American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Argentine Patagonia, Fitz Roy, West Face Attempt, and Supercanaleta, Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1998

Fitz Roy, West Face Attempt, and Supercanaleta, Ascent. On December 6, 1997, Jack Tackle and I arrived in Chaltén to attempt a new variation to the unrepeated Czech Route on the 6,000- foot west face of Fitz Roy. The next four days were spent carrying gear to Campo Bridwell and to an advanced base at the so-called Polish Camp below Poincenot in the Torre Valley. On December 11, we carried a load up the 3,000-foot ramp on the southwest side of the Hombre Sentado (Sitting Man Ridge). This consists of snow and ice up to 55° with 300 feet of moderate mixed climbing at the top. On December 14, we climbed the ramp again and continued farther up the Hombre Sentado (two 5th class pitches) and cached our ropes and hardware near where the ridges run into the west face. On descent, we fixed 300 feet of rope in the final goulotte on the northwest end of Hombre Sentado, which allowed us to bypass the tiring ramp via the easier northeast side and mostly avoid the seracs at the end of the Torre Valley.

Perfect weather arrived on the 15th, which we needed to rest and dry out. Early on the 16th, we left Polish Camp and ascended the fixed line, walked under the Supercanaleta and continued to our high point on the ridge. The rest of the day was spent following the Czech Route to a good bivy at the top of the prominent 450-foot comer some 5,000 feet up the face. The Czechs had reported that they removed their fixed lines. But it appears they cleaned only a few pitches, as the route was littered throughout with tattered rope. The next day, despite a malfunctioning stove, we left the Czech Route and headed straight up, aiming for the prominent 1,500-foot corner that leads to the ridge. After two new pitches, we retreated due to slow climbing, surprisingly crumbly rock and an overwhelming abundance of wide cracks. We decided to attempt the regular Czech Route and climbed several more pitches of that. Continued hard climbing and deteriorating weather sent us back to our previous bivouac. On the 18th, in increasing wind and clouds, we made 18 rappels, climbed five sideways pitches and left two chopped ropes behind to arrive back at the Glaciar Fitz Roy Norte and then Polish Camp. We then switched our energy to the 1965 Supercanaleta route, which we climbed from December 30-January 1, arriving back at Campo Rio Blanco at midnight.

Most parties have approached Supercanaleta from Piedra del Fraile on the Rio Eléctrico and arrived at the Glaciar Polone via Paso del Cuadrado. Unless you are already based in the Torre Valley for other ascents, it is our opinion that this traditional approach would remain the best option for parties attempting any route on the northwest side of Fitz Roy. As for the descent, you remain on your own to figure it out.

Joe Josephson, Calgary Mountain Club

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