2011 Patagonia report
Back in the United States… Oh how things are different, fast internet connections, cell phone ringing, fast paced Front Range shenanigans. . . The fast internet is a very nice feature, especially when I have been wanting to upload a few pictures, tell a few stories.
After flying south to the magical place called Patagonia, Thom, and me were graciously picked up at the Calafate airport by our friend James Burwick & Family. They took us down by the river for a homemade dinner, and a nice camping spot to start our trip off right – relaxing!
The next day we headed into Chalten to meet up with our partner Jim Turner. He arrived a day or so before us, and had our apartment set up for us. The weather was looking really good. We were arriving part way through a good window, so there was no time to waste. After walking through the door to apartment, it was a quick rinse off in the shower (i hate the jet fuel scum after traveling for days.) We hit the trail within two hours of our arrival, hoping to make it to our bivy spot before dark. It is about 6+/- miles, and 3000ft gain on the hike to Piedra Negra bivy area. Our mission for the following day, Brenner Ridge 5.10, on Guillaumet, and onto Mermoz. Mermoz is the next peak over, and we were hoping to get both of them done in one push. After a successful ascent of the Brenner, we headed over toward Mermoz. After 4 raps, we realized that we were off our route of descent. It was getting later in the day, and was pretty darn cold & windy on the west side. Not having much insulation clothes, we headed back up the rap route, resummiting Guillaumet. From there it was a casual descent back towards our bivy spot at Pedra Negra, where we had a nice meal, and slept well. The next day we were delighted with sunny skies, but heavy wind. Hanging out, thinking we were just going to hike back into town because of the wind. . . It stopped, maybe around 11am. What to do? We still have a small bit of food and fuel, let’s go climbing! Back up to Guillaumet, we attempt the Fonrouge 5.10 which actually starts up pretty high. Not wanting to climb up all that steep snow, we decide to start on a lower variation (Giordani 5.9/10) to access the Fonrouge. After completing the Giordani tired and hungry, we head back down, and out to town.
The road to Chalten - My first view of Patagonia!
Thom on the Brenner
The snow cap of Guillaumet
Jim on the summit of Guillaumet
Thom & Jim on Giordani (approaching the Fonrouge)
Back in town, we rest up for the next weather window. We could go sport climbing, but that’s not what we are here for. Instead we rest, play cards, eat ice cream at Domo Blanco, drink, eat. Did i mention eating and drinking? We met so many fun folks from around the world to hang out with, and kill the time. It makes things fun when the weather is not. . . Looking ahead, the weather is to get good for a long spell. . . The mission – Fitzroy – Mate, Porro y Todo lo Demas to the top of the North Pillar, then up the Casarotto to the summit! (5.11 A1 – for us)
Resting @ Domo Blanco w/ Hayden Kennedy & Jon Gleason
Proper resting... (only 50 pesos for that bottle!)
Time to hike back to Pedra Negra! The weather window has arrived. We hike in a day early, tired of festering in town. Arriving at the base of the last up hill to access the route, the weather is not so choice. We hang out waiting until about 2pm or after. Just as predicted it clears up, and we motor up the steep 2000ft of snow to access the rock. Starting the rock at 4pm or so, we only have to make it 8 pitches to hit our bivy ledge, which should have snow/ice for water. We do the last pitch and a half in the dark. Arriving on the ledge, I notice there is no snow/ice, and we are about all out of water. We only had about 1 quart each today! We scramble around, digging in the cracks to gather snow for about 1 jetboil full of water. We add a bullion cube, and drink hot salty broth. Dinner was a no cook meal (we have no more water) of salami, and cheese. The next morning we set off onto the next 8 pitches, still with no water. We hit the next bivy ledge! it is still early, and we could push on, but we are tired, hungry, and thirsty. We stop here for the evening, melting plenty of ice into water. We drink many liters of water, and eat 2 dinners. It feels so good to refuel our dehydrated bodies! Day 3 on the wall, we head up 9 or 10 more pitches to the top of the North Pillar. It is windy as usual, and the bivy spots on top are getting hammered! Looking around, Jim spots a great spot just 60ft down, and sheltered. We leave a fixed rope, rap down, and level out a flat spot for us to sleep. We are tucked out of the wind, shiver a little less, and sleep a little better, with our limited equipment for 3 people. (1 bivy sac, 2 down bags, 1.5 foam pads)
North Pillar top bivy
The next morning we get an early start, waking up at 4am. We need to reascend our fixed line, head across the top of the pillar, and locate the rap route. Heading down a few diagonal raps puts us at the notch between the North Pillar, and the Fitzroy head wall. A horizontal pitch leads us to the base of the final 300-400 meters. The sun is coming up now, and we really need to motor up this thing. Every day by 9 or 10 am it starts spraying water & ice down the thing. Yesterday many parties bailed because of this. Some of them got a pretty good soaking! After starting up, we realize that we are off route a bit. We come back down, and find the proper route over right. The water is spraying down pretty hard, but somehow the winds keep it blowing away from us. We barely got wet! Luck I guess, considering the 4 parties that bailed yesterday. . . As we head up the terrain eases off, and we are moving along pretty fast now. Below us is a blanket of clouds, as far as the eye can see. We top out around 5?pm, enjoy the view of clouds, make some food, and prepare for a nice summit bivy. It all seemed fine until the clouds engulfed us, with wet snow falling. With our limited bivy gear, down bags, only one bivy sac, and no gortex pants, it was time to descend. Jim lead the way towards the Franco-Argentine (our descent route.) We started on track (we think) and eventually got off route somewhere along the line. The fog we were in the whole way was very tough to navigate through. We could only see 40ft in any direction, at any given time! Down, down we went, until about 4am. We stopped to bivy, hoping that when morning comes around we might catch a glimpse of the glacier below. If we rap too far off route one direction it adds another 500meters of raps. If we rap too far off the other direction we will hit the glacier where there is a huge bergschrund that is impassable this season. That would mean we would need to climb back up, and find a new way down to avoid the massive horizontal crack in the top of the glacier. (bergschrund) Morning came, and we got the glimpse we hoped for! We are pretty much right on target of the area we want to be. After a few more raps, we hit the glacier. Climb a bit of easy ice over the pass, do about 6 more raps and hit the glacier on the front side. On the glacier we stay roped up navigating around giant crevasses strewn across the glacier. The adventure is not over until you hit the dirt trail. . .
Glacier crossing on the way to Fitzroy (Pollone in the background)
Final approach to the base of the climb
Down low on the North Pillar
One of the many cool leads I got to enjoy
Yet another fun corner
Starting to head down through the fog, it was like this down all the raps. . .
Heading back to the front side (over La Silla.) Poincenot in the background
Back in town we rested up. All I could think about for the week following our ascent was eating. No matter how much I ate, I was still hungry everyday / all day! As we got rested up, the weather continued to crap out. We took a short camping / sport climbing trip with James Burwick & Family out to Calafate. Besides the climbing, we were delighted to see some ruins of an old structure, some indian paintings on the rock, and a fox. After a few days we headed back to Chalten for the final days of festering before returning home. Wow, what a trip. . . I can’t believe I stood on the summit of Fitzroy on my 1st trip here!
A few more random photos:
Looking from the North Pillar top at climbers crossing the glacier on the front side
Someone posted these around town for the David Lama bullshit
Sunrise on Fitzroy
La Familia! (James, Somira, Tormentina, & Raivo)
Thom waiting for a ride. . .