American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Argentina, Southern Patagonia, Chalten Massif, Cuatro Dedos, Fingerlicious; Domo Blanco, La Suerte Sangrienta

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2007

Cuatro Dedos, Fingerlicious; Dotno Blanco, La Suerte Sangrienta. Chris Brazeau and I arrived in Patagonia on January 11,2007, and teamed with Crystal Davis-Robbins. Within a week we had climbed two new routes, on Aguja Cuatro Dedos and Domo Blanco.

On January 13 the window was forecast to be short, so we went for a smaller tower by Torre Glacier standards, Cuatro Dedos. We walked past 10 or more other beautiful towers on the approach, which was probably why Cuatro Dedos had only a couple of ascents. A prominent northeasterly buttress that led directly to the summit had been on my mind for a few years, and finally it was time to attempt it.

When the alarm went off at 2 a.m., the wind blew so hard that we reset our watches for four. At four we reset them to seven. Coffee and a casual breakfast ensued, as conditions remained cold and windy. At 9:30 we took the gear for a walk, just in case. We meandered up the glacier scoping the options. Sure enough, around noon the wind died, and the sky cleared. Little did we know then, but most climbers in the valley had started much earlier, bailed from their objectives, and returned to camp. By 1 p.m. we were roping up for the first of two mixed pitches, followed by 11 clean pitches of mostly finger cracks, mixed with lots of face climbing and cryptic route finding. The climbing was sustained at 5.10 and 5.11, with pitches averaging about 50m in length. We climbed the route, Fingerlicious (500m, 5.1lb/c M4), in three blocks with the seconds following with jumars. We on-sighted every pitch, and each got a share of cruxy leads. The summit was a surreal experience under a calm, starry sky at 3:30 a.m. After a half-hour of enjoying the moonlit views of the Hielo Sur and the surrounding spires, we rappelled the route and made it back to camp in a 25-hour roundtrip. It was likely the second or third ascent of the peak, and via a virgin wall. The next window again looked small, but this time, January 18, we started in the dark for Cuatro Dedos’s neighbor, Domo Blanco. Like Cuatro Dedos, Domo Blanco was ripe for new routes, and its east face was unclimbed. The glacier travel to get to there likely had something to do with it, but we found our way through the maze of crevasses and began climbing just after it got light. Unfortunately, the sun hit the mixed approach gully just as we started up it, and rockfall started immediately. Just before making it through the danger zone, Crystal took a rock to the forehead. At first there was lots of blood, and as she got to the anchor, another rock pegged her square in the head, splitting her helmet in two. She and Chris quickly continued another 30m to my anchor, where it was safe and we could access our situation. Going down would have been the most dangerous thing to do and Crystal, although shaken, felt fine and was psyched to continue. Had we been an hour earlier, the gully would likely have been safe. A few easy pitches above the gully brought us to the inspiring headwall and three difficult pitches of perfect splitters. The most notable features included a corner with 30m of overhanging ringlocks and short section of sideways off-width climbing, all on superb granite. These two pitches required a few moves of clean aid but would likely have been 5.12 free. The hardest pitch free-climbed was about 5.11d. A few more rock pitches brought us to the aesthetic ice face/ramp leading to the summit. We rappelled to climber’s right of our ascent route and made it back to camp in 24 hours. La Suerte Sangrienta (“Bloody Luck”) (650m, 5.11d Al M4).

Jon Walsh, Canada

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