South America, Argentina, Southern Patagonia, Chalten Massif, Summary

Publication Year: 2007.

Chalten massif, summary. Several changes have taken effect in the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre massifs, in the northern part of Los Glaciares National Park. Due to the increase in visitors, from a few hundred in the early 1980s to 20,000 in 1998 and 45,000 in 2005, the area has suffered severe environmental degradation. As a result, starting in September 2007, horses will no longer be allowed. This new regulation will have a direct impact on climbers, who, for the last couple of decades, have relied on horses to carry their gear to their base camps. Climbers planning to visit the area should come prepared to carry their gear and food.

Climbers should also note that the “climber’s hut” at Campo De Agostini, a rustic structure made of logs and nylon that was built in 1987, then quadrupled in size in 1994, has been taken down. The huts in the Rio Blanco base camp will be taken down in the near future. The Park intends to enforce a policy that allows no structures of any kind other than a tent.

In the last few years a large percentage of climbers have been basing themselves in El Chalten and hiking directly into the mountains when the weather improves. This approach lengthens their journey by a mere two hours and helps focus the environmental impact in the town itself. It also gives better access to the many crags near town and allows climbers to check Internet weather forecasts, which in the last few years have become increasingly reliable.

All other regulations will remain unchanged. Climbers visiting the area have to register in the Park’s office upon arriving in Chalten. Climber registration is mandatory, but free.

In climbing news, controversy erupted when American climbers Josh Wharton and Zack Smith disclosed their intention to chop the bolts on Cerro Torre’s southeast ridge, a.k.a. the Compressor Route. Cesare Maestri placed these bolts during his 1970 attempt. Some argue that the bolts have historical value and should therefore be left in-place. Others argue that the bolts are mostly unnecessary—avoiding natural features instead of connecting them—that they detract from the experience, and should therefore go.

By the end of February 2007, most climbers qualified the season’s weather as marginal. However, two young Swiss climbers, Cyrille Berthod and Simon Anthamatten, both 23, managed a slew of impressive repeats in a short time. The two Swiss climbed most of the major peaks in the Fitz Roy chain, including Poincenot, Fitz Roy, de la S, Guillaumet, and rarely repeated lines on Saint Exupery (the Super-Trek variation to Chiaro Di Luna), Innominata (Corallo), and Mermoz (Red Pillar). They also climbed the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre in just 11 hours from the Niponino camp. “We would have never summited on such a marginal weather day if not for all the bolts, but we did not get as much pleasure reaching the top of Cerro Torre as we did on other summits in the area,” they explained, alluding to the bolt controversy. Anthamatten and Berthod also climbed El Mocho and Torre de la Media Luna, two small summits near the base of Cerro Torre. After climbing Fitz Roy via the Franco-Argentine Route, they attempted the Kearney-Knight variation to the Casarotto route on Fitz Roy’s Gore- tta Pillar, but descended upon reaching the top of the pillar. On Cerro Torre, El Mocho, de la S, Saint Exupery, and Innominata they were joined by Anthamatten’s brother, Samuel, and on the Franco-Argentine and Casarotto by Swiss Jvan Tresch.

Rolando Garibotti, Club Andino Bariloche, AAC