My travels seemed endless. Two buses, three planes rides, thirty eight hours in layovers, 11,000 kilometers, ninety five degrees of latitude and ten pieces of fruit. I arrived in El Chalten after 72 hours of traveling and I was psyched to stop moving, see some good friends and focus on climbing.
Once we arrived our friends informed us that we had caught the tail end of a good weather window and that we should get in to the mountains ASAP. Every year folks come to these mountains to climb and sometimes a month can go by without a chance to do so. We were not about to let this weather window pass us by.
We slept for a hand full of hours and then it was down to business. Our goal was to climb the Red Pillar on Mermoz. This route was established by a German hard man Kurt Albert in 1999 and is said to be one of the best alpine crack climbs in the world. The route is very sustained for 16 pitches with three pitches of 5.12.
We hastily packed our bags and began the long slog into the mountains. Eight hours of hiking brought us to a bivy spot at the beginning of the Fitzroy glacier. We set the alarm for 3:30am and got a few cold hours of sleep.
The quiet, pre-dawn hours were spent navigating the glacier and making our way to the base of a 200m steep snow slope that marks the beginning of the route.
We ascended the snow without any trouble and stashed our ice tools, boots and crampons at the beginning of the rock. We started to climb just as the sun was rising over the glacier. I was so psyched to be back in this range and to be climbing such an amazing route. We made good time up the first few pitches until we hit the first 5.12 pitch. Here, I was slowed to a snail’s pace but was able to climb the pitch without falling. The route continued up laser-cut crack systems and we did our best to free every pitch. By pitch four the sun was engulfed by clouds and the classic Patagonian winds began to blow. The temperature plummeted and we quickly became very cold. We shivered our way up some of the most amazing hand cracks I have ever seen. We arrived at the top of pitch 10 and we had a discussion about what to do. We weighed the pros and cons of continuing and decided that it was far too cold and windy to continue. We began the long descent back to our ice gear and back on to the glacier. We hiked back to our bivy and then all the way back to town.
We arrived in town to where some good friends had cooked an amazing feast for us and we all enjoyed the comforts of a warm house, a cold beverage and great company.
Despite not making it to the summit our first trip in to the mountains this year was awesome. We are now all waiting patiently in town for the next weather window to appear, so we can begin yet another adventure in the mountains! Until then – Bananagrams, empanadas and sleep!