Cerro Torre - "An Impossible Mountain"

Posted on: February 21, 2012

The compressor that started it all, hanging from the side of Cerro Torre. [Photo] Doerte Pietron [Photo] Doerte Pietron

In 1952, after making the first ascent of Cerro Fitz Roy, Frenchman Lionel Terray described the nearby Cerro Torre as "an impossible mountain," a phrase that described well the ice-capped, mile-high granite needle. In early 1968 an Anglo-Argentine team composed of Martin Boysen, Mick Burke, Pete Crew, Jose Luis Fonrouge and Dougal Haston attempted the southeast ridge of Cerro Torre, managing to climb 450 meters above the Col of Patience without placing any bolts. In December of 1970 Italians Ezio Alimonta, Carlo Claus and Cesare Maestri climbed to within 60 meters of the summit, turning around while still on vertical ground, having placed upwards of 300 bolts with the help of a gas-powered air compressor. Courtesy of the use of the compressor, the "impossible mountain" was no more. In January of 1979 Americans Jim Bridwell and Steve Brewer completed Alimonta, Claus and Maestri's near miss, finishing the so-called Compressor Route. In January of 2012 American Hayden Kennedy and Canadian Jason Kruk climbed the southeast ridge without using any of Maestri's bolts for protection and during the descent chopped 120 of his bolts. A few days later, David Lama and Peter Ortner free climbed the southeast ridge without using Maestris' bolts for protection.

We, some of the many climbers who have devoted much energy over the last decades to climbing in the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre massifs, shaping the region's climbing history, are in full support of the bolt removal:


Jorge Ackermann, Tomy Aguilo, Conrad Anker, Bjorn-Eivind Artun, Trym Atle Saeland,

Scott Backes, Scott Bennett, Bjarte Bo, Carlos Botazzi, Martin Boysen, John Bragg, Ben Bransby, Chris Brazeau, Phil Burke, Tommy Caldwell, Ramiro Calvo, Ben Campbell- Kelly, Rab Carrington, Dave Carman, Robert Caspersen, Andy Cave, Yvon Chouinard, Carlos Comesana, Kelly Cordes, Inaki Coussirat, Pete Crew, Sebastian De la Cruz, Alejandro Di Paola, Leo Dickinson, Ben Ditto, Jim Donini, Martin Donovan, Dana Drummond, Magnus Eriksson, Gabriel Fava, Nico Favresse, Silvia Fitzpatrick, Ralf Gantzhorn, Rolando Garibotti, Stefan Gatt, Chris Geisler, Jon Gleason, Gustavo Glickman, Milena Gomez, Colin Haley, Brian Hall, Kennan Harvey, Jorge Insua, Peter Janschek, Hans Johnstone, Neil Kauffman, Joel Kauffman, Hayden Kennedy, Michael Kennedy, Andy Kirkpatrick, Jason Kruk, Ole Lied, Whit Magro, Klemen Mali, Carlitos Molina, Marius Morstad, Avo Naccachian, Fermin Olaechea, Marius Olsen, Ian Parnell, Luciano Pera, Korra Pesce, Doerte Pietron, Michal Pitelka, Kate Rutherford, Mikey Schaefer, Stephan Siegrist, Pedro Skvarca, Zack Smith, Bruno Sourzac, Rick Sylvester, Jim Toman, Doug Tompkins, Jvan Tresch, Roberto Treu, Sean Villanueva, Adam Wainwright, Eamon Walsh, Jon Walsh, Josh Wharton, Andres Zegers

We also support the removal of the Compressor Route bolts:

Vince Anderson, Chris Bonington, Mick Fowler, Steve House, Heinz Mariacher, Reinhold Messner, Paul Pritchard, Sonnie Trotter, Mark Twight


The many climbers in the first list have made important contributions to alpinism in the Chalten area including ascents such as the ones listed below. This list is meant to indicate their love for climbing in the Chalten Massif, their connection to the place, and a level of devotion that has helped shape its history. The ascents are in no particular order, and range from 1963 to 2012:

