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Standhardt's South Face
Posted on: December 7, 2011
With the summits of Cerro Torre and Torre Egger in the background, Jorge starts up the first pitch of El Caracol (5.9 A1+ AI3 M4, 500m) on the south face of Cerro Standhardt (2730m), Torre Massif, Patagonia. Ackerman and Colin Haley's route is the first to reach Standhardt's summit via the south face, with several near-successes by other teams over the decades. [Photo] Colin Haley
Jorge Ackerman and Colin Haley climbed the first complete route up the south face of Cerro Standhardt (2730m) on December 3. The pair completed El Caracol (5.9 A1+ AI3 M4, 500m) in a twenty-five-hour push from Norwegos.
Cerro Standhardt is named after German photographer Ernst Standhardt, who documented Patagonia's mountains and people in the first half of the twentieth century. In 1977, after several attempts, British duo Brian Hall and John Whittle climbed to the base of the snow mushroom via the south face. Standhardt was properly summited by Americans Jim Bridwell, Greg Smith and Jay Smith in 1988, this time by the east face. Their route, Exocet (6a WI5 MI3, 500m), has since become a Patagonia classic.
In the years since Standhart's first ascent, the south face has been attempted by a number of teams—Basques Txema Egizabal and Xavi Ansa in 1987; Italians Elio Orlandi and Maurizio Giarolli (Italy) in the same year; Jim Bridwell, Greg Smith and Jay Smith in 1988; Americans Bean Bowers and Kevin Mahoney in 2004—but was never completed.
Ackerman and Haley's original objective was Torre Egger's O'Neil-Martin Route. They left the Norwegos Hut at 5:30 a.m. on December 1. The pair were slowed by a route finding mistake, and by climbing in crampons on terrain normally done in rock shoes, and realized that they would not complete the route in the time they had planned and bailed after six pitches.
Ackerman and Haley hiked back to Niponino, but with good weather in the forecast they returned to the Norwegos hut the next evening.
On December 3 the pair rose early, intending to climb Festerville (V 5.11 A2 WI5, 550m) up the north ridge of Standhardt. Strong winds soon forced Ackerman and Haley to rethink their plan, and they decided to attempt the south face instead.
Ackerman led the first few mixed pitches above the Standhardt Col, then the pair simul-climbed the ramp that cuts across Standhardt's east face. Two pitches of mixed traversing put them at the base of the main dihedral system. Haley led the next four pitches, up the right-side crack system. The cracks eventually disappeared and forced him to complete two large and time-consuming pendulums in order to gain climbable cracks further left. Ackerman led the next ice pitch, bringing them closer to the top. After climbing through the route's crux pitch, an overhanging chimney with a "knifeblade crack," they made a few more aid moves on rock and encountered the Standhardt summit mushroom, which Haley described as "easy and straightforward AI3." They reached the summit at 9:30 p.m..
Jorge Ackerman on the summit of Cerro Standhardt. [Photo] Colin Haley
The weather had worsened as they climbed (they both wore their belay jackets on the route's final pitches), and they rappelled down Exocet in darkness. Twenty-five hours after their departure, they returned to the Norwegos hut just after dawn.
Ackerman and Haley named their route El Caracol, meaning "the snail/spiral"—a nod to the spiraling line of ascent and their "snail-like pace on some of the tricky pitches," Haley wrote.
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