the basecamp at Niponino or Polacos, but so worth it for the sheer amount of spectacular clean rock on the west side of the Fitzroy Massif.
With legs about ready to fall off, got up to the bivy below Aguja St. Exupery, named after the famous author of the Little Prince and early Patagonian pilot Antoine St. Exupery, to climb the stellar uber-classic mega good never ending 5 star route Chiaro de Luna (800m 5.11b). This route just goes on forever, finger cracks, wild flakes, chimney of cracks... We got a bit hung up on some rappels and ended up not touching back down to the ground until 7am the next day, but what a killer route!

Ahgooha St. Exooperee

With a big asado to recharge the batteries back in town, I hiked back into the Torre Valley, solo this time, to climb a route on Aguja Rafael Juaraz, for another warm window scheduled for Christmas Day. But the miserable hike in with a death-load tired me out more than I expected, and I snoozed through my alarm! So leaving camp a bit later than planned, I changed the game plan to the Austrian Ridge on Aguja de la S, a more manageable and mellow outing.
After a funky little rock step, I booted up about an hour towards the St. Exupery-de la S col, where I busted out the rope to make it up to a wild alpine bowl perched up below the summit tower. On the tower proper I followed a really cool chimney feature full of hand cracks and up to the wierd windswept fins right below the summit, climbing 5 roped pitches in all. What a rad way to spend Christmas afternoon, alone on a Patagonian summit, sun in the face, no worries.
I rapped back down with no hassles and made it back to my cave by 7pm for a nice dinner while watching the sun drop over Cerro Torre.

Awesomeness on de la S

Add ImageAdd ImageSummit tower

Now I hang out in Puerto Natales, Chile, to enjoy the New Year´s with friends here, and to renew my visa before heading back to Chalten for another month of getting after it, this time with my good friend Geoff who is making his first trip here. Stoked!!

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