Thursday, January 15, 2009

Last Gringos Standing

Our second sunrise on the Torre Group

Joel nearing the true summit with the first summit behind

Joel leading another perfect handcrack...

Neil following another greak handcrack high on the route!

more photos from Jesse and Toby´s FA...

Viva la Patagonia!

We´re back in El Chalten after a week at our high camp in the Torre Valley! We had some great weather opportunites and excelante granito fissura escalanda...during a short okay window we climbed about 200 meters on El Mocho, a small square peak below Cerro Torre. The Salvaterra-Cavalerro route takes a huge red dihedral which is really more of a water runnel as we found out, the cracks were wet and had some challenging moss formations. Still, it was a great day to be outside and climbing!

After a day of marginal weather and relaxing with a few amigos at our camp, more and more climbers began showing up, always a great sign! The forecast was perfect for two and a half days, so we began eating, resting, and preparing gear to climb ´Last Gringos Standing´ (V 5.11- C1 600m) on St. Exuprey...this route was first climbed March 2008 by two Americans, Jesse Huey and Toby Grohne and reportedly has pitch after pitch of excellant 5.10 hand and fist cracks.

We left our tent at 12am on Sunday morning and began the approach to the base of the route. At first light we powered up watching the first alpenglow on the Torre group and began climbing! Sure enough, we found awesome, strenous cracks and made our way up to the ´unlikely traverse´, 60 feet of bad black dyke at 5.9+. This pitch got our attention, as all holds were loose and finding the right sequence involved tapping on every piece of rock! Next, we had problems deciphering which perfect crack system to take, but eventually got it right; Joel led the crux corner on aid due to ice, then into a difficult fist crack which left us both panting! Finally the sun hit us and we romped up a perfect hand crack, a very fun, memorable pitch. At this point, the hardest climbing was over and we joined the Austrian Ridge. After 300 meters of great ridge climbing, we topped the first summit, rappelled into the notch, and dashed up the the true summit; making it at 9 pm rounded out 16 hours of climbing. The summit was amazing at sunset and we waited for Julian and Manuel to top out and begin the rappels. Since the rappel route (Kearney-Harrington) is somewhat obscure and very loose, we descended with the two other teams who summited Exuprey through the night, and made great friends! Finally back on ´firm ground´ to watch our second sunrise on the Torres, we began the deliroius stumble back down to Nipo Nino, wrecked but totally content! We collapsed, drank lots of water, ate and napped until the evening, then trudged back to El Chalten before the window closed. We got back just as our friends Felix and Eric arrived from the summit of Poincenot after climbing the Whillans route, similarly destroyed, and we all went out to binge on steak and pizza!

We´re very happy with our effort put forth on this huge route, and are not quite ready to think about more climbing yet. Thats okay because its currently blowing wind, rain, and snow in classic Patagonia shitstorm conditions with no more splitter weather windows in sight!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Feliz Ano!

Neil in ¨dreamland¨...perfect hands!
La Cumbre de Media Luna
Cerro Torre, Torre Egger, and Punta Heron behind

Good news from the Torre Valley! The weather was good for about three days, with one perfectly calm and sunny day, January 1; we brought in 2009 by summiting Torre Media Luna, a 400 meter climb with excellent cracks and stunning views of the valley. After weeks of waiting out the Patagonian wind and rain, it was surreal to be climbing perfect cracks in perfect weather! The energy in Chalten is great when the word gets out about a good weather window, everyone is super-psyched to climb and heading up to Nipo Nino, the high camp in the Torre Valley. We had a great New Years Eve with all our friends at camp, and went to bed early to get the alpine start. The forecast is optimistic for the future, another window on Wednesday, and more high pressure later in the week!! Until then, we rest, share stories with friends, and eat, eat, eat...mas carne! Hasta luego amigos!