Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fitz Roy-Pilar Norte

El Chaltén o Monte Fitz Roy
Maté, porro, y todo lo demás follows the big dihedral on the North Pillar (left side of photo)

My favorite pitch, 10+ hands and fists!!
(Silvia Vidal photo)

Joel juggin the beauty

Wild dike traverse
(Silvia Vidal)


Joel reaching the big ledge and pulling the rope up.

Joel leading off the "3-star" bivy ledge

Looking down on the 3-star bivy ledge

Joel starting the upper Casarotto route on the Fitz Roy headwall the next morning.
11am (way too late)

Neil following the last pitch before the bail. We were soaked and very high on Fitz Roy.
(Pilar Norte behind)

Back on the Pilar North, preparing to rappell

Rappelling Casarotto with the remnants of our green rope, using Jose and Greg's 40m cords


A full moon lit our way as we climbed up to Paso Cuadrado at 0100 on Saturday, February 19. 22 hours later we were on top of the North Pillar of Fitz Roy, having climbed Rolo and Bean's line on the right side.

Neil crushed the first lead block which included 16 pitches of crack climbing up to 5.11 (7a). We passed two parties along the way and the third at the "3-star" bivy ledge where my lead block started. Between 5 and 11pm, I led cracks that started in immaculate corners. As darkness caught us, we were still a few pitches from the top of the pillar. As the angle eased, we entered chossy and wet weaknesses. After 9 pitches, we found a small place to pass the night on top the pillar.

The next morning I heard singing... Was I hallucinating? No!! It was Nico and Sean topping out the East Face. We were inspired! Going for the top of Fitz Roy, we found increasing amounts of water melting off the rime ice. What began as slightly annoying, totally drenched us and threatened us with hypothermia.

We rappelled with nearly numb hands and found a ledge to dry out. A couple steep pitches and a core shot rope brought us back to the top of the pillar. We began rappelling the Casarotto route around 3pm. Our orange half-rope was soon stuck behind flakes and we cut it. At this point, there were four of us rapping on two 40 meter sections of rope...

The Casarotto is equipped for 60 meter raps and we found ourselves building every other anchor. Fortunately, we had lots of extra sections of rope to build with (after chopping three ropes). Around 11pm we were stopped by high winds as we became exposed to the prevailing Westerly. At this point, we decided to bivy on a 2ft. by 8ft. ledge that had ice for water (we carried one jetboil). The night passed with Los Hermanos holding each other to keep warm and constantly shifting positions as limbs went numb.

The next morning we rapped over the jammed block and into a gully of loose rock and running water. We avoided spontaneous rockfall by moving lookers right onto a rock rib and eventually onto the slabs below the Pillar proper. The last rap over the huge shrund brought much needed relief!!! We were back in Piedra Negra where our tent and food awaited a couple hours later.

We will be Stateside in a couple days. It's sunny in Bariloche and we're headed out for a day of sport climbing. Ciao!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Splittertonville (aka Red Pillar)

Hayden and Gleason crushing.


Some of the best granite, ever!

Steep course grain granite.

The Red Man on the Red Pillar. Roy dominates the background!

Looking down on Guillamet.

February is shaping up to be a fair amount of good weather. I teamed up with Josh and Maury for a quick climb of the Red Pillar. Our amigos, Hayden and Gleason climbed the route ahead of us. The immaculate crack systems were almost as amazing as the company.

The forecast continues to look good. The monkeys are heading into the hills...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Coda-Aguja Desmochada

Good morning!

Aguja Desmochada, Aguja de La Silla, and Cerro Fitz Roy

Nico low on Desmo'

Josh contemplates the Southwest face of Aguja Desmochada

Pitch 1 of Coda

Steeps on Pitch 2


Pitch 4

High over the Torre Valley

Josh traversing the ridgeline-summit of Aguja Desmochada


South face of Desmo'
Coda follows the system right of the big right-facing corner
then traverses to gain the left skyline ridge to the top

During a three-day period of high pressure, I established a new route on Aguja Desmochada with Josh Wharton. After leaving Nipo Nino base camp at a casual 5am, we blasted the approach and started climbing on Golden Eagle, a Huber route, at 730. Our intended route turned out to be way to windy, so we traversed far right on the massive ledge below the steep South face. Another group was climbing Golden Eagle, so we kept going right. "Maybe The Sound and the Fury. How about El Facon? Nah, let's put up something new!" We launched into unclimbed territory and found 7 new pitches up to 5.11+ with two points of AO; a pendulum to avoid a seam, and a move around a scary detached flake. Josh was crushing, as usual, and I jugged with the pack for this steep part of the climb. As the angle eased off on the upper face, we traversed left, again crossing the established routes, and joining Golden Eagle for the upper ridge finish of the peak.
We had been battered by high winds all day, and at this point gusts were beginning to knock us over and seriously affect balance and mental security. We rapped off the other side of the mountain, following the Puerta Blanca route to the col between Aguja La Silla. We brought gear for a super-lite suffer bivy but the intense winds and ice conditions on the col forced us to reconsider and continue rappelling unknown terrain into the Poincenot gully. At this point, the descent became quite serious! Wind gusts were lifting us upwards on the rappels; we had to stack the ropes in the backpacks or they would immediately disappear totally out of control. The face we headed down was absolute shit rock, giant detached flakes threatened to destroy our ropes and us, and we had no idea just how big it was. The idea of re-leading any of this terrain to retrieve a stuck rope was horrifying. Our mental state was fried and patience was ultimately tested. Miraculously we made it to the gully system with only one stuck rope behind a monster flake; Josh mystery-jugged while I tried not to think about what it could be stuck on.
We needed a break, so we huddled down for 3 hours until the sun began to light the landscape. It was hellishly windy, uncomfortably cold, but not dangerously cold, and time passed very slowly. Once light had returned, we headed down to the base of the route, down the loose moraine, and eventually hit base camp at 1230, for a 31 hour push.
I staggered out of the Torre Valley that evening, utterly spent and absolutely psyched on our mission! I wondered what our friends had experienced during the last few days, and wished everyone climbing safe returns. As I crested the last hill before El Chalten, the electric orange glow of the generator-fed pueblo lit up the sky, and killed all the stars. I felt an odd transition as I stepped onto the paved street of town and clicked toward my dumpy apartment. It was surreal to think how far out there and isolated we had felt, totally reliant on one other being; now we were surrounded by thousands of people.

(Copp-Dash Memorial)
V 5.11+ AO
Aguja Desmochada
Neil Kauffman and Josh Wharton
February 9-10, 2011

Freeze or Fry

Joel in an early crux

Me pulling the same section

Navigating mixed terrain around baked, rotten ice

Joel starts the crux lead


Align Center

Looking Northwest to Lago del Desierto and Chile

Awaiting a lift back to town

These photos are from a late January assault on Aguja Guillamet, where Joel and I climbed a really fun mixed ice, snow, and rock route on the East face of the peak during a good one-day weather window. Temperatures fluctuated drastically, and the snow was quite soft as we crossed the bergschrund and started the route. The first four pitches had stimulating climbing, but were severely sun-affected, making the ice and snow difficult and insecure. I was glad to be following! As we got higher, the line retreated into the shade and refroze, just in time for a magnificent, thin, crux ice runnel!! We cruised easy terrain for another pitch, then hit the summit snow slope and romped to the cumbre, for Joel's fifth Guillamet summit, and my third. We're uncertain whether this terrain has been climbed, but consider it quite likely as part of one route or another. Our goal was having fun, and we found it!