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South America, Argentine—Chilean Patagonia, Cerro Torre

Cerro Torre. Dan Cauthorn and I departed Chaltén on January 3 and began the long, arduous trudge to the west side of the Torres. Enduring winds seldom blew less than 60-mph and frequently gusted to 100-mph. After establishing Base Camp on January 8, we started up the 5000-foot-high west face of Cerro Torre on the 11th. The attempt was soon aborted by violent weather. At noon on January 13, we started again, even though the Torres were still socked in, gambling that the abrupt change in wind direction (it had just shifted from northwest to southwest) would bring a lull in the storm. We bivouacked that night in an ice cave at the base of the “Helmet” as a 30-hour spell of clear, relatively calm weather commenced. The next day brought a wealth of spectacular ice climbing. The 160 feet of vertical and overhanging rime on the Helmet pitch were one of the hardest, scariest things I have ever led. We bivouacked a second time on the summit ridge, 150 feet below the top, without sleeping bags, bivy sacks, stove, water or food. We topped out on the morning of January 15 with clouds boiling around us as the storm returned in earnest. Twenty feet of overhanging, unclimbable sugar snow kept us from surmounting the uppermost ice mushroom capping the summit tower, which changes dramatically in size and shape from year to year. Twenty-three rappels and lots of downclimbing got us back to Base Camp at midnight. Ours was the fourth ascent of the Ferrari route. It is an exceptionally superb line, certainly one of the most remarkable ice climbs on the planet.

Jonathan Krakauer