South America, Argentina, Southern Patagonia, Chalten Massif, Season Overview

Publication Year: 2005.

Season overview. The Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre massifs saw a ferocious amount of activity this season, particularly during a long spell of good weather in late January and early February. This is the third time in the last few years that an unusually long good-weather spell occurred, always around the same time of year. This might be another indication of global warming. Despite George Bush’s denial of human responsibility for global warming, weather conditions in Patagonia, and elsewhere, are changing at a pace that hardly seems natural.

In addition to climbs reported individually below, many impressive repeats and new variations were made. Englishmen Leo Houlding and Kevin Thaw climbed Poincenot from the west, starting via an unclimbed ramp below the Carrington-Rouse route to join the Fonrouge-Rosasco route, which they followed to the summit. There they bivied before descending the following day. Later Houlding and Thaw completed the 5th ascent of the Goretta Pillar to the summit of Fitz Roy, which they reached via the Casarotto Route and Kearney-Knight variation. They started from Rio Blanco base camp around 2 a.m. and summited at 8 p.m. the following day, returning to base camp in mid-afternoon of their third day. They took a minimalist approach, carrying no stove, bivi gear, or alpine boots, and taking only one ice axe and one set of strap-on aluminum crampons between them. They free-climbed everything except a pendulum to avoid icy cracks. They rapped the route in poor conditions through the second night.

American Aaron Martin became the fourth person to solo Cerro Torre. (Previous solo ascents were by Pedrini 1985, Whimp 1993, Potter 2002. Potter and Martin are the only ones to have done the ascent on-sight.) He roped up only for the Bridwell Pitch on the upper headwall, but found scary mixed climbing low on the route while climbing in crampons over his approach shoes. (Yes, he climbed Cerro Torre in sneakers!) Martin fixed his rope at the compressor, then climbed to the end of his rope, at which point he tied it off to his only ice screw and continued toward the summit. A body length or so from the summit he found unconsolidated snow and decided to retreat. He left the Noruegos advanced camp at 2:30 a.m. and reached the top around 1 p.m., completing the ascent in 16 hours roundtrip. During his stay in the area, Martin, with American Jacob Schmitz, made the second ascent of the Canadian Route on Cerro Fitz Roy (see below). Schmitz dropped his climbing shoes early on, so Martin led every pitch, completing the ascent in 36 hours roundtrip from base camp. Earlier the two had attempted the Casarotto Route, with the Kearney-Knight variation, reaching the top of the Goretta Pillar from which they retreated after a cold bivy.

On Aguja Poincenot, Italian Elio Orlandi and Argentinians Horacio Codo and Lucas Fava made the second ascent of the Potter-Davis route (2001) on the north face, making a slight variation at the top, where they avoided the prominent roof by climbing up and right for the last two pitches.

Argentinian/Slovene Monika Kambic-Mali and Slovene Tanja Grmovsek completed the first all-female ascent of Cerro Torre, which they climbed via the Compressor Route. Right below the compressor, two pitches from the top, Kambic-Mali was hit by falling ice and broke several ribs. With Kambic-Mali in severe pain but unwilling to give up, Kambic-Mali and Grmovsek were aided by a British team who fixed their ropes. While Kambic-Mali jumared, Grmovsek climbed protecting herself with the fixed rope, but on the Bridwell Pitch was forced to pull on the fixed line a couple of times because the rivet and copperhead placements were out of her reach. It should be noted that Kambic-Mali, with Tina Di Batista, is also responsible for the first all-female ascent of Fitz Roy, which they accomplished in 2003.

In August 2004 Canadian Sean Isaac and American Will Mayo made the second winter ascent of Aguja Guillaumet, via the Amy Couloir (350m, III 5.8 55°).

After their ascent of a new route on the west pillar of Paine Chico (see below), Slovenes Tomaz Jakofcic and Grega Lacen moved to the Chalten massif, where they climbed Ipermermoz (600m, 6c, Giordani-Levitti, 1996) on the north face of Aguja Mermoz, completing what might have been the first free ascent. Earlier in the season Argentinians Horacio Codo and Walter Rosssini also climbed this route. Later Jakofcic, with American Josh Wharton, made a rare ascent of Corallo (450m, 7a+ A0, Leoni-Salvaterra, 1994) on Aguja Rafael Juarez.

On another note, in December 2004 the National Parks Administration of Argentina approved a measure instating a US $200 per person climbing fee for Cerro Fitz Roy and its outlying peaks, which includes the Cerro Torre group. There was an immediate strong reaction against this measure, both from mountaineers and park rangers. Before the new regulation could be enacted, in late January the National Parks Administration temporarily suspended it until they could study the matter further. Since that study is on-going, it is important to make our voices heard. Please send an e-mail to to receive more information, including a list of reasons to oppose this measure, as well as a list of addresses of Park Service officials to e-mail.

Rolando Garibotti, Club Andino Bariloche