American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Argentine-Chilean Patagonia, Aguja Rafael, West Face, and Saint Exupéry, North Face and Upper East Ridge

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1989

Aguja Rafael, West Face, and Saint Exupéry, North Face and Upper East Ridge. On January 25, my wife Sue Harrington and I climbed 14 pitches up the British-American route on the west face of Aguja Rafael, which has also at times been called Torre Innominata. We began climbing at noon and followed the first-ascent line except on pitches 12, 13 and 14. Here we climbed a giant right-facing corner that involved squeeze chimneys and a poorly protected off-width crack (5.10b). Like the first ascent-party, we underestimated the amount of climbing on the diminutive tower and spent a cold night rubbing each other’s feet and hoping the wind would die down. Shortly after sunrise, Sue led the first of seven pitches to the summit on the southwest ridge. Varying slightly from the first-ascent line, we climbed strenuous cracks mostly free with some aid and made the top at two P.M., completing the second ascent of the mountain. The descent required 19 rappels. Without water, it was a long, dry day. We reached our high camp in the lee of a huge boulder at midnight. After a short rest in Base Camp, we hiked back up gullies and talus to a boulder bivouac below Saint Exupéry’s north face. Earlier in the season an Italian party had picked off the unclimbed west face and an Austrian pair the untouched south pillar. Naturally I was miffed to find old pitons and slings half-way up the north face. The line Sue and I chose had excellent climbing in good cracks, comers and ramps. Our first night on the wall was reasonably comfortable with the aid of one stove and a single bivy sack for both of us. In the morning of January 30, we climbed past the last piton. (We later found that an Argentine party had tried the climb around 1978.) Triumphantly we gained the comer of the east ridge. As the rain started falling, I screamed at Sue to lead her pitch faster. I hogged the remaining leads to the summit. (Grade V, 5.10b, 19 pitches.)

Alan Kearney

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