Thursday, February 6, 2014

Patagonia Nov/Dec 2013

In November I at long last made a return to the glorious alpine realm of the Patagonian Andes. I was there four years prior and had been so slammed by bad weather that it took me a few years to reconstitute the motivation to travel back.  But after expeditions to Alaska and the Waddington spent hanging out with Mr Scott Bennett, hearing his stories of glorious weather windows and amazing granite I once again acquired the itch and he and I purchased tickets to head down for the Southern Hemisphere spring to see about slaying some ice and mixed routes in the Chalten Massif. 

Here are some quick notes on the trip:
Our Humble Abode in Chalten,
Thanks Mikey and Kate for letting us looks after it!

Nov 22
Thirty six hours of travel placed us in one of the small A-Frames at the Centro Alpino  in downtown Chalten, Argentina. We pulled down a weather forecast and shortly found ourselves headed into the hills with our eyes on Aguja Standhardt and it's classic Exocet Chimney.

The amazing Mr Bennett

We quickly found ourselves high on the mountain, exhausted from days of long travel and no sleep.  The winds were strong and very cold. We headed down. We needed rest before we were going to be able to effectively suffer and crush. 

For me though, it was my first taste of the Patagonian climbing in a long time. And it tasted good. 

Looking up at the Torre group.

Scott climbing above the Bloque Encontrada above the Standhardt Col

Nov 26 to Dec 2
Coffee, always coffee

The winds raged up high, we made one run into the mountains, hoping a window would improve, but when it collapsed we found ourselves pinned down in a tent. The huge weather of the Southern Ocean raging over our heads. 

Amazing Clouds over Chalten

Mostly though, we kicked it in town. We made new friends and relished time with old ones. The bouldering in Chalten is some of the best I have seen in my travels and it was a joy to engage. The crew of fine folks at the Centro expanded and before long we were cooking together, climbing together and generally having an amazing time. 

More amazing Bouldering (Bennett Photo)

Beautiful Bouldering

Dec 4
Them boys in Chalten. All time fellas. 
But everyday we checked the weather, waiting for a window to materialize. When finally we saw a slight easing in the winds we launched. It was 24 hours with winds below 50mph.  It was not a window for the big peaks that we wanted, rather it was appropriate for smaller more protected objectives. A few seasons back Scott had spied a new line on the West face a Guillaumet. It was steep and incredibly splitter so we headed for the Piedras Negras high camp to check in. 

The right hand side of the West face of Guillaumet
Bassanova take the right hand of the two crack systems
in the dihedral at the center of this photo. 

Scott is an amazing rock climber, and seeing him crush on the steep corners and splitter of our new route Bassanova was truly inspiring. To say that he put in the hard labor on the route is an understatement and the quality and difficulty of the climbing is a testament to Scott's ability to onsight hard granite cracks and his vision for a beautiful line. 

Scott crushing hard crack climbing on Bossanova. 

We ran to the summit as the winds picked up and raged and then rapped into the Amy Coulior on the East face to escape the torrent.

Back in town, we found our friends, made food, drank wine and danced till late. 

Dec 6
In the morning I rolled out of bed and wandered down to the Panaderia to find a coffee and an empenada. Absent mindedly I brought the ipad to pull down a weather forecast. I was surprised to see that another small window was inbound the following day. The excitement of this fact dropped on my system just as my hangover from the night before set in. I walked back and Scott had already heard the news. We repacked our bags and headed back for the hills. In the cab headed out to Peidras Negras I felt ready to call it off, I was physically not recovered from the last mission and feeling quite pickled from the night just past. 

On the approach to the Peidras Negras camp there is a huge hill known affectionately as the Polish Hill. As we walked up, the winds were raging and the rain coming down in sheets. I have never found a better hangover cure than suffering and by the time we reached the camp I was in ship shape and excited to be back in the hills. 

The beautiful forests of the Patagonian
lowlands on the approach to the mountains. 

Our plans were nebulous, we were pumped to try to climb Fitz but the weather was far from optimal. We woke up 3am and started walking. Immediately we were faced with terrible isothermal snow, it was draining and we were quickly getting wet. We made a game time decision and changed our objective to the Argentine Route on Mermoz. 

The only beta we had on the route was that Scott had rappelled it years back and that we had seen parties on it a few days before. We at least knew where is started and were confident we could follow our noses up. 

From the reports, the Argentine route is a pretty scrappy (i.e. not that good) rock climb. But with the conditions the way they had been the lower half of the face was covered in ice and snow covering up friable rock and making for excellent mixed climbing. Halfway up the face we strapped on rock shoes and got to work on fun, albeit choosy rock that led to the ridge. The weather was constantly threatening and spooky but never materialized into a full blown storm. The clouds would encompass us and start to snow, but as soon as they did they would start to dissipate. So we continued upwards. 

Mixed climbing on Mermoz
Rock climbing on Mermoz

Before long we were standing on the summit in the sunshine. Looking out over the range. 

Standing on peaks is amazing as it allows us to look at 360 degrees of possibilities. Looking over Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre, and the other peaks of the Chalten Massif makes for a pretty impressive and inspiring sight. With only a few days left in Agrentina I knew that my trip was coming to a close and that the weather was going to be dismal for the rest of my stay. I was very pleased with the climbing I had completed and was super pumped to return, to allow more opportunity to make good friends, hang out with old ones and maybe get a chance to slay some of the steepest mountains that the world has to offer.


Huge thanks to the sponsors for helping me out with kit and to everyone in Chalten, especially Scotty, for making it such an enjoyable trip. I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Hitching back to town. 

1 comment:

tonterĂ­a. said...

Baddass GZ. You LOVE climbing friable rock with a hangover in moderate snow! You are an animal.