* The first attempts to climb Supercanaleta (1963 and 64), the first ascent of Supercanaleta (second ascent of Fitz Roy), the first ascent of the California route (third ascent of Fitz Roy), the first attempt on the southeast ridge of Cerro Torre, the second ascent of Cerro Torre, and an impressive near miss on the east and north faces of Cerro Torre;

* The first ascents of Aguja Guillaumet, Torre Egger, Cerro Piergiorgio, Volcan Lautaro, Aguja Mermoz, Aguja Rafael Juarez, Pollone East, Aguja Cuatro Dedos, Aguja Tito Carrasco, Aguja Volonqui, Marconi Central, and the second ascent of Poincenot;

*Eight new routes on Fitz Roy, two new routes on Torre Egger, two new routes on Standhardt, seven new routes on Poincenot, three new routes on Desmochada, six new routes on Saint Exupery, three new routes on Mermoz, eight new routes on Guillaumet, and new routes on Aguja Pollone, Domo Blanco, De la Silla, Aguja De l'S and Cuatro Dedos;

*The first Argentine ascents of Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre, Torre Egger, Aguja Standhardt, Punta Herron, Aguja Poincenot and the Ragni route on Cerro Torre;

*The first free ascents of Linea de Eleganza and of the Ferrari-Corazon combo, both on Fitz Roy's east face;

*The first complete ascent of El Tiempo Perdido to the Ragni route on Cerro Torre, the first ascent of the Corkscrew on Cerro Torre, the first ascent of the Torres Traverse, and the first ascent of El Arca de los Vientos on Cerro Torre;

*The first winter ascents of Fitz Roy, Torre Egger, Poincenot and Guillaumet, the first winter ascents of Vol de Nuit on Mermoz and the Ragni route on Cerro Torre.

*The first ascents of the Wave Effect, the Pollone Traverse, the North Pillar Sit Start, and the first to fourth ascents of the Care Bear Traverse;

*The second female ascent of Fitz Roy, the second female-team ascent of Fitz Roy, and the first female ascent of the Ragni route on Cerro Torre;

*The first ascent and solo of the East Face of Adela, the second solo ascent of Supercanaleta on Fitz Roy, the first solo ascent of Standhardt, the second and third solo ascents of Saint Exupery, the second and third solo ascents of Mermoz, and the first solo ascents of Aguja Rafael Juarez and Guillaumet.

Other notable contributions include spearheading the successful repeal of the climbing fee program that the National Park Administration (APN) attempted to pass in 2005; donating significant funds towards building the climber display in the Park's visitor centre; successfully repealing the motion by the Provincial Land Administration to pass to private control the area of Cerro Piergiorgio, Cerro Pollone and the north face of Fitz Roy; bringing to fruition a trail restoration project that involved donating 4400 man hours of work to the National Park; participating in a number of volunteer rescues; and creating a free online resource database of all mountaineering activity in the area.

Links to the Thoughts of:

Yvon Chouinard

Kelly Cordes

Sebastián De La Cruz

Rolando Garibotti

Colin Haley

Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk

Doug Tompkins


Jorge Ackermann, "Now who had the right to take bolts out? The ones who climbed the route without using the bolts had the right to take them out and Jason and Hayden chose to do this and I respect their decision. They climbed the headwall beautifully and I applauded them for it, this is a huge accomplishment in the world of climbing. A bit more discretion would have helped to keep the scandal under wraps but now it is done. In the end though, it is Cerro Torre that we are talking about and it seems that it is a mountain that does not incite discretion."

Martin Boysen, "About time!"

Pete Crew, "It is time that the Maestri nonsense was knocked in the head once and for all."

Ben Campbell-Kelly, "What could be better than having an iconic mountain with only challenging routes to the top? No gimmicks and no via ferratas! It's exciting to see how the new generation is making its mark."

