The biggest news in Patagonia this season was not related to an ascent but to an attempt. David Lama’s attempt to free the Compressor Route was well-publicized, but in spite of his spending close to three months in El Chalten, nothing came of it. Nothing except the further damage that Lama’s film team did to the mountain. They fixed—and subsequently abandoned—ropes from the glacier to the bolt traverse, more than 700m, and added more than 60 bolts. These bolts were placed where not even Maestri had bolted back in 1970, on his infamous siege, when he dragged up a 400-pound air compressor. While Argentine guides removed the fixed ropes months later, the bolts remain, and many of the fixed ropes were abandoned in a haul bag above the bergschrund. One has to wonder what climbers in the Alps would say if the same was done to one of their most iconic peaks by a team of foreigners. In 1985 Fulvio Mariani made one of the best climbing movies of all time with Cumbre, documenting Marco Pedrini’s solo ascent of Cerro Torre. They fixed three ropes, nothing more. Unfortunately, Lama and his entourage displayed a big regression.
Weatherwise this season was almost identical to the previous one, with much good weather at the start and end, in early December and late February. However, snow and ice conditions remained mostly bad during the clear spells, with much snow and ice on the peaks. This prevented any ascents of Cerro Torre and focused activity on the Fitz Roy massif.
The weather forecasts continue to define a new climbing era, where Fitz Roy is regularly climbed with running shoes instead of boots, where hard-shells have vanished from climbers’ packs, and where gradually the search for difficulty has taken the stage. Less constrained by weather, this is a natural evolution. The main beneficiaries of weather forecasting have been locals, who have stormed “their” mountains recently. Fourteen people stood atop Fitz Roy one day in late February, 12 of them Argentine—the andinismo is alive and kicking.
Apart from reports below of individual climbs, there were several ascents worth noting:
Luciano Fiorenza and Federico Arletti climbed a new route on the north face of Guillaumet, right of the Fonrouge-Comesaña, which they called Guillotina (300m, 5.11).
Also on Guillaumet, a route on the west face was reported two years ago, which was then thought to be new (Lost Men [AAJ 2008]). It turns out that Lost Men was a repeat of Padrijo, put up by Erich and Stefan Gatt in 1993, as confirmed by the Gatts; confusion seemed to exist about Padrijo’s location. In the AAJ 2009 photo, p. 208, line #3 is actually Padrijo, though perhaps with a variant finish. Line #4 does not exist (yet) as a route.
Argentine Milena Gomez and German Doerte Pietron completed the fifth ascent of the Afanasieff route on Fitz Roy, making the second all-female ascent of Fitz.
On the east face of Aguja Poincenot, Simon Gietl (Italy) and Roger Schäli (Switzerland) established a difficult new route. Over four days, which included fixing a few ropes along the Whillans ramp to reach the left side of the steep east face, they put up Fühl Dich Stark aber Nicht Unsterblich (Feel Strong, but not Immortal; 6c A3+ M5).
Also on Poincenot, Austrians Erich and Stefan Gatt climbed an interesting new route on one of the pillars attached to the west face. The 14-pitch Tango Viejo (400m, 5.10 A3) reaches a small summit that they christened Punta Mercedes Sosa. Also on Poincenot, Argentines Esteban De Gregori and Nicolas Benedetti climbed a seven-pitch variation to the Fonrouge-Rosasco route on the south face.
On the opposite side of the massif, in the Piergiorgio Valley, Americans Joel and Neil Kaufmann and Jim Toman climbed a new route on the north face of Aguja Tito Carrasco (300m, 5.10). Theirs was the second ascent of the tower.