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South America, Chile and Argentina, Patagonia, Cerro Stanhardt Attempt

Cerro Stanhardt Attempt. Our expedition team comprised Jim Donini and John Bragg, USA, and Brian Wyvill and me, UK, with assistance from Larry Bruce, USA, and Mick Coffey, UK. We made Base Camp at the end of the road and on the next day, November 9, 1974 started our hike through the woods to the glacier leading to the foot of Cerro Torre, Torre Egger and Cerro Stanhardt. That night we slept in a snow cave at the foot of Cerro Torre. Dawn arrived with the good weather still holding and Donini and I set off to reconnoitre a possible line on the unclimbed walls of Cerro Stanhardt, the third of the towers north of Cerro Torre. A four-hour climb across glacier and steep snowfields brought us to a col separating Stanhardt from the Bifida. Two pitches of rock climbing led to the overhanging, ice-encrusted north wall and, at its base, a slender snowfield leading to the great diagonal ramps slashing across the east face. By following the snowfield and ramps, we could avoid the avalanche-swept lower walls of the east face and get within striking distance of the summit ridge. A nearly invisible chimney was recessed into a great corner, its walls bristling with incredible bulges of ice. As darkness fell, we saw that this was the line to take. We hacked out a tiny bivouac platform in the ice at the base of the chimney and left two climbing ropes for a dawn start. That night the spectacular spell of fine weather came to an end. In rapidly deteriorating weather we all left and retreated to our base in the woods. Endless storm and wind swept down for three weeks. On December 4 fine weather hurried us back up, but a malfunctioning stove prevented our staying. Two good days were wasted and the weather turned bad. This was the last good spell until December 26. On New Years Day, 1975 the weather looked fair and we were all at the previous high point. A heavy coating of ice started cascading down the chimney. The expected full storm did not arrive but we found ourselves out of position two days later when the weather became stable and sunny. On January 7 we arrived at the col again and rested on the 8th as the weather settled. January 9 was faultless. The climbing was much harder than we had anticipated because of rotten ice and loose rock. By six P.M. the four of us were gazing up through mist at the clouds over the summit ridge only 150 feet above our heads. Wet and aware of our exposed position we made a unanimous decision for down. After a wild night in our bivouac box below the north face, we made our way thankfully off the mountain. In December during one of our retreats from the col, we spotted a boot, containing part of a leg and foot, lying on the lower reaches of the glacier coming down from Cerro Torre. Further search revealed other remnants of clothing and equipment. We concluded that these were the remains of Toni Egger, killed by an avalanche while descending with Cesare Maestri from Cerro Torre in 1959. This climb has aroused controversy and any photographic proof disappeared with Egger’s body. We found parts of his rucksack, ripped to pieces, but the camera had disappeared and an intensive search over a large area of the glacier revealed nothing.

Ben Campbell-Kelly, Alpine Climbing Group, Aspirant