Leo Dickinson, "The compressor route on Cerro Torre should never have been in existence - nature did such a beautiful job at making Cerro Torre a world class mountain. The bolt route has been a scar on the history of mountaineering for too long.."

Reinhold Messner, "Maestri was free to put the bolts in 1970, Jason and Hayden were free to take the bolts out. Cesare demonstrated that CT was possible with the compressor, Jason and Hayden demonstrated that it was possible without. They have all my respect - for having liberated the Compressor route from the grips of conquest alpinism, a style that we should finally get over with."

Pedro Skvarca wrote, "Personally I believe that the bolts should have never been placed. I was never in agreement with Maestri's action, he made a grave mistake and breached the ethics of mountaineering."

Mark Twight , "Having grown up in the culture of climbing that I knew, and been mentored by the men who inspired and educated me, I never thought I would see the day that anyone would be 'against' chopping those bolts

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And , anyways, I was not asked and I have been to Patagonia, like, uh, 2 times, man. That mountain was so damn beautiful...it changed my life. Man, oh, man...I mean, so damn beautiful. I mean, like, really...I want to go there every year now and even blog about the mountain, imagine her in Victoria Secrets, long, long, long leggings...see-through. Savage, beauty...whip me, Cerro Torre...you beastily beauty. I love you. So, such a beautiful mountain. Just to feel her coarse, slivering cracks nestled warmly around my digit one more time...ohhhhh, the ecstacy, Cerro Torre. You make me feel like a woman.

2012-03-02 02:59:26

Oh gag me... we've (the US) started a number of wars using the same type of media hype and spin. He say's, she say's. The Tonkin Bay incident and an almost 100 percent house majority on a bill giving the president the right to wage a war that killed something like 30,000 kids. Just because a group of leaders said it happened when in fact it didn't. Then it was weapons of mass destruction and another unanimous decision to go to battle.... WHY? Because a bunch of guys that acted as figureheads for the media said it was alright. This isn't about what is good about bolting or bad. It's about two young men making a decision that wasn't theirs to make. If I go down to the local crags and chop everyone's bolts because my true love is trad and aid... I'm climbing the wrong route... and behaving the wrong way. Now, if I get together with all the guy's that created that route, as well as the climbers now using it, and a consensus is reached... then go for it. Again, it's not what they did... but how they went about it. Arrogance can be attractive as well as unattractive. It appears that those in the above article find it attractive... just see what it looks like when a neighbor, chops down the beautiful tree that was sitting on the public land between your yards because he didn't like it. It's all the same... a little communication between the climbing community, the native Argentinean's, and others would have been enough to decide the issue one way or the other. To me, their arrogance really clouded the significance of their climb...

2012-02-29 00:57:06

Propose to set up a via ferrata to the summit and call it Maestri Revisited ;-)

I very much like Charlie's post as this part of the discussion has not been addressed yet!

2012-02-28 15:45:41

So many opinions on the topic. Those that think it's a travesty to put them there, those that think it's wrong to remove them.

Who's right? Is there a right and wrong? How many bolt ladders are on how many walls around the world? How many pitches have bolts on otherwise blank stretches of rock that couldn't be protected? How many of our leaders in alpinism place bolts on their routes? If you have to place a bolt on a pitch, does it mean it's unclimbable without it? And if so, should you be climbing it then? Does your quest for the summit, the top of the wall, whatever justify even one bolt being place? Is Maestri's bolt ladder simply an expansion of placing bolts in general. Placing bolts next to cracks is ridiculous yet I don't see anyone screaming about the thousands of bolts in Red Rocks, NV or elsewhere. Obviously I'm not comparing Red Rocks to Patagonia...just saying.

I'm not advocating for Maestri's actions because thru time we see that what was once deemed "impossible" may not be thru talent, training, and mental discipline. If you've ever placed a bolt on lead to protect, you're just as guilty. You just didn't do it as many times!!!!

