CERRO TORRE, EL ARCA DEL LOS VIENTOS

Posted on: March 1, 2006


Alessandro Beltrami, Ermanno Salvaterra and I, all Italians (though I grew up in Argentina), met in Chalten, Argentina, in mid-October. Our intention was to climb a new route on Cerro Torre. We set two conditions for ourselves: we would not use fixed ropes, and we would not join the bolted travesty of the Compressor Route on the southeast ridge.

Given these rules, we focused on the east and north sides, on one of the three lines that Cesare Maestri claims to have taken during the mountain's purported first ascent, in 1959 (Maestri's writing describes a different line from the two other lines he drew in 1959 and 1960 on two dissimilar photos).

On our first attempt, November 6 and 7, we managed to climb 900 meters up the east face to the Col of Conquest and onto the northwest face to within 300 meters of the summit, before we retreated in an impending storm. On November 11 we approached from Chalten for another attempt. Ermanno and I climbed five pitches on the east face and fixed our three climbing ropes. The next morning the three of us started around 5 a.m. Benefiting from our previous knowledge of the route, we moved quickly (we short-fixed in almost every pitch), reaching forty meters above the Col of Conquest at about noon. A short rappel brought us to the northwest face, along which we climbed eight zigzagging pitches and arrived halfway up the north ridge at around 4:30 p.m. Here we found a good ledge, so in spite of the early hour we decided to bivy, but not before fixing two of our ropes above, on the north face itself (one pitch, immediately above the ledge, traversed up and left almost twenty meters to a discontinuous flake and crack system; the next climbed straight up).

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After a good night's sleep we started again ca. 8 a.m., climbing another two pitches before exiting onto the west ridge, where we joined the 1974 Ragni di Lecco route. From there we climbed four more pitches to the summit, mostly on unconsolidated snow through which we had to dig a kind of upward half-pipe. We carried only two two-foot pickets, so protection was marginal at best. The last pitch proved to be particularly hard, requiring four hours to complete.

It had started snowing lightly in the late afternoon, and by the time we reached the summit at 11 p.m., it was snowing heavily. After waiting for several hours, we started the descent around 4 a.m., via the Compressor Route. We reached the glacier midday. The unusally warm weather and countless avalanches from the previous night's snowfall made us concerned about the rappels off the Shoulder.

We dedicated our route, El Arca de los Vientos ("Ark of the Winds": VI, 1200m), to the memories of Argentine Teo Plaza and Spaniard Pepe Chaverri, who in 1994 made a series of valiant alpine-style attempts up a new route on Cerro Standhardt. Though we did not comply entirely with our ideal terms—we fixed our three climbing ropes the evening before starting, and we used the Compressor Route to descend—we were still satisfied with our effort.

We did not find any trace of Maestri, Fava and Egger beyond the end of the initial dihedral on the east face, 300 meters above the glacier. Also, the terrain we encountered did not match Maestri and Fava's descriptions. Together with the reasons I detail in my article, "A Mountain Unveiled," in the 2004 American Alpine Journal, these points convinced us that the first ascent of Cerro Torre was made by Daniele Chiappa, Mario Conti, Casimiro Ferrari and Pino Negri in 1974 (Maestri and his team climbed the Compresor Route in 1971, but retreated forty meters below the summit).

Rolando Garibotti, Boulder, Colorado



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