South America, Argentina, Southern Patagonia, Chalten Massif, Cerro Standhardt, Potter Route and Other Firsts

Publication Year: 2005.

Cerro Standhardt, Potter Route and other firsts. I arrived in El Chalten on January 29 to meet Dean Potter, who had been in Patagonia for a month and had a high camp set up at Noruegos, for the Torre group. The weather turned good the minute I got there, and eight hours after I arrived in camp we were climbing a new route, alpine style, on Cerro Standhardt. We started at dawn on January 30 and summited the mushroom in the early afternoon. Several pitches of full-on (clean) aid and the fact that it was an obvious line convinced us we were climbing Motivaciones Mixtas (900m, 5.10d A2 85°, Chaverri-Plaza, 1993), which had not been finished to the summit. Later we discovered we had done a new route to the right of Motivaciones Mixtas, which we called the Potter Route. [The Potter Route climbs the steep 200m upper east face head- wall, which it reaches from the col north of the peak via the prominent snow-ramps of Exocet. The Potter Route and the unfinished Motivaciones Mixtas likely share some ground—Ed.]

Next we made an arduous failing attempt to link the Italian Route to Titanic on Torre Egger. Torre Egger had only seen six ascents, so we really wanted to get up it. However, conditions were terrible. We roasted in the sun as we climbed, then the route became a waterfall, and we got soaking wet. We spent a miserable bivy on a sloping rock fin waiting for dawn to bring better conditions, but it didn’t get colder. We then got bombarded by half the summit mushroom, trying to fight our way up to the top. Completely drenched, we managed to get 20m below the disintegrating mushroom, but could not get up the mushy, overhanging snow to the summit. We descended in more waterfalls. The day was no fun, but at least no one died.

We descended to Campo Bridwell (Campo De Agostini) to recover. Using a spotting scope to find a better path up the nasty summit mushroom, Dean saw a promising line more to the west. A few days later in the next weather window, we tried for Torre Egger again. We went Yosemite-style, carrying 22 Clif Bars, a liter of water, Gore-Tex and a bivy sack, two ice tools, and one set of crampons. Starting in the evening we climbed and summited in 23 hours, making the first one-day ascent of Torre Egger, as well as the first female ascent. We lost one rope less than halfway down the descent and spent a miserably cold night crouched together waiting for light, before making endless raps with the remaining rope.

We went up the glacier one last time, during another perfect three days of weather in the first days of March. One of Dean’s dreams has been to make the first BASE jump in Patagonia. We climbed the Bridwell-Stszewski on El Mocho, and Dean jumped, making it down to the glacier in mere seconds. I got to spend hours rappelling alone, with no traumatic incidents except for having to cut another stuck rope.

Steph Davis