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Posted on: July 1, 2006
In 2003 and 2004, always in November and December, Robert Jasper and I dragged ourselves to the base of the 1000-meter-high north wall of Cerro Murallon (2656m), failing both times. In 2005 we returned; the mountain had possessed us. Hans Martin Gotz and the photographer Klaus Fengler would join us three weeks later.
The north face of Cerro Murallon (2656m), Argentine Patagonia, showing Vom Winde Verweht ("Gone With the Wind": VI 5.13- A2, 27 pitches). Glowacz and Robert Jasper completed their route on their third attempt in three years, summiting at 9 p.m. on November 13 after a two-day push and rappelling through the night to reach camp. [Photo] Klaus Fengler
After a week of snowstorms, the barometric pressure stabilized itself at its lowest level. Last year we'd had the same conditions. But then, although the pressure rose no more than five millibars, the storm went away and the sky cleared overnight. At 3 a.m. we left the cave, and for the first time in a week, we walked upright for more than ten steps.
In 2004 we'd climbed to 300 meters below the summit, above the main difficulties, when gale-force storms stopped us. Now we had to climb each meter again with fixed ropes. Since there were only two of us to do all the work, we had to carry more weight, rest less frequently and experience a higher level of risk than if we'd been with a larger team. Furthermore, we wanted to climb this big wall without using any bolts and thus to demonstrate our concept of modern expeditions.
The difficulties increased from pitch to pitch, but we knew the crux sequences from last time, and by the second day we'd climbed half of the lower pillar. We devised a bold plan: in the next good-weather window we'd take enough fixed rope and food to reach the headwall, bivouac there and then keep climbing the next day until we reached the summit. For now, we returned to the cave and awaited our moment.
After another three-day snowstorm, we began our final ascent. It was like riding a cannonball. In order to save time, we jumared the shreds of our fixed rope from the previous year's attempt, which sometimes consisted of no more than five strands.
We'd been climbing for fifteen hours when we finally arrived at the bivy site under the headwall. Since we'd sacrificed some of our bivy gear in order to carry more fixed rope, we sat shivering in our Gore-Tex shells and bivy sacks and waited longingly for morning.
Soon after 5 a.m. Robert started up the last section. It was bitterly cold, but we couldn't wait any longer. Cirrus clouds had come during the night: a sign of bad weather. We wondered whether it would hold off long enough for us to reach the summit. There were just three pitches left before our earlier high point. This section is so overhanging that we had to fix ropes; otherwise we would've had no chance of rappelling the route on the descent. Robert toiled through meter after meter of aid; it was far too cold for free climbing. Not until 11 p.m. did we reach new ground, the unknown final 300 meters.
Ropelength after ropelength the wall became a little less steep. We came to a giant system of frozen cracks and chimneys. Almost each nut and Friend placement had to be painstakingly chopped out of the ice, while a jet-black cloudbank approached us, fast and menacing. Again we switched leads; my free-climbing skills were useless in the iced-up cracks of the last two pitches. We were so tense that we lost all sense of time. It kept getting darker and colder, and the first flakes floated down. We were racing against the power of nature.
At 9 p.m. Robert reached the summit plateau; I followed him, jumaring the fixed rope. Shreds of clouds whirled about the edge. We embraced without speaking. This magic line had possessed us for three years. We had focused our lives on it. Perhaps in that moment we felt nothing but an unbelievable relief. And also we were concentrating on the more than 1000 meters of rappelling in the snowstorm that still lay before us—an adventure in itself. But our success had lent us no wings, only a due portion of euphoria and imperturbability for this final part. At 3 a.m. we arrived, completely worn-out, back at our ice cave, having established Gone with the Wind (VI 5.13- A2, 1000m).
Stefan Glowacz, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
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