Patagonia - gone with the wind
It was that time of the year again: In the beginning of January, I made the now usual trip down south again, to El Chalten, Patagonia. Since 2009, when I visited the area for the first time, the reasons for the trip have changed a bit, but the flair, and the South American lightness of being have stayed the same. As last year, I had come to climb on these incredible granite peaks, and also to show my “Cerro Torre” movie in the area where it takes place.
“A miserable season”, “No decent weather so far”, “More precipitation than in the last 15 years!”, such were the words that Florian Klingler and I heard everywhere in town upon our arrival. And accordingly, the weather was horrible. Flo had to wait for an entire week to even get a glimpse at Fitz Roy and its satellites. Everything got rolling as always: Waiting, checking the weather forecast, going bouldering.
Asado, Braseria, Porterbar. But then, it looked like a decent day was coming. Usually, that is not enough for decent conditions, but with the current weather situation, we may not even get a better chance to do something. Thus Flo and I decided to go for it, and make a quick dash to those granite spires without bivy gear - simply hike in, climb, hike out. Just as we were sorting the gear, Ben, a friend from Innsbruck showed up. He wanted to spend the winter in Patagonia and had just arrived in El Chalten. We offered him to join us, and the three of us started towards Niponino, the camp in the Torre Valley, around midnight.
I know every step on this trail by now. Along the hiking trail, we reached the Tirolese, which took us across the river, from where we passed the Laguna Torre, hiked over moraines, and finally reached the Torre Glacier. The first time, this is mind-blowing. Ben and Flo had never been there, and they were blown away.
As we approached our objective, El Mocho, the sun rose. Even after so many times, that is still an incredible experience.
Flo ran ahead and played with the camera. Ben’s jaw dropped. I enjoyed being back at this place. These mountains are unique, and in the intense golden light, it’s an incredible pleasure to enjoy their view. Cerro Torre, a place of many intense memories, shone in the first light of the day. The wall was way too iced up to be climbed from that side this year, but it looked all the more beautiful.
Eight hours after we had left El Chalten, we neared the start of the route. The wall was in full winter conditions, with lots of spindrift. We decided to climb a line of icy chimneys and dihedrals, and followed the route Greetings from Bad Men in the lower part, before finding a new finish. Especially at the bottom, the spindrift was quite extreme, but the climbing was really fun. Not too hard, but still interesting along icy chimneys and dihedrals, with a classy water ice finish on the last two pitches.
We stood on top around noon. Every summit in Patagonia is special, but the first one is unique.
Ben and Flo were psyched! There was almost no wind. We saw a couple people down on the glacier, but no one on the surrounding faces. The first clouds appeared. We had made the right choice with this line on this mountain and made the best of the short window. A quick series of rappels, a six hour walk to town, and 22 hours after starting we were sitting in Eduardo’s Braseria, doing our best to not fall asleep while eating our perfect steaks.
The weather stayed the same: Bad. I also did not believe that it would significantly change over the next weeks. The further outlook seemed so miserable that I suggested Peter not to come down this time.
The Screening of “Cerro Torre - A snowball’s chance in hell” was the highlight before we left for home. We wanted to give back some of the support that the local climbing community had offered in the last years. The Premiere was a great success, and the hall was completely full. More than that, actually, and I am sorry there wasn’t room for everyone. We had not expected this many people. Showing the film where it takes place was great, and it was even better to see how much the locals like it.