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
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.
V 5.11+ AO
Neil Kauffman and Josh Wharton
February 9-10, 2011