I left Vancouver in early January to alpine climb in Argentine Patagonia. I had already put time into this range, establishing one new route and two first free ascents during the 2008 season with Will Stanhope. This year I was hoping to build on that success and establish another long rock freeclimb. I brought along the two best team mates I could think of for the job - the talented Americans Jon Gleason and Matt Segal. I was confident, given a decent weather window, we could achieve our goal. As it would turn out, the only thing one can be confident in is the amazing bouldering to be had just above town.
Matt and Jon. We voted ourselves 'best sunglasses' out of any team in the range...We had spent a month in town, occasionally hiking to high camp when I was idealistic enough to think we might get a few hours of good weather in. Every attempt would end in snow. It sure did seem to be snowing a lot up there. Several of our friends, all seasoned vets of the range, hadn’t left town all trip. The Huberbuam came and left.
Great bouldering weather in town but nuking in the mountains...
Crossing the Rio Fitz Roy enroute to the Torre Valley. Foolish attempt #1...
Gleason approaching our first of many fun 'snow camping trips'.
Summertime in Patagonia. We should'a brought skis to shred the gnar out on the icecap.
I got lots of good hiking shots that first month, usually hiking away from the mountains...
Another attempt/snow camping mission.At least we had the bouldering. We started checking the meteogram forecast for town, trying to predict the good bouldering windows of crisp temps and slight cloud cover. At night we’d thrash ourselves on ‘Coach’ Josh Wharton’s ridiculous power problems on the little plywood wall in the rec centre. I was approximately twice as strong as I needed to be to climb any of my dream routes in the range.
The Gato Negro V9/10 - one of the better problems in Chalten and world class anywhere!
The sport climbing near town is also quite fun. Here is SLC crusher Ben Ditto on an 8a+.
With so much snowfall, the mountains turned into giant popsicles.Time was running out for Matt. He had to leave early. We still hadn't managed to climb anything in the mountains. Finally, the meteogram weather forecast looked promising for most of one day, so we hiked in again to have a go at the smallest, easiest summit in the range, the De La S spire.
The standard route from the Torre Valley starts with a stiff 2000' approach to a low-angle snow/neve couloir. From there a couple easy mixed pitches leads to 4-8 pitches of easy rock ridge. Easy, right? Conditions turned out to be a bit more mixed than anticipated, so for speed, I led the entire route. Matty and Gleason were glad to have a Canadian along for the frosty bits. We topped out to strong wind gusts and incoming weather over the mountains and wasted no time in rapping and reversing the route.
What to climb now? My original objectives would be out of condition for the rest of the season. How could I make the most of my remaining time? Over muchos grande Quilmes cervezas I drunkenly declared I would lead every pitch of the classic ice route Exocet on Cerro Standhart with anyone who was willing to jumar behind me. 'Uh huh', everyone rolled their eyes at my youthful bravado. The only one to take my bait was Hayden Kennedy, the 18-year-old son of American alpine climbing legend Michael Kennedy.
Hayden and I were psyched, and the weather was looking like it was getting good...
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