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South America, Argentine Patagonia, Cerro Torre, West Face, Winter Ascent

Cerro Torre, West Face, Winter Ascent. In July, Thomas Ulrich, David Fasel, Stefan Siegrist and I climbed the 1974 West Face route of Cerro Torre. Rumors of more stable weather conditions and the fact that we would avoid summer crowds motivated us to go to Patagonia in winter. We had two three-day spells of good weather during the five weeks we were there, conditions that wouldn’t be exceptionally good in Patagonian summer. If there is an advantage to Patagonian winter weather, it’s that you can see the storms developing for a full day, which is much different than the summer, when it can go from deep blue windless skies to raging storm in less than six hours. But the fully developed winter storm is just as fierce as its summer counterpart with two added complications: the days are much shorter and the temperatures are much colder. My personal conclusion: the Patagonian winter is no picnic (thank God) and is certainly as grim as Patagonian summer climbing and in some ways, grimmer.

We approached via Paso del Viento with much arduous slogging. We made two attempts on the West Face, the second successfully. Ice conditions on the route seemed good, but because I haven’t been on the West Face in summer I can’t truly compare. We climbed to the summit plateau beside the last summit mushroom, but unfortunately not to the absolute top—the second time I’ve failed to complete those last few meters. It took us two and a half days to get to the top from an advanced camp at the base of the Filo Rosso and 16 desperate hours to get from the top back to camp (the usual atrocious winds complicated descent). After a successful descent, we left the ice cap through Paso Marconi and made all haste for La Casita, the only bar/restaurant open in Chalten at the time. The summit party with the English winter expedition (Kirkpatrick, Lewis, Ramsden, Hall) in La Casita was classic post-expedition debauchery. The hardest load I carried during the whole trip was lugging the utterly inert Thomi and David from the bar back to the sleeping bags. Without the help of the four Brits, Stefan and I would not have been able to do it.

Greg Crouch