Thursday, February 24, 2011


Full trip report to come, but for now just a quick note:

Blake and I have returned to El Chalten from a six day mission out to the Marconi Glacier, up the West Pillar of Cerro Pollone, over the long summit ridge tagging both the West and East summits of Pollone, down the East face to the Fitz Norte glacier, back over Paso Cuadrado to the familiar basecamp of Piedras Negras.

Pollone is the double summit in the center left of the photo.
In the process, we made the second ascent, and first free ascent, of the West Pillar. We mostly stuck to the route "A Fine Piece", which was put up by Jim Donini and Greg Crouch in the late 90s, but we might have been on new terrain for the first 4-5 pitches. Though each summit (West Pillar, Main summit, East summit) had been reached individually, we made the first integral traverse of the ridge.

All of the climbing went free, onsight, up to 5.11+.

More soon,

Paz y Cumbre!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pura Vida!

"Pura Vida!" My friend Forest taught me this saying, "Pure Life!", on one of our first days climbing here in Patagonia. There has yet to be a day that hasn't brought this ubiquitous expression to mind!

We're here in El Chalten at the moment. Our trip started, though, further north amongst the unreal granite spires of the Frey. Forest has put up a series of excellent posts about our time there, and since he's a much (much much) better photographer than me, here's a link to his post:
make sure to click all the days!

After a week of perfect weather and even better climbing, we endured a 40+ hour bus ride south to Chalten, the gateway to the BIG MOUNTAINS.

Though notorious for it's unstable weather, Chalten has graced us with 5 days of sunny and climbable weather. Not realizing the full extent of our good fortune, we planned for shorter climbs, and thus completed two "shorter" routes (both ~2000'!), each in single day pushes.

The first, which we called "Las Vent'uras", climbs entirely new terrain on the steep West face of Guillamet. Established in one 21 hour push from camp, we were soooo close to an onsight free ascent, but I fell on lead on the last hard pitch (a cold and wet pitch of 5.11 overhanging finger crack). The highlight lead for me came earlier, climbing a massive chimeny/OW system about 1000' off the deck. Thrutching way above my last cam (a worthlessly tipped out #5 Camalot), I inched slowly up to an OW roof, not knowing how I would climb it without any gear. Upon reaching it, though, I groped upwards and found a perfect finger crack, hidden just over the lip!

After a few days of rest and resupply in town, we rallied back up to our base camp at Peidras Negras. Our objective for the day would be "Cosas Patigonicas", a route established siege style by a team of Italians in the late 80s. It was unrepeated, and un-freed.

After one false start up the wrong corner system, we found the line and enjoyed a full day of difficult, sometimes wet, always steep corner climbing. We had to redpoint the wet crux 2nd pitch, but then onsighted the rest the route. 

The highlight lead on Cosas also involved a wide crack, but this time Blake was on lead. Above our hanging belay loomed a massive overhang, split only by a "Harding-Slot" style OW/chimney. To the right of the crack, we coudl see that the Italians had drilled an aid bolt ladder around the obstacle, not wanting any part of this beast. Blake led up into a cold dripping shower, stemming wildly and struggling up into the maw. Shouting every encouragement I could think of, I dreaded the possibility of having to redpoint this pitch. Blake sent though, and our day was capped by a fun ramble to the summit of Mermoz right as the sun set. An all  night rappel through unrelenting winds, with many stuck ropes, finally saw us back to camp safely as the sun rose.

Blake and Forest chilling in Bariloche, before out week in the Frey
Hayden going for a Rodeo clip during a session at the anti-mountains (steep sport climbing!)
The sport climbing crew walking back from the crag

Blake on a ridge approach to Guillamet, in the REAL MOUNTAINS

Sunrise in the mountains

Blake leading a perfect hand crack on Guillamet

Blake doing some alpine improvisation. Toothpaste tube=Spoon.
Scoping Mermoz
This beautiful corner was on our first, and incorrect, attempt at Cosas Patagonicas. We weren't equipped from this corner's unrelenting thin-ness, so we bailed from just a bit higher. We think this has never been climbed...
Making a tricky corner switch on Mermoz

Me leading on Mermoz

An Alfahore, a delicious post mountain treat!

Also, check out Blake's page for more pics: