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Patagonia: Last Gringos Standing
Posted on: March 12, 2008
Jesse Huey on Aguja St. Exupery's Austrian Route (ED: V 6 A2, 800m, Barnthaler-Lidi, 1987), Patagonia, Argentina. From March 2-3, 2008, Huey and Toby Grohne established the route Last Gringos Standing (V 5.11- A0, ca. 13 pitches) on the west face. The climb featured some nine pitches of new climbing, linking two splitter crack systems on the face via an imposing black dyke, before continuing to the summit via the Austrian Route. [Photo] Toby Grohne
From March 2-3, Americans Jesse Huey and Toby Grohne established a new route near the Southwest Ridge of Aguja St. Exupery (2558m) in the Fitz Roy Range of Patagonia, Argentina. The pair had spotted the line, which "links two of the most striking, splitter crack systems on the [west] face," from the Niponino camp on a rest day in the earlier part of February. An imposing, mandatory traverse of the black dyke that bands the lower part of the face inspired much debate about whether the features would link up, but in early February, Huey hooked up with Mike Pennings for a recon climb to the dyke. "We found a lot of climbable features that, amazingly, made the dyke traverse look easy," recalled Huey. "It gave us hope that the route would go."
Toby Grohne joining the Austrian Route on the southwest ridge of Aguja St. Exupery during the first ascent of Last Gringos Standing (V 5.11- A0, ca. 13 pitches). [Photo] Jesse Huey
On March 2, Huey and Grohne started the route with four perfect pitches of 5.10 hand jamming, which brought them to the improbable, eighty-foot, black dyke traverse. The dyke pitch proved much easier than anticipated and Huey and Grohne continued up the upper crack system, where they encountered one 5.11 pitch that was unfreeable due to icy conditions. The upper headwall "seemed to go on forever" with steep, perfect, hand and fist cracks all the way to the southwest ridge, where the line connected with the Austrian Route (ED: V 6 A2, 800m, Barnthaler-Lidi, 1987). The pair named their line Last Gringos Standing (V 5.11- A0, ca. 13 pitches) for the fact that they were the last of a band of twenty-five or so American climbers in Patagonia this season. Said Huey of the line, "In our opinion [it's] a world-class alpine rock route."
A topo of the new route, Last Gringos Standing (V 5.11- A0, ca. 13 pitches). [Photo] Jesse Huey
The effort was the culmination of eleven weeks Huey had spent in Patagonia this season. Before Exupery, "We ended up climbing probably six or eight new pitches on the North Pillar of Fitz Roy, the Whillans Route on Poincenot, the standard route on De La S, two attempts on Cerro Torre via the West Face and a version of the boltless Compressor Route [on Cerro Torre] that I don't want to really comment on (for next year!)," said Huey. "Still, I think eleven weeks in Patagonia is too much."
Aguja St. Exupery (2558m), showing Last Gringos Standing (V 5.11- A0, ca. 13 pitches). [Photo] Jesse Huey