The short Patagonian summer has yielded bold, electrifying ascents—from solos and fast traverses to new ascents that have set the alpine world alight with excitement. While the star climber of the season has undoubtedly been American alpinist Colin Haley with his solo of Torre Egger, his car-to-car ascent of Fitz Roy, and a one-day Torre Traverse with Alex Honnold, a number of other climbs, including the second-ascent of Psycho Vertical, a direct line on Torre Egger, have made the 2016 season one of the most memorable in years. In Patagonia, where the conditions are favorable but the weather wildly unpredictable, these are some of the highlights of a superb South American alpine season.
Psycho Vertical on Torre Egger
The 950-meter overhanging face of Torre Egger saw its first ascent on December 7, 1986 by Janez Jeglic, Silvo Karo, and Franc Knez, a trio of Slovenia’s finest alpinists. The daunting wall, graded 5.10b, VII, A3, didn’t see another successful climb until 2016, when a mixed Italian-Austrian team of Korra Pesce and Roland Striemitzer linked with the Argentine team of Tomy Aguilo, Inaki Coussirat and Carlitos Molina, put up the second ascent.
The second ascent was also, extraordinarily, the first in a fast and light alpine style. After the Slovenian’s landmark climb in 1986 via a series of fixed ropes and camps, Karo remarked, “Some day, the routes may be climbed free, solo, and in one day.”
The line is a diretissima, a direct route across the South Face. It starts by ascending a steep gully, through cracks to a long overhanging dihedral leading to the summit. While the two teams were initially vying for the second ascent separately, they realized it would be much less time-consuming to climb together, setting ropes for each other over difficult aid pitches where they had to sweep the cracks of rime-ice and verglas before sharing a narrow bivy ledge below the final pitches.
With steady weather, they set out for the summit on Jan. 9. They summited at 10 p.m., spent the night on top and rappelled in the morning. Their second ascent was not only a representation of modern and fast alpinism, but a demonstration of unity towards a common goal.
Car-to-Car Speed Climb on Fitz-Roy and Cerro Torre Solo
On Jan. 21, Americans Colin Haley and Andy Wyatt smashed the Fitz-Roy speed record with a 21-hour car-to-car ascent via the Supercanaleta, featuring mixed climbing, ice, snow and glacier travel. It was Haley’s tenth ascent and Wyatt’s first. Starting just outside of El Chalten, the two wore trail runners all the way to the bergschrund, switching to climbing boots on the edge of the glacier, then simul-climbing much of the mixed rock and ice in the lower and middle portions.
They reached the summit in just over seven hours. Ten days later, Haley marked the first solo on Cerro Torre. Rope-soloing many of the harder pitches, he self-rappelled down the notch between Torre Egger and its sub-summit, Punta Herron, then topped out on Egger just after 5 p.m. On the rappel, Haley had to spend several hours freeing his trapped rope before continuing uninterrupted to the base.
The One-Day Torre Traverse
It was an exceptional season for Haley who, along with Alex Honnold, tackled the Torre Traverse in just under 21 hours on Jan. 31, a feat that had previously taken Haley and Rolando Garibotti four days. Starting with Cerro Standhardt, the duo traversed Punta Herron, Torre Egger and Cerro Torre rappelling back to the glacier via the Compressor Route.
Honnold and Haley had previously attempted the route in 2015, on the heels of Honnold’s success on the Fitz Traverse with Tommy Caldwell. Only a couple of pitches from the summit, Honnold and Haley were forced to retreat in a rapidly building storm. During their successful single day ascent, Honnold and Haley faced wet blocks of rock and running water, making the climbing slow and arduous. It was Honnold’s first summit of Cerro Torre and Haley’s eighth, his second of the season.
Riding the high of their ascent, six days later the rising Patagonia stars marked the 21-hour second ascent, and first one-day ascent of Wave Effect, a linkup of Agjua Desmochada, Agjua de la Silla and Fitz Roy, previously climbed over a period of four days in 2011.