American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Chilean-Argentinian Patagonia, Fitz Roy, West Face Attempt, 1981-2

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1983

Fitz Roy, West Face Attempt, 1981-2. From December 27 to February 17, 1982 we operated in the Fitz Roy area. We were Michal Orolin, leader, Daniel Bakoš, Zdeno Brabec, Vlado Petrik, Dušan Kovac and me. A month later Ivan Fiala, Juraj Weincziller and Vinco Dubec, who had been on Aconcagua, joined us and assisted us in one of our attempts. On December 30, 1981 we erected Base Camp on the lake, Laguna Torre. We hoped to make a new route on the western face of Fitz Roy, continuing the unsuccessful attempt of English climbers in 1977. On January 1, five of us set off for the face. We climbed the lower 2300-feet in a day, despite carrying overloaded packs and hauling two more. We bivouacked on a large shelf under the prominent tower in the face. The rock sections had been very rotten and threatened with falling rocks. At night strong winds and rain rushed in. The next morning we descended in this appalling weather. It was dangerous to abseil down the western side amid the rockfall and so we rappelled down to the east, beneath the Super Couloir. We had to go for 40 kilometers around Fitz Roy from there, losing much strength on such a descent; during the time we were in the region, we repeated it three times. The bad weather we spent in Base Camp, relaxing. On January 9 it cleared. We set out immediately up the face but strong winds forced us to descend to Base Camp the next day. On January 21 the weather was better again. In one day we reached the high point of our last attempt and climbed higher. We bivouacked on a large ledge under the top of the prominent tower in the ridge leading to the face. The next day I climbed brittle flakes with Bakoš. We bivouacked under the huge rock comer, but already in the evening saw the storm over Cerro Torre, driven by a strong wind. While we arranged the bivouac, the wind grew stronger and we were not even able to draw out our sleeping bags. We slept in our clothes, covered only by thin bivouac sacks. In the morning the face was covered with a glaze of ice. We abseiled on frozen ropes down under the Super Couloir. In our next attempt from February 2 to 4 Orolin and Petrik climbed a rotten, overhanging comer, taking all day to make it. We hauled up packs. The last one was hauled up in the dark at two A.M. The next morning dawned windy and snowy. Angry and desperate, we abseiled off again. It was February 6 and we knew that we had time for only one more attempt. On February 12 it cleared suddenly. The next day we were above the comer. I climbed two pitches in the overhanging chimney. Its top was covered with ice. Then followed an icy groove and we were on shelves on the rim of huge flakes. I alternated leads with Brabec. He climbed five pitches in a long rising traverse. The last pitch was under the huge overhang. It was late and so we rappelled to our companions, who had already prepared the bivouac. In the evening we saw heavy clouds over Cerro Torre. The wind did not calm down all night. Snow started to fall. In the morning strong winds and new snow forced us to descend. Billows of powdery snow were pouring over us while we abseiled. After many unpleasant incidents we were on the glacier under the west face. We found the tent on the pinnacle on the ridge completely destroyed; only the poles remained. We continued the descent from the ridge. On February 17 we left for home. The west face remains unclimbed.

Robert GÁlfy, lames, Slovak Mountaineering Association, Czechoslovakia

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