Sunday, February 28, 2010

Guillomet-Mermoz link-up

Tim following the Fonrouge ridge on Aguja Guillomet.

Where do we go from the Cumbre of Guillomet? Not up, down and across.

Jim saddles up on the summit of Guillomet with the West Face of Mermoz and the upper ramparts of the North side of Fitz Roy in the background.

A quick change of leaders. Cerro Pollone, the Gran Gendarme, and the Ice Cap in the background.

Jim and Joel (left to right) on the summit of Mermoz ca. 8pm.

Jim contemplates life.

Looking back on the West Face of Guillomet and the complex ridge terrain between the North (far left) and South (right) summits.

Nearly full moon with Guillomet below.

Two days of rest between missions is just enough time to eat, drink, and sleep as much as possible. On the third day, with the barometric pressure remaining higher than nearly the entire month of January, Neil and I hiked to a viewpoint with the binoculars and scoped the East face of Mermoz. There was a decent amount of ice on ledges and in cracks high on the Red Pillar (reportedly some of the best rock in the range). With memories of our recent 27 hour push on the Crouch-Donini, Neil confided that he was still consado (tired).
In the trailer park, our living accomadations for the month of Feb., Jim and Tim were busy packing and purchasing food for a noon departure. The mission, the first two summits of the Care Bear Traverse, or what we have begun calling, The My Little Pony Traverse. Over the next three days we managed to hike into Piedra Negra bivy, sleep for a few hours, climb the Fonrouge ridge on Guillomet in 3 hours, traverse to the Argentine route on Mermoz (approx 4 hours) and climb to the summit of Mermoz (4 more hours). We descended while a nearly full moon lit our way. Increasingly frequent clouds and gusts turned a moonlit slab of granite to a dark and cold world. We were back at Piedra Negra at 3am and asleep by 4 after consuming lots of pasta and pumpkin soup.
Today is day two of rest. It looks like there will be three days next week to put in one more effort. We are all in great shape and our motivation is tangible. My fingertips are still sensitive to heat and the cuts on my hands are healing from nearly 50 hours of contact with large, often exfoliating, granite crystals. This is the stuff dreams are made of. Pain is temporary, glory lasts forever!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Return to the Torre Valley

I'm a happy cowboy on the Torre Glacier

Really fun rock climbing in the sun!!

Joel sends an awkward offwidth with the south face of Poincenot behind

The summit of Rafael with 400m of climbing to go!

Joel leads high on the ridge

Great rock climbing just before the snow and ice!

Joel with Desmochada, La Silla, and Poincenot behind.

You never know what you¨re gonna get!

Back in Nipo Nino high camp after 27 hours on the move!
Aguja Rafael is the small (relatively) peak with the west ridge in profile

After nearly two months of unclimbable weather, February has become the season saver! Joel and I just returned to El Chalten after a 3 day mission into the Torre Valley to climb the complete West Ridge of Aguja Rafael Juarez (5.10 A2 1000m.) This thing is huge, with climbing over mellow ridge terrain, steep cracks, and challenging route finding the whole way. After psyching up in town with Jon Gleason and Ben Ditto, we all went for the same objective, climbing rock in Patagonia with our friends! It was a great experience climbing in two groups on this route, always keeping it as light as possible, even when we encountered mossy choss, wet cracks, and snow negotiated with various western techniques. As the light began to fade high on the ridge, we all began discussing the bail. Luckily for us our friends Tim Dittman and Jim Toman had climbed most of the same route a week earlier and we found their rappel anchors just when we needed them! It took us quite a while to get ourselves off the mountain, rappelling and descending snow, ice, and rock back to Nipo Nino as the sun rose once again! We were worked! After a few hours rest, we consumed all the remaining calories and hoofed it back to town feeling pretty depleted. Today is rest day number two, and we are all talking about going back up. When the weather splits in Patagonia there is no rest for the weary!