Cerro Pollone, lower south buttress of east summit; Beg, Borrow, or Steal. Blair Williams and I arrived in El Chalten on January 7. The next day we arranged for horses to carry our bags to Piedra del Fraile, our planned base camp and a pleasant place that is well worth the little money to stay there. The next few days were spent carrying loads to the end of Lago Electrico, our planned advanced camp for climbing on the Marconi Glacier. But after talking with German climbers, we thought we would have better success if we had an advanced camp by Paso de Cuadrado. They had already built a snow cave there and were kind enough to let us move in as they were moving out.
After an icy attempt on Guillaumet’s Fonrouge route, we returned and completed the 13-pitch route. We were treated to amazing views of the surrounding mountains and the ice cap, then rappelled down the Amy Couloir. The next morning we awoke to clouds and wind, so we rolled over and stayed in bed. By 8:00 the clouds had cleared and the wind died, so we packed up, hiked to the snow cave, and picked up our stashed gear and continued to the base of the La Granja route on Aguja Pollones east ridge. The route offered amazingly varied climbing. Everything from thin cracks to slabs to liebacking arêtes. We topped out around 6:00 p.m. and had an absolutely amazing view of big Fitz Roy. After too many summit photos we made five long rappels to the base.
After heading to town for beer and pizza, we were back in the spacious cave, waiting for the weather to clear and, sure enough, it cleared.
We had been eyeing the lower southeast buttress of Cerro Pollones east summit and thought it was the perfect time to go for it. After a casual three-hour approach, we got a close look at the unclimbed face. We saw obvious cracks leading all the way to the top. Without even a photo we started up. One crack led to the next, with ledges almost every 200 feet. We came across signs of the only previous attempt at the face. An Italian team had tried the face earlier in the year but were stopped by ice in cracks. The last bolt they placed was at the base of a 60-foot offwidth that may have been another reason they retreated. I found the pitch to be quite enjoyable and reminiscent of a Yosemite 5.10a off width. We felt confident that we would make it to the top if the weather stayed good. One pitch after another led us to the top of the lower southeast buttress of Cerro Pollones east summit. We chose to go no farther, as we felt we had reached the summit of the piece of rock we chose to climb. We made eight 60-meter rappels, using a few nuts but mostly threads and slings around blocks. We named the route Beg, Borrow, or Steal. We thought it was in the mid-5.10 range and around 1,500 feet long. We used no pitons or bolts (except the Italian bolts) and thought the route was a classic alpine rock climb.
On February 4 we returned to snow and cold in Seattle. This seemed ironic after three weeks of perfect weather in Patagonia. I thank the American Alpine Club for awarding me a Mountaineering Fellowship Grant and their continued support of climbing youth.
Michael Schaefer, AAC, The Kascade Trad Klan