Dirigo

Imagine a group of hungry lions that traveled across a massive plain stocking a gazelle. Just before the lions attack and can finally satiate their hunger the gazelle enrolls in a ten-day wellness clinic just for gazelles. The lions are left at the front door frothing at the mouth with hunger and bewildered by being so close, yet so far away from what they wholeheartedly desire. That is what the last 11 days here in town has felt like; the community of alpinists being the lions and these amazing peaks being the gazelle.

We had all been waiting and waiting, checking the weather three times a day hoping for the weather to clear so we could climb. On February 9th the wind, snow, sleet and rain ceased for 24 hours and every climber in town fled to the mountains with heavy packs and huge smiles. It looked as though the lions were going to get the health conscious gazelle after all. We just needed to be patient.

Our goal was to establish a new route on the east face of Aguja Mermoz. We had most of our gear stashed at a high camp called Piedras Negras so our long approach was eased by the luxury of light packs. We arrived at our high camp around 8:00pm and set up our tent. The forecast called for a night of high winds and that is exactly what we experienced. With the nylon walls of the tent smushed in our faces by the endless whipping of the wind, we slept very little before our 5:00am wake up call.

With the rising sun we began our approach up and over Paso Guillaumet and on to the Fitzroy Glacier. We roped up on the glacier and picked our way through a sea of crevasses until we were finally looking up at the east faces of Aguja Mermoz and Guillaumet. Looking up at our intended line it seemed as though crossing the bergschrund would be squirrellier than we anticipated so we started to look for other options. We spotted a line of weakness on the neighboring Aguja Guillaumet and decided to shift our focus to this appealing line of continuous granite cracks.

I started leading up a beautiful gray corner system. Three long pitches of superb 5.10 free climbing brought us to a small ledge. Here Pete took over the lead and we continued upwards. Some pitches were better than others but overall the climbing was terrific. Pete’s final pitch was a steep hand and fist crack through a bulge, Pete referred to it as one of the best alpine pitches he had ever lead. From the top of pitch eight I took over the lead once again. Soon the steepness eased and we simul-climbed the final 200m to the summit snowfield. We stashed our gear at the snowfield and soloed the third class terrain to the summit. 

This was our third time on the summit of Guillaumet and each time I am blown away by the beauty of these mountains. We sat for a while and fully enjoyed the serenity of our position.

We ate the last of our food and began our descent back to the glacier. We staggered back to our base camp under the cover of darkness and in no time at all we were back in our wind-blown tent enjoying the simple beauty of rest for the first time in 17 hours.

We named our new route Dirigo, which is Latin for ‘I lead’ and is the Maine state motto. Dirigo is a great route on an amazing peak and we are psyched with our effort and our experience. We are once again back in town waiting for the weather to clear so we can return to the mountains and find whatever it is we are all looking for.