Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Patagonia 2008

I am settled now back in Vancouver, lining up work for the summer season and rigging the occasional show at GM Place.

This season in Patagonia was amazing, they are already calling it the 'Season of Dreams'. I am very proud of all my friends who managed to climb inspiring lines. Colin and Rolo on the Torre Traverse, Freddy and Dana on their Fitz traverse, the Hubers on La Silla, and Tobey and Jesse on their beautiful St. Exupery FA. Will and I had so much fun hanging with all our new and old friends in El Chalten. Without these people, the trip would have been only full of all that nasty alpine climbing stuff!

After a frustrating battle with the Aerolineas Argentina airline strike, we managed to negotiate a 2-day bus ride that would take us into El Chalten, the town that is the access point for climbing in the Cerro Torre/ Fit Roy groups.

Will booking a flight in Spanglish.
We landed in Chalten at 3am to clear skies and immediately started hiking into the Torre Valley. Sun-up offered breath-taking views of the range.

Torre Valley
Crossing the Torre Glacier enroute to basecamp in the Torre Valley.
The weather closed in on us before we were able to attempt anything, but we were back up a few days later psyched on trying a new route on Poincenot.

DNV Direct on Poincenot
Our new route on Poincenot 'the DNV Direct'. Completed over 3 days in mid-January, it went at VI 5.11 X A1 1700m.

splitter 11a fingeys
A pitch of perfect fingers high on Poincenot.

Poincenot's west ridge
Will following the ridgeline on day one.
The route was huge, over 50 pitches long; hard, with many pitches of steep 5.11; and dangerous, with some of the worst loose rock either of us had encountered on granite. The 2 brutal open bivies we suffered were enough to make us want to play safer. The views of Aguja Desmochada from our vantage on Poincenot were too stunning to forget. Despite its proximity to the Niponinos basecamp, this, the steepest tower in the range had seen very few ascents and had never been free climbed.

Our original plan was to attempt a free ascent of the Huber-Seigreist line 'Golden Eagle'. It started on the west face, but avoided the steepest part of the headwall to the left, and climbed on the chossier south face. So we settled on trying to free climb on the west face, in the vincinity of the Wilkinson-Sharratt line 'the Sound and the Fury'.

Our free route on the west aspect of Desmochada, (V 5.12b 800m). A variation to 'the Sound and the Fury'.

Will leading the start of the headwall - STEEP! SPLITTER!.

The crux pitch went at mid-5.12. Tips fingerlocks ended upbruptly in the corner, and forced overhanging liebacking up the outside edge. The pitch was capped by a finger splitter remeniscent of the Optimator at Indian Creek. When Will reached the belay our tag line hung in space 5 feet out from my belay.

The higher we got, the better the rock was! Perfect hands forever.

Will and I exhausted on the summit at dusk.
The descent was hairy, and we finally got a blast of full-force Patagonian wind. We touched down after the last rappel with about 35 meters of our lead line, and 15 of tag - the rest was chopped dealing with the multiple stuck ropes. We literally stumbled back to basecamp and collapsed for 24 hours before we had the strength to hike down to town for some much needed rest.

The weather opened up again and we were forced to climb some more. Our objective this time was the beautiful north aspect of Aguja Innominata, a face I had snapped a photograph of during our Poincenot ascent.

The beautiful north face of Innominata with 'Blood on the Tracks' marked. Will and I made the first integral free ascent of this route first done in 2006 by Wilkinson-Sharratt-Tureki-Taki.
Finally, the weather closed in for a few weeks of much needed rest and we carried our gear out of base camp. Our plan was to establish a camp on the east side of Fitz Roy for an attempt on the North Pillar of Fitz. That's all it was though, an attempt. We were pretty fried at this point of our trip and rappelled after a very uncomfortable bivy on the route.

Fitz Roy
The approach gully of the North Pillar route.
And with that, our 2 month trip came to an end. This was truly an amazing expedition on world class routes. Thanks to the community in El Chalten, my partner Will Stanhope, and trip sponsors Mountain Equipment Co-op, Metolius, Five Ten, and Power Bar.