Thursday, March 25, 2010

Valle Escondido

Bienvenidos a Valle!

Carpe diem!

Evening clouds over Rio Limay

Kinda steep

Neil contemplating chirt

Classic steep jugs

Sports-action hero!

Authentic Argentine accomodations

Hasta leugo El Chalten!

The rodeo, El Chalten

Behold, great bouldering

Silvana looking good

Stick it!

Planeta Kauffman...

After a few weeks of fun bouldering in El Chalten, los Hermanos boarded a north-bound bus for Bariloche. 30 plus hours and multiple bad American movies later, we arrived in this great city just east of the Andes in Northern Patagonia's Lake District. Bariloche offers lots of sunny weather, chocolate shops on every street, urban culture, and two of Argentina's best climbing areas; Frey and Valle Encantado. The granite spires of Frey are just a few hours hike above the city in an excellent alpine setting. Valle is located 65km down the Rio Limay in a drier, warmer climate, invaded by pine trees and littered with amazing volacanic tuff. This is definately the training ground for many of Argentina's strongest climbers. Joel and I arrived determined to get back into hard climbing shape; it didn't take long. Most of the climbs here are steeper than they first appear with amazing, deep pockets, always fighting the pump clock! We were able to climb 5 days with 2 days of rest; its amazing how fast the arms grew and the "alpine layer" melted away. We are now back in Bariloche visiting Aussie runaways Marcus and Cerin and eating bife, chocolate and winos! Resting hardcore for two days, then back to the Argentine send-bot factory! 7b here we come!!!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Valle Pier Giorgio

Pier Giogio Valley
Jim crosses the glacial fed Pier Giogio river with Fitz Roy in the back.

Sunset Day 1 on Pier Giogio (right) and Cerro Pollone

Paradise. We climbed the spire on the ridge just right of the three tiered peak.

Alpine start.

Descending to camp after our first attempt.

Mud Falcon Ledge.

Jim follows the final pitch.

Jim leads the first rock climbing of Day 3 with the North face above. We climbed on the face right of the right skyline.

Vamos a la Cumbre.

A seldom seen view of the Cerro Pollone Northwest Face.

The final headwall on the West face.


The only food we eat when sending in Patagonia, gracias a La Choco!!
3 alfajores/climber/day (minimum)
(alfajore, pronounced alf-a-hor, is two chocolate cookies with caramel sandwiched b/w, dipped in chocolate) invented in the Argentine state of Cordoba these are the reason why Argentina leads the world in diabetes.

A rare view of Guillamet, Mermoz, Fitz Roy, and La Silla

Looking west from la cumbre

Joel and Jim soaking in the sun

Descending the snow gully after sending!

The weather has returned to normal in El Chalten. As I write this, there are cardboard boxed flying through the air and the roof of the internet cafe sounds as if it will soon depart. Alas, the return of the wind and rain is welcome as we have time to regain our strenth and nurse our fingertips back to thickly caloused. The past three weeks have been fairly consistently good weather with hardly enough time to purchase food and repair gear before returning to the mountians.

Our most recent mission took Neil, Jim Toman, and myself to the seldom seen Valley of Pier Giogio. Contrary to popular belief, the hike in is similar to the hike into Nipo Nino in the Torre Valley. The exception is there is no tyrolean traverse in place for the stream crossing (read: remove pack waist belt and pants and bring two trekking poles and chacos) and there are NO PEOPLE! After ascending the left fork of the Marconi glacier, we found a nice beach to set up camp.
Day two brought wind and some precip and allowed us to scope routes and rest. At 0400 on day three we were drinking coffee and listening to Wolf Mother. Cafiene and rock n roll goes a long way to motivate us to leave the warmth of our sleeping bags and start walking up hill. The approach took us three hours, mostly cramponing up 35 degree snow with some morainal debris for good measure.
We roped up for two moderate pitches on a ramp system that took us to the base of a series of dihedrals we had seen from the valley. A horizontal black dike provided loose rock and blocked our entry into the crack system. Neil climbed a crack to the right and pendulemed back into the dihedral only to find it was, to quote the Argentine climbers, closed like a dolls ass. Neil down-aided and we rapelled to the snow where we found a ledge to soak up some sun before returning to our camp.

Day 3 started the same as day two with cafiene, Wolf Mother on the Ipod, and a three hour approach. We avoided the closed dihedrals by climbing a snow coulour to just below the col. Jim led a flaring 5.10b pitch that had him thinking he was back in Cochamo. Another pitch on the East side of the ridge brought us to a series of ledges which we followed to gain access to the upper headwall. Crack systems led to the summit and we found slings left by the first ascent party. At this point in our stay we are out of all the climbing food we brought from the States and we have been eating Alfahores from the Chocolate shop to fuel the fire. We took a photo on the summit with our remaining chocolate with the intention of printing it and giving it to Annabell at the Choco.

We rappelled the route we climbed with the exception of the first two pitches where we took a more direct line to the ledge where we stashed our boots. On the second to last rap, the three of us were semi-hanging in our harnesses at a cramped belay when the knot stuck after pulling only 60 feet of rope. While I flicked the rope to the right in an attempt to dislodge the knot, Jim postulated that he would just free solo up to where the knot was stuck and free it. I was not ready to give up on the pull and flicked the rope far to the left and elbowed Neil in the head in the process. He shifted his footing left and stepped on Jims toes, which were sore from being in a borrowed pair of mocasyms (thanks for the shoes Hayden) and propted a loud yelp from Jim. With nerves running thin, I called for everyone to RELAX in a less than calm tone, which was somewhat ironic... The ropes came free with another flick to the left and we were all relieved. We were soon back at our boots and laughed at the irony of our cramped stance with stuck ropes. Jim pulled out the harmonica to serenade the final rap into the coulour.
We descended to camp while a storm rolled in and spat rain at us. Just in time.
The arrival of these storms can vary as much as 8 hours as we get more than two days out from updated forecast. We packed up and started hiking down in an attempt to leave the glacier before the real weather moved in. Getting off the glacier in the dark proved exciting as we descended too far onto the toe of the glacier. The glacier shifted while we were looking for the ice ramp to exit and had me on all fours bear crawling up a thin layer of loose scree over ice. After climbing back up and finding the correct ramp, we tiptoed over the morainal depris and found our cache of Speed Unlimited (the Argentine equivalent of the Red Bull energy drink). We camped at the Lago Electrico that night.
The hike out was delightfully uneventful with the exception of crossing the Pier Giogio river. The idea is to return next year to the same valley and explore more unclimbed objectives which still abound this area. Stay tuned for the upcoming adventures in Northern Patagonia... Joel