South America, Argentina, Southern Patagonia, Chalten Massif, La Silla, El Bastardo
La Silla, El Bastardo. Stephan Siegrist, my brother Alexander, and I returned to Patagonia with the same ambitious target in mind: the traverse of the Cerro Torre massif. When we arrived in mid-January 2008 the Torres were completely covered in ice. But on the positive side, the weather forecast predicted no less than three consecutive days of good weather—that’s what we need! There was only the problem that it would get really warm, which stands for extreme danger. Conditions under which we wouldn’t attempt the traverse. [Rolando Garibotti and Colin Haley completed the Torre Traverse during this weather window—see Garibotti’s feature earlier in this Journal—Ed.]
Instead we focused on the towers of the Fitz Roy group! The winds, coming from the Pacific across the Hielo Continental, unload most of their humidity on the first great barrier, the Torres. The Fitz Roy group gets a small fraction of the ice and snow, so you don’t find the giant mushrooms and notorious rime ice that can make the Torres so dangerous. In the Fitz Roy group we even found an attractive target: the unclimbed west face of La Silla.
Alexander, with Mario Walder from East Tyrol, attempted this face last year, but this time it looked much better. With us again this year was Mario Walder, on stage to attack the west face of La Silla.
The weather is perfect, and on January 22 we climb the lower, not-so-steep part of the wall. The climbing never exceeds 5.10, and most parts are easier. Finally we arrive at the base of the 600m monolithic headwall, where we set up our bivouac. The next morning we start early, as we don’t know what to expect. The first 300m are really steep, and the climbing is dominated by dihedrals and long off-widths. Most of it we could climb free, but due to icy conditions we have to aid short sections. After climbing 12 mostly long pitches we reach the distinctive double-summit of La Silla by early afternoon, realizing the first ascent of its west face—what a great climb!
The long rappel session has us back to the glacier late evening. The entire climb is done without any previous preparation. El Bastardo is the first route on that marvelous face. The name is the idea of Mario Walder, who wasn’t baptized by his hometown priest because he was a bastard.
Later we enjoyed windows of good weather and climbed to some nice summits: Torre Egger, Cerro Standhardt, Aguja Rafael Juarez, St. Exupery, Aguja de la S, and El Mocho.
Thomas Huber, Germany