A Wild Alpine Season in Patagonia

©istockphoto/montgomerygilchristThe 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.

©istockphoto/emesilva

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.

©istockphoto/emesilva

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.