AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

South America, Argentina, Southern Patagonia, Chalten Massif, Cerro Pereyra, First Ascent, Aguja de L'S, The Thaw's Not Houlding Wright

Cerro Pereyra, first ascent; Aguja de L’S, The Thaw’s not Houlding Wright. Heeding the barrage of ice blocks and rocks cascading down, Leo Houlding, Cedar Wright, and I abandoned our plans for the Maestri-Egger, and my compadres steered me toward the Compressor Route, Cerro Torre's southeast arête. Little else was safe.

The climbing usually begins with a steep snow slope and a pitch of mixed climbing, but warm conditions had collapsed the snow slope, requiring one to stay on rock: seven 60m pitches with a 5.9 move or two, but never sustained. The shoulder drew closer as did a cloud around the Torre’s summit. Plan C came into effect: a small spire east of the shoulder—an unclimbed Patagonian summit! A single 5.10 pitch and a ridge traverse attained our fresh summit on February 26, “Cerro Pereyra,” named in memory of a good friend who died while climbing in Mexico.

Finally, on March 9, right before we to leave, our vigil proved fruitful: A small high pressure system bumped south for long enough for us to poach a quick ascent. Cerro Torre remained under rime cloaks, so a more rapidly achievable objective was chosen: the west face of Aguja de L’S. It’s the shortest summit on the west-facing side of the valley, yet one of the longer climbs, as its technicalities begin at glacier level, rather than 3,000' up a loose gully. A truly enjoyable long moderate route (1,300m, 5.10). The first section is an arête of perfect rock formed by the left side of a larger buttress: We kept the ropes in the packs and free-soloed to the upper headwall. Some of the finest easy climbing ever! The highlight was a short 5.6 arête; climbed by laybacking the square-cut low-angle edge, with an admirable view of the glacier far below. The testy-looking upper headwall relinquished passage via a series of thin cracks just to the left of a long rust streak—never desperate, fun high-quality climbing with a 5.10 section or two per pitch, requiring 10 60m leads. Six on the headwall, then hike to the notch below the south summit, two more pitches ascend it, one across the ridge between summits, then the final pitch up the southwest arête of the north (main) summit. Rappel the north side of the north summit onto a plateau. One further rappel accesses St. Exupery’s gully, and the rope-work is finalized. Satisfaction from a steep journey, absorbed in the expedition’s dwindling hours! Fuel for the fire: not the main prize, but more moments for the memory bank, and Jose Luis Pereyra’s impression on us all will reside with his name on a Southern Andean tower.

Kevin Thaw, U.K.