Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cerro Pollone-A Fine Piece

Cerro Pollone (~2600m)
A Fine Piece follows the sun/shade line on the West Pillar
The summit is the red rock blob along the ridge

Getting close!

David and Joel getting it started on the first pitch

 Dave sendeth pitch 2

Enjoying a wild face traverse on the second pitch

 David starting pitch 3 with Cerro Pier Giorgio lurking behind

 Neil nearing the end of pitch 4, a beautiful stem-box

Dave finds the perfect diorite foot blob on pitch 7

Joel takes over in alpine superhero terrain

Another hand jam!

Looking west towards Paso Marconi and Gorra Blanca

Dave, Neil, Torre

Joel gunning for the top

Neil on top of the West Pillar
 the summit of Cerro Pollone left, the Fitz Roy Massif right

Joel and David en la cumbrecita

Bienvenido a Patagonia...
Dave's first summit!

Rappelling at dusk, probably near 10 PM!

Dave exercising the morning after the climb

Joel and Neil descending to basecamp on the Marconi Glacier
Cerro Rincon, Los Colmillos, and Cerro Volonqui on the horizon.
On the other side of these mountains lies the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap

Dave and Joel under Agujas Guillamet, Mermoz and Cerro Fitz Roy

The northwest face of Fitz Roy in all its glory!

Neil wading the frigid Rio Pollone

Joel taking his medicine

Los Hermanos hiking though the Rio Electrio Valley

Psyched! Riding high on the Clown Truck back to town

The road from Rio Electrico through the Rio de las Vueltas Valley
it's about 20km to town from the trailhead

Looking back west to the Cordon del Bosque, a little explored valley a few clicks out of town

Made it back to El Chalten!

Returning to this little beacon of civilization after days of hard survival in the mountains is a surreal experience. This time Joel, Dave and I rode high on the roof rack of a yellow and purple clown truck. The normal passenger area was littered with the makings of a fully mobile circus. I was an ancient conquerer poised atop a grand elephant, triumphantly returning to the glittering frontier city. Or perhaps Barbarian warlord, just defeating the great army and here to recklessly plunder it's wealth...
Either way it was time to feast!

We began this mission on January 19, halfway through the now legendary weather window. David Allfrey had just arrived in town for his first time, and with his partner already sending on Fitz Roy, we picked him up and whisked him away to the farthest region of the massif. Dave's unbridled psyche and honed rockcraft would be a splendid addition to the team. Cerro Pollone is an incredibly beautiful dual-summited fin of orange and white rock on the outskirts of this wonderful granite pluton. Rumors of excellent climbing on it's West Pillar captivated our attention and we reasoned Dave would be able to free climb anything we put in his path. The topo showed lots of 5.10 A1 on the opening pitches. We found super crack climbing linked by unlikely face moves, and they went at the 5.11 grade. Halfway up at a large terrace, we chilled for a bit and switched leaders. Joel swung in and put the rope up on more and more classic cracks. We were climbing fast and having a great time! Occasionally the wind would gust ferociously but remained mostly tame, until we hit the top of the pillar. At this point the wind would not abate and our hopes of continuing across the aesthetic ridgeline to the summit of the mountain faded. We relaxed, took in the incredible views, and put down some calories.

I took over the lead role for the way down and practiced my Patagonia rappelling skills in the increasing wind. Darkness overcame us a few hundred meters from the ground. To my surprise, what should have been the final rap came up just too short. I built a free-hanging belay under a steep roof and yelled to Joel to make another anchor. I turned off my headlamp and looked around. The position was incredible! The moon lit the jumbled seracs of the glacier and the walls surrounded us like an impenetrable fortress. As David came past me he remarked on my stance, "Whoa! Looks like an El Cap belay!" We made it back to the base and ate what we had left, a few peanuts and a freeze-dried dinner.

Back at our bivy we tucked into sleeping bags and enjoyed a clear night sky with so many stars. We pointed out a few constellations. Orion appears upside-down, and the Southern Cross was just above the West Pillar. The Milky Way was especially bright and we contemplated our ridiculous position in an incomprehensible universe. The falling stars were the brightest we had seen. This moment in climbing is often the most vivid. The objective complete, only the most basic desire for food, sleep and security. After all, no one every achieved enlightenment on a full stomach...