Personally I'm glad their off if for only the fact that route goes free without them.

2012-02-27 02:24:08

How does one travel ˝ way across the world polluting our atmosphere the whole way, driven by a consumer orientated sport and claim they are “beautifying” up the environment by removing some inert pieces of metal?

Aside: I have not hat nor care if the bolts were removed or not, but the rationalizations and hype are like drinking a glass full of santorum (no offense meant to those that are into that).

2012-02-26 01:48:31

As I heard too, the lads did use Maestris bolts on the way up. And while doing the chop seems the right thing, it is a little funny to be hearing some of the high horse being bandied about - Twight for one is known for having left junk in the hills, justifying such actions as necessary in pursuit of his 5.10 A2 routes. The same guy claims routes as done, quitting and traversing before the summit.

2012-02-25 14:14:52

Think about this:

would it be super rad if I, a 5.14 climber, went and spent a few seasons down in Patagonia, sussing the place, waiting for the increasingly common good weather windows, freed a bunch of lines, and then removed the bolts? (Not that Kruk and Kennedy did this: they ADDED bolts, used Maestri's bolts, then chopped bolts on the way down.)

Is this the direction we really want to go? All fixed hardware will be removed by those who can climb the route without it?

2012-02-25 10:12:33

How did Maestri put up a climb that was so far beyond anything else in terms of bolting? The answer is that he used tactics that have never been used by another climber before or since. A gasoline-powered air compressor is not climbing equipment - it is industrial equipment. With his compressor Maestri could place a bolt more easily than he could place a chock or piton, so of course bolt-ladders up blank rock, even with crack systems immediately nearby, were suddenly a logical solution for him. Maestri explained that he put a single bolt ladder up the entire 5-pitch headwall because they had forgotten the pitons down below. How does one arrive to 5 pitches below Cerro Torre's summit and only there realize that the pitons were left far below? - only with a gasoline-powered air compressor.

2012-02-25 10:07:45

Am I missing something?

KK used Maestri's bolts. They said as much in their "justification statement".

They used Maestri's bolts on the way up, then chopped some of them on the way down.

I dunno, seems kinda lame to me.

2012-02-25 10:01:04

la montana es chilena.... el fitz es de la argentina....

salvo por zegers, no veo ningun nombre chileno

saben porque se llaman gringos, cierto? "green-go-home"

los extranjeros siempre vienen con la sabiduria del universo

2012-02-24 20:29:02

Agree with Chewtoy. A couple of kids decided to remove some of the bolts from the Compressor Route. The fact that they didn't remove them all shows that it was an unplanned, 'spur of the moment' act. Trying to make what they did into something bigger, such as removing the desecration of Cerro Torre by Maestri, is laughable. If that really was their goal, why didn't they remove all the bolts and take the compressor down?

2012-02-24 07:56:56

Discounting others votes as not representative, and then making you own list of votes (and not including those who declined to sign the petition) is a tad of a farce at best.

And elitist BS at its worst.

The sort of thing you expect from those born into privilege, not the leading role models of alpinism.

As has been said before. “The only logical argument for removing the bolts is because Kurk and Kennedy wanted to, so why justify it in grandeurs of delusion?”

2012-02-24 01:38:58

I am truly touched and moreso convinced after reading all those very important names of very important people, courageous people, devoted people making a difference .

All of my heroes in one post. All of your heroes, everyone of you...

2012-02-24 00:21:11
Andre the climber


the presence of bolts at Cerro Torre's face is open to discussion and arguments for and against are plenty.

The lack of communication with the local climbing community through its representation, clube andino, before an act that would produce such impact and controversy is irresponsible to say the least.

Guidelines (UIAA) do exist to rule alterations on existing routes, and those should not be bypassed.

2012-02-23 20:51:12

its been a long time comming the most butifull mountain in the world should never have had a bolt ladder on it. its as if a chain has been removed and Cerro Torre is free again Bria Molyneux

2012-02-22 23:16:39
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