AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

South America, Argentine and Chilean Patagonia, Cerro Stanhardt, Aguja Poincenot, Cuatro Dedos. Gran Gendarme de Pollone and Other Peaks in the Fitz Roy Area

Cerro Stanhardt, Aguja Poincenot, Cuatro Dedos. Gran Gendarme de Pollone and Other Peaks in the Fitz Roy Area. The British South American Mountaineering Expedition started its eight month’s time with ascents in the Fitz Roy area. From that region we went on to Bolivia and finally Peru. Climbs there are covered in those sections. Climbs of Fitz Roy are also described separately. We climbed as three groups of two: Brian Hall and John Whittle, Alan and Adrian Burgess, and Rab Carrington and I. All ascents were alpine-style and each group climbed independently of the others. Our first Base Camp was set up at the Piedra del Fraile in the Eléctrico valley. By December 4, 1976 we had all our gear, and food for a month, in the remote hut. Two days later in dubious weather Carrington and I set out for our first training climb, the easy north ridge of Marconi Norte (6490 feet), first climbed by Guthmann, Watzl and others in 1952. On December 11, 1976, except for the Burgess twins, who were on Fitz Roy, we moved up into the cirque below the north faces of Guillaumet and Mermoz, and from there both parties did separate routes on Guillaumet (16,424 feet) the next day. Carrington and I followed the northeast ridge, probably the easiest route on the mountain. The line followed by Hall and Whittle, the north ridge, was more difficult with a couple of pitches of tricky climbing. Both climbs had been done before. By December 14, 1976 the weather was good again and Carrington and I set out to climb the Gran Gendarme de Pollone (c. 6890 feet) on the eastern flank of the Marconi Glacier and north of Cerro Pollone. In perfect, windless weather on the 15th we set off from the scree above the glacier and after several hours attained the foot of the monolith. The side we approached did not look good and so we traversed under the cornices to reach the southeast corner. Seven pitches of difficult ice, artificial and free rock brought us to the summit of this previously unclimbed peak or gendarme. On the 17th the weather improved again and Carrington and I set out for another peak on the Marconi Glacier, an unnamed peak to the right of Rincón. At 2:30 A.M. the next day we left our tent on the glacier and worked our way through crevasses to the base of the wide couloir to the left of the peak. We followed this to the col overlooking the Icecap. From the col, nine or ten pitches on mixed ice and rock, some of them tricky, led to the final six-foot ice mushroom, which was impossible to climb. The descent was long and tedious and we had to make twenty abseils back down the snow couloir. This was the first ascent of the mountain, now called “Los Cuernos.” On the 30th Whittle and Hall left to set up a new Base Camp in the Torre valley to climb Cerro Stanhardt (c. 8530 feet). We two helped as the weather continued bad, but neither pair had any climbing, despite sorties. On January 23, after a month of virtual inactivity, the barometer rose and promised good weather. Hall and Whittle set off for Stanhardt and spent the night in a bergschrund four rope-lengths below the north col. The next day they traversed the icefields to the southeast face, where they spent the second night. The following day, after five pitches of hard mixed climbing, they were forced to retreat due to high winds and imminent snow storms, a mere 500 feet from the top. Also on the 23rd Carrington and I set off for Cuatro Dedos, an unclimbed peak of about 7720 feet. We reached the summit the next day at one P.M. after a complicated crevassed approach and then six or seven rope-lengths of rock climbing, two of them difficult. The next spell of good weather came a week later and at six A.M. we all left Base Camp for the Torre valley. Once again Hall and Whittle were trying Stanhardt whilst Carrington and I turned to the massive west face of Fitz Roy. Both groups retreated in the face of bad weather. Finally, on February 9, all of us were ready when the weather improved at two A.M. Hall and Whittle returned to Stanhardt and with such an early start and prior knowledge of the route, they reached a bivouac site at the end of the snow ramps on the east face that same day. (The route started along the line of the 1975 attempt.) The next day, February 10, they left most of their equipment at the bivvy site and pushed up the southeast face, which was a combination of mixed and artificial climbing. After ten pitches they arrived on the summit at three P.M. In worsening weather they descended and in darkness reached the glacier. This completed the first ascent of the last major unclimbed peak of the region. On February 9 Carrington and I were once more trying the west face of Fitz Roy. That night we bivouacked just under the large corner. The next day we set off up the corner, which was mostly artificial, and at the end of the day reached its top in worsening weather and could see the rest of the route stretching above us. It snowed throughout the night and was extremely windy. We had to retreat, deciding that it was too big an undertaking for the available good weather. On February 17 we set out for our new objective, the west face of Poincenot (9941 feet). Easy rock led to a tongue of ice coming from the Col de la Silla and then we traversed to the foot of the ramp which diagonals across the west face. We bivouacked halfway up the ramp, but it snowed during the night and the next morning the weather was so bad that we returned to Base Camp. The next good weather occurred four days later and we went back. On the night of the 21st we bivouacked at the end of the easy rock climbing. On the 22nd the climbing on the ramp proved difficult and like most Patagonian climbing required the use of crampons. The upper part of the route was straightforward and we reached the top at seven P.M. We descended in deepening darkness to a ledge at the top of the ramp and completed our descent the next day.

Alan Rouse, Alpine Climbing Group