BLISS AND HEARTBREAK IN PATAGONIA

Posted on: January 24, 2007


The southwest face of Aguja Desmochada, showing 1. El Condor (VI 5.11 A2, 15 pitches, Bridwell-Dunmire-Smith, 1988) and 2. El Facon (V+ 5.12a A1, 16 pitches, Bowers-Bransby-Tresch, 2004). On January 16, 2007, weather forced Ramiro Calvo and Bean Bowers to retreat just shy of the summit after connecting El Condor and Golden Eagle (not shown, 5.11 A1, 650m, Huber, Siegrist 2006). Their 5.12a climbing up to that point was only one of many highlights of the 2007 Patagonia season. [Photo] Rolando Garibotti

The season's sending spree in Argentine Patagonia began earlier this month with new routes on Cerro Torre (3133m) and Aguja Poincenot (3002m) (see the January 10 NewsWire). It continued this week with a couple of ticks and at least two very close misses.

Chiaro De Luna (5.11b, 800m, Giordani-Valenti, 1987), on Aguja Saint Exupery, has become the area favorite, and reports from the last week told of lines of teams on the quality route. Take a number!

On January 15, Jon Walsh, Crystal Davis-Robbins and Chris Brazeau established a 500-meter new route on Cerro Cuatro Dedos's main summit. The 5.11 climbing above Niponino high camp was "cryptic, and high quality," Walsh said. "I'd recommend it highly."

The following day, Ramiro Calvo and I were forced to retreat three heartbreaking pitches shy of the summit on Aguja Desmochada. We had connected El Condor (VI 5.11 A2, Smith, Bridwell, Dunmire 1988) and Golden Eagle (5.11 A1, 650m, Huber, Siegrist 2006) onsight at 5.12a aside from two hook moves on El Condor before being forced down by incoming weather. The same deteriorating conditions on January 16 kept a Swiss trio, which included Jvan Tresch, from reaching the final rock and snow pitches of Fitz Roy's North Pillar (ED: 5.10 A1 60 degrees, 1200m, Casarotto, 1979).

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A few days later, on January 19-20, Walsh and company sent again, this time establishing another new route on the seldom-climbed Cerro Domo Blanco (aka White Dome, 2507m). Despite warm conditions that resulted in rock and ice fall throughout their ascent (Crystal-Davis sustained blows to the head and face), the trio persevered to complete a new 600-meter route up the peak's northeast face (5.11 A1). Their line sported a sideways off-width and exposed lower-angle terrain in the gully that splits the wall diagonally. Its true "emerald", though, was a full rope length of overhanging green camalots in a dicey corner.

The trio are now in town shaking off their shell-shock, perhaps thinking of cooler conditions for their next exposed climb or planning a solo-to-the-death trip to Nanga Parbat's Rupal Face with Tomaz Humar.

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