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South America, Argentina, Argentine Patagonia, Fitz Roy, Various Ascents

Fitz Roy, Various Ascents. Only two teams made it up Fitz Roy in the 1995-1996 season, despite attempts by at least two dozen expeditions to the area. The first team successful on the mountain was a five-man French group made up of members of the Club Alpin Français and including club vice president Pierre Vidallier and renowned alpinist Luc Jourjon. (Interestingly, Vidallier had attempted a new route on Fitz Roy’s east buttress in 1968.) Over a period of about two months, the French team attempted to repeat the Casarotto North Pillar route, fixing ropes up to the north col, and then about five or six pitches up the route, according to the French climbers. However, stymied by predictably horrible weather, the team eventually gave up on the route, and turned its attention to the Franco-Argentine (regular) route on the mountain, becoming the first team to summit during the 1996 season at 12:30 a.m. on January 17. However, the French team’s success was marred by controversy as the climbers left a large quantity of fixed rope on the north pillar, as well as in the 350-meter mixed gully leading to the north col (The French climbers reached a point about five or six pitches above the north col, so it has been estimated the total amount was in the range of 700-800 meters.) About 500 meters of the rope was later removed by members of a four-man American team from Colorado that included Catto, Gallagher, Richard Aschert, and Bryan Becker. Catto, Gallagher and Aschert removed the rope from a point one pitch above the north col, but the rope disappeared into a crack on the second pitch and the Americans did not see it re-emerge anywhere above the first belay. The Americans carried the rope to Paso Superior where a number of groups from several nations helped carry it down to the Rio Blanco base camp.

Cameron M. Burns