American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

The Eastern Pillar of Torre Egger

  • Feature Article
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1988

The Eastern Pillar of Torre Egger

Elio Orlandi, Club Alpino Italiano

HAVING REACHED Fitz Roy National Park on October 15, Maurizio Giarolli and I immediately headed for the triad of the Cerro Torre group: Cerro Torre, Torre Egger and Torre Standhardt. In climbing circles, these three peaks represent some of the most difficult objectives in the world. We had come with the idea of attempting the traverse of all three spires without descending for any reason, without outside help and without any previous route preparation.

This was, frankly, an insane idea of the kind we climbers dream up, but doubtless nearly impossible to carry out, all the more so because the climate of the region with its sudden and frequent storms affect negatively about all expeditions. One must consider the objective dangers of the route as well as whether the weather would hold long enough to do the traverse.

Our preparations and enthusiasm encouraged us, however, to give our adventure a try by setting out to climb Torre Stanhardt, the first of the Triad.

The tremendous weight of our gear and of ten days of food needed for such an exploit and the enormous expenditure of energy that a team of two has to summon made us give up when in the teeth of a buffeting snowstorm we were only 100 meters from the summit of Torre Stanhardt. The foul weather then stuck in its little paw, notably complicating the descent.

After several rest days in Base Camp, our desire to pick up that painful project never returned. We persuaded ourselves to choose another objective to which our attention had been attracted, namely the sharp, elegant eastern pillar of Torre Egger. The colossal queen of ice and rock stands proudly between the king and the maid of honor of this fabulous triad.

For the past month, its vertical dihedrals had been attacked by another Italian team, composed of Guido Cominelli, Lorenzo Nadali and Andrea Sarchi, who during repeated attempts had climbed 500 meters, fixing much rope. They finally gave up because of the difficulty and the weather.

On November 1, we returned to the glacier at the foot of the giant east face of Torre Egger to dig a snow cave that was to serve as a logistic base and refuge in case of bad weather. The next day, in unbelievably stable weather, we attacked the smooth granite slabs and icy couloirs. The line rose up the great east pillar to the left of the amphitheater of the hanging glacier. It began left of the Giongio-De Bonà route in the middle of the buttress up the vertical slabs and headed towards an ice couloir which soared upwards at 75° to 85° for six 50-meter pitches. Difficult, smooth granite slabs then took us to the first bivouac 500 meters above the start of the route. Immediately higher, in the middle of the wall, rose the extraordinarily steep snow arête at the top of which we again bivouacked, having gained 250 meters. The upper part of the wall had a series of cracks almost on the edge of the great buttress, which here had the form of a huge overhanging prow. We then deviated slightly to the right to a couloir below the summit mushroom, which on the eastern side has a vertical height of 90 meters. We bivouacked there a third time after a gain of 420 meters.

Up to there, our elegant route proved to be very free of objective dangers and of falling ice and rock because it rises vertically on the pillar. It is probably the safest of the four routes by which Torre Egger has been climbed. The rock on the whole route is optimal and offers largely free climbing with good cracks especially on the upper part. We rate the climb at VI + , A2 UIAA difficulty.

The summit mushroom was curious and almost unbelievable. There was a combination of very narrow, vertical trenches and tunnels etched by the wind in the interior of the overhanging, unconsolidated snowcap which let us emerge on the morning of November 5 directly onto the summit under a brilliant azure sky to scan this fantastic region.

We suggest the name of Titanic for our route. The smooth granite of the upper part of the pillar has the form of a great overhanging prow of a mysterious ship.

Summary of Statistics:

Area: Patagonia, Argentina

New Route: Torre Egger, 2987 meters, 9800 feet, Eastern Pillar, November 2 to 5, 1987 (Maurizio Giarolli, Elio Orlandi).

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