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South America, Argentine-Chilean Patagonia, Cerro Stanhardt and Torre Egger Attempts, 1993-4

Cerro Stanhardt and Torre Egger Attempts, 1993-4. From October 30, 1993 to January 24, 1994, we attempted two difficult new routes. Lorenzo Ortiz and I met our Argentine teammate, Teo Plaza, in Calafate and on October 30, we arrived at the Bridwell Base Camp. Cerro Stanhardt, 15 kilometers higher at the head of the valley, had been climbed only once to the summit, by Americans Jim Bridwell, Jay Smith and Greg Smith in 1988. Their route, called Exocet, was to the right of ours, also on the east face. We dug an ice cave at the foot of the face and supplied it during the bad weather that prevailed during the first half of November. At the end of the month, in 2½ days of good weather, we began the attempt. On the first day, we climbed half the wall and bivouacked, where we rested a day before climbing by noon of the third day to within 200 meters of the summit. Bad weather surprised us after we had finally climbed some 80 vertical meters. We rappelled the Exocet route, which was shorter than ours, and got to our cave the next morning. Five more attempts failed in bad weather before in the middle of December Ortiz had to return to Spain to his work. Plaza and I made four more attempts. Finally, at two A.M. on December 31, we left the cave and by six o’clock P.M. had climbed half the route up vertical mixed terrain and rock. Because the snow was too warm, we waited until nine P.M. before continuing up snow ramps and vertical ice to a short bivouac at the foot of the final wall. At three A.M., we started up the final 250 meters. All went well until nine A.M. as we ascended vertical rock. The temperature had risen considerably and blocks of ice were falling from the summit. On the next to last pitch, Plaza was about five meters above the belay when a huge ice block struck him. He continued to lead up an overhanging crack past ice blocks and through water running down the rock to within 45 meters of the summit. There remained only 35 meters of 30° slope and 10 meters of summit mushroom. However, Plaza’s injuries were getting much worse. He had torn ligaments in his right knee, severe bruises on his right thigh, contusions on his right shoulder, numbness and early indications of frostbite. We had no choice but to go down. We descended all night, keeping 20 meters to the right of our ascent route in the top wall to avoid the cascade of ice blocks. Despite many problems, we got to the ice cave in the morning. The next day, we reached the glacier. A helicopter flew Plaza to the Calafate hospital from there. I returned to Base Camp to team up with Italian Ermanno Salvaterra to try a new route on Torre Egger’s east face. We began up the face at four P.M. on January 12, 1994. By nine o’clock, we had climbed 500 meters when I was struck by a granite block, which injured my left shoulder and right arm. We kept on to a bivouac. At five A.M., we started out, hoping my injuries would improve. However, after three painful pitches, it was obvious I could not continue and we descended.

José Chaverri, Montañeros de Aragón de Barbastro, Spain