American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Argentina and Chile, Southern Patagonia, Argentina, Chalten Massif, Aguja Rafael Juarez, Blood on the Tracks; and Desmochado, The Sound and the Fury

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2006

Aguja Rafael Juarez, Blood on the Tracks; and Desmochada, The Sound and the Fury. In December, Taki Miyamoto (Japan), Freddie Wilkinson (New Hampshire), Paul Tureki (Alaska), and I (Maine) established a new route on Cerro Innominata (also known as Aguja Rafael Juarez). We climbed the steep, 2,000' north face, following a continuous crack system up its western side near the skyline. Our first attempt was thwarted by strong winds, but, during an unusually stable period of weather around Christmas, the four of us returned and finished the route, using some aid. I then returned with Taki and Fred and free-climbed the aid pitches, creat- ing Blood on the Tracks: 11 long pitches, 5.12. The route is characterized by steep, clean crack climbing and is quite sustained until pitch nine, which is the free-climbing crux, then eases into 5.10 terrain. [For the route line, refer to Jon Walsh’s Aguja Rafael Juarez photo on p. 297, AAJ] 2005. Where the line for Comono begins to angle slightly left, Blood on the Tracks continues up, traverses slightly right to the left side of the shaded, triangular roof, and then continues straight up to the summit.—Ed.]

Upon descending to El Chalten, Taki departed for his final semester of law school, Paul turned his attention to new routing in El Chalten, and Fred and I waited out poor weather for most of January, until the following scenario played out:

It is 4 a.m., January 23,2006, the wind is ripping and rain drips into our bivy cave at high camp. When a big gust comes, or the wind suddenly changes direction, it snaps loudly, like the crack of a whip. Freddie groans, and I roll over and try to sleep a bit more.

By 8 a.m. the wind still blows strongly, but the rain has stopped. We sip instant coffee and recommence strategizing. A large portion of our mental energy over the past five weeks has been spent strategizing, plotting, and scheming, to be ready to strike out when the elusive weather window arrives. Having learned the hard way that attempting a summit on a marginal day can waste time and energy, this past week—the last week in our trip—we blew it on one of the best sunny streaks of the season. Now, bivied at high camp, we are riddled with angst and hungry.

At 10 a.m. the wind suddenly quiets. It’s late, but rather than something we know we can do quickly, we set out for a new route we have been eyeing on Desmochada. We will scramble up 3,000' of 4th- and 5th-class terrain to reach a 2,600' vertical wall, split with continuous crack systems. We have 44 hours before we have to be 15 miles from here, in El Chalten to catch our flight home.

At 1 a.m., January 24, we sit on the summit in strong and increasing wind. We have climbed a new route (The Sound and the Fury) up the 2,600' south face, on a steep, continuous crack system between El Facón and El Condor, mostly free (5.11+, with short sections of A0). We have made the fourth ascent of Desmochada, and now have 29 hours to get from the summit to El Chalten. As we descend our line, winds whip into cracking gusts by our fourth rappel, sending one of our ropes sailing sideways, snagging too far away to pendulum out to. We are forced to leave the rope and make 20m rappels. Halfway down, a whiteout engulfs us. We make it back to town after a slow, cold, harrowing descent: a 38-hour push from high camp to summit to town.

After a celebratory steak and liter of beer we pass out in a field and sleep through our 6 a.m. alarm clock. Magically, Fred wakes up as the bus is leaving. I chase it down in my skivvies, successfully convincing the driver to wait for us.

Dave Sharratt

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