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South America, Argentine—Chilean Patagonia, Fitz Roy, East Buttress, El Corazón Route

Fitz Roy, East Buttress, El Corazón Route. On December 13, 1991, Michel Pitelka and I reached the Río Blanco Base Camp below Fitz Roy. Our objective was the aesthetic line on the 1300-meter-high east buttress of Fitz Roy. The bad weather during December did not allow us any opportunity for climbing. During that time, we carried climbing gear and food to a great ice cave near the face. On January 14, we finally were able to put in a full day’s climbing. After twelve hours, we reached the top of the icefield, a quarter of the way up the wall. From there on we were in new terrain; we found evidence of a number of previous attempts up to this point. The next day, we climbed to the prominent Center Tower, halfway up the route. In the rest of January, we climbed during one day of bad weather and one of good to where rock had fallen out to leave a heart-shaped scar, 850 meters up. The climbing up to there was superb, despite iced cracks. One 5.10, 150- meter-high dihedral without a single break as well as a slightly overhanging, 60-meter-high pitch up the finger crack of the Double Crack were marvels of nature and a treat for any rock climber. At the beginning of February, the notorious Patagonian weather again reigned over Fitz Roy. With 200- kph wind squalls, we fought our way up to the top of the buttress. Attempts to continue on to the main summit were defeated by continual bad weather and new snow. Not until the change of the moon did hope for weather smile upon us. After a bivouac on the wall, we climbed to the summit on February 20 with radiant weather. We descended our new route along which we only left gear at the rappel points—two bolts and a carabiner at each—and eight pitons. Otherwise we left the wall as we had found it. Three old fixed ropes, left by previous parties, are still on the bottom of the route. In the 2½ months, we climbed on eight days. Without iced cracks, the route could probably be climbed free with UIAA difficulty of VI to VII. We had nine pitches of A1 to A4. There were 40 pitches, some 60 meters long. For the route, one needs two 60-meter ropes, a small assortment of pitons and nuts, Friends N° 0 to 4, 1 skyhook and 3 bathooks, 2 copperheads and a Rurp. The bottom of the wall can be threatened if there is much new snow or by ice falling from the icefield, but is generally lovely crack-and-dihedral climbing on superb rock. We were admirably supported on the last attempts by Ruth Baldinger, who in January came close to climbing the Argentine route with friends. They had to quit two pitches from the summit icefield because of the weather.

Kaspar Ochsner, Schweizer Alpen Club