FIRST SENDS OF THE SEASON IN PATAGONIA

Posted on: January 10, 2007


The south faces of the Cerro Torre group, showing the 1994 line established by Francois Marsigny and Andy Parkin, A la Recherche du Temps Perdu (ED+: 90 degrees, 1000m). The line reaches the Col of Hope below Cerro Torre's west face; it had never been continued to the summit. Kelly Cordes and Colin Haley made the long-anticipated linkup from January 5-7, connecting Temps Perdu with the 1974 West Face route for the first enchainment. [Photo] Bean Bowers

After about six weeks of the horrendous weather for which Argentine Patagonia is known, the longest window of good weather thus far this season came on January 4. With enough time to shake the hangovers from New Year's celebrations, climbers in the area were more than ready and eager when the wind and clouds abated.

A handful of ascents of Fitz Roy (3405m), via the Supercouloir (TD+: 5.10 90 degrees, 1600m, Comesana-Fonrouge, 1965) and the mountain's voie normal, the Franco-Argentine (a combination of the 1952 French first ascent route and the 1984 Argentine variation), were among the first accomplishments, but the notable sends came out of the Torre Valley. In 1994, Francois Marsigny and Andy Parkin had climbed A la Recherche du Temps Perdu (ED+: 90 degrees, 1000m) on the south flank of Cerro Torre (3102m) to the Col of Hope. Despite stopping some 500 meters short of the summit, the "route" won the 1994 Piolet d'Or, the annual French award that ostensibly recognizes the finest alpine climb of the season. The first linkup of Temps Perdu with the upper West Face had been quietly anticipated ever since.

Kelly Cordes is the senior editor of The American Alpine Journal. In 2004, with Josh Wharton, Cordes nabbed the first ascent of the massive Azeem Ridge (VI 5.11 R/X M6 A2, 2200m) on Pakistan's Great Trango Tower. In July 2006, the young, bold Colin Haley established The Entropy Wall (VI 5.9 A2 WI4+, 2400m) on Alaska's remote Mt. Moffit with Jed Brown. Despite being accomplished in superlative style, neither climb was nominated for the Piolet d'Or (see the January 5 NewsWire for the latest controversy to envelop the French award).

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A la Recherche du Temps Perdu follows a sinuous line up ice tongues and ramps through poor rock on the south side of Cerro Torre. It is exposed for about half the climb to a large, blue serac, and is not for the feint of heart, or the slow. On January 5, Cordes and Haley nabbed the much-sough-after first linkup of Temps Perdu with the upper West Face route (WI5 Snice 10, 500m), the route established in 1974 by a team of Italy's Lecco Spiders led by Casimiro Ferrari for the first ascent of the mountain. The linkup is by far the longest ice climb in the area; it is one of the most committing lines as well. The Americans' speed and boldness—they simulclimbed the whole of Temps Perdu—allowed them to arrive at the Col of Hope below the upper West Face without injury. Moving targets are harder to hit. According to Cordes, "I probably wouldn't do that route again!"

The west faces of (from left) Cerro Standhardt, Torre Egger and Cerro Torre, showing Cerro Torre's West Face route (climbed in 1974 by Italians Daniele Chiappa, Mario Conti, Casimiro Ferrari and Pino Negri for the mountain's first ascent). Cordes and Haley used this route to link A la Recherche du Temps Perdu to the summit for the first time. [Photo] Bean Bowers

After a few hours of brewing water and eating, the two entered the white, rimed world of Ferrari's west face. An open, cold bivy high on the face saw them to the summit at about 2 p.m., January 6, a mere 36 hours after starting. They descended the other side of the mountain via the Compressor Route.

The other major accomplishment out of the Torre Valley was by Freddie Wilkinson and Dave Sharratt on the south face of Aguja Poincenot (3002m). Less than a year earlier, in January 2006, the two had established The Sound and the Fury (5.11 A1, 14 pitches) on the nearby Aguja Desmochada (2650m). (An article on that ascent will appear in Alpinist Issue 19; on-sale date: March 1). In January 2007, Wilkinson and Sharratt fought their way through snowy slabs low down to the looker's left of the steep upper face. There, they climbed up steep, wide cracks in poor rock (5.11 A1, 17 pitches) until being able to join the upper Fonrouge Route (5.9, 500m). The two did the route to the summit in a day and a half, enduring an exposed, cold bivy, and descended via Southern Cross (V 5.11 A1, 950m, Copp-Taylor 2002). No name has been given to their route. The last route put up on the south face of Poincenot had been in 1992 by Jay Smith and Steve Gerberding.

The south faces of Fitz Roy (on left, 3405m) and Aguja Poincenot (3002m). In the season's first weather window, a handful of ascents of Fitz Roy were made via the Supercouloir (TD+: 5.10 90 degrees, 1600m, Comesana-Fonrouge, 1965) and the Franco-Argentine (a combination of the 1952 French first ascent route and the 1984 Argentine variation) routes. The line shown is the new route (5.11 A1, 17 pitches) established by Freddie Wilkinson and Dave Sharratt. [Photo] Bean Bowers

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