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South America, Argentine Patagonia, Aguja Mermoz, West Face, and Guillaumet, Northwest Ridge

Aguja Mermuz, West Face, and Guillaumet, Northwest Ridge. Zlatko Koren and Kiemen Mali (Slovenia) came to Piedra del Fraile Base Camp on January 28,2000. The first ten days it rained a lot, and there was even snow in BC. In bad weather, we managed to bring our gear to Paso del Cuadrado. Our main aim was to climb Tehuelche on Fitz Roy’s north face. But after the rainy days, all the cracks on the lower part of the route were filled with ice and snow.

On the first beautiful day we changed our plan and noticed a nice line on Mermoz’s west face. We didn’t have any information about the line or whether it had already been climbed. The same day that we brought the gear to the base of the wall (February 7), we climbed the first 120 meters and fixed the rope, then rappelled down and bivied at the base of the wall. During the night, the weather changed for the worse and we left for BC.

In the first four pitches we found old pitons and bolts at the belays. After the fourth pitch there was nothing. The information that Rolando Garibotti gave us was that two Swiss climbers, Vicent

Banderet and Paul Maillefer, tried to climb the line in 1985 but retreated after completing eight pitches when faced with a steep offwidth. (Notes Garibotti, “Banderet and Maillefer descended a different way, which is why the Slovenians found no equipment higher than the fourth pitch.”)

After a few days, the beautiful weather started. On February 12, we started from BC at 2 a.m. At 8 a.m., we started to jumar the 120 meters. After the comfortable ledge, we found the hardest climbing on the route: offwidth cracks mixed with aid and free climbing. During the day, the weather changed and in the afternoon, it started to snow and blow. In the middle section, where we found the hardest climbing of the route, we also had a lot of bad rock in wide cracks. In bad weather, we managed to climb to the top of the wall at 11 p.m. or so and quickly started to rappel. After two rappels the weather cleared up, and we had a cold but clear night for the descent. We descended our route of

ascent, which we called Barriga Patagonica (6a+/A1-V+, 650m). At 6 a.m., we stood at the base of the wall. We took a rest at the bivy for three hours, then left for BC with all the gear.

Four days later we left for Guillaumet, thinking to climb a new line on the west face. The weather was bad again. In bad weather, we climbed the Northwest Ridge (V A0, 400m) (Comesaña-Fonrouge) in three and a half hours. We departed BC on February 20, 2000.

Klemen Mali, Slovenia