Fitz Roy, East Face, Onsight Free Ascent
South America, Argentina and Chile, Southern Patagonia
In a 36-hour roundtrip push from base camp on February 19–20, 2011, Sean Villanueva and I made an onsight free ascent of the east face of Fitz Roy. We mostly followed El Corazon, but to avoid some wet rock we started with the closest good-looking dry line, which was the Ferrari Route. We followed it for about five pitches before traversing horizontally to join El Corazon, along with a couple pitches of Royal Flush, and a couple new variation pitches, to connect it all together. From pitch 12 of El Corazon, we stayed on that route to a pitch before its A4 pitch (pitch 21)—from a free-climbing perspective it looked easier and more logical to traverse left into the cracks of Royal Flush. After a few pitches on Royal Flush, it then joins El Corazon to the top.
We climbed the entire route switching leads, with both of us free-climbing each pitch (no jumars). Our strategy was to climb nonstop to the summit so that the climbing would keep us warm through the night and we would not need to bring bivy gear. At 3 a.m. we stopped on a little ledge for a couple hours to melt some snow, down some warm liquids, and refuel.
The whole route is amazing, with mostly perfect cracks on a beautiful piece of rock. We were quite surprised that the ascent went as smoothly as it did. The route is very sustained in the 5.10–5.11 range, with a couple of 5.12 cruxes.
We encountered hundreds upon hundreds of meters of steel ladders on the Ferrari Route. It’s a real mess and it was not enjoyable to climb around them. We tried to remove them but you would need cutters to cut through the steel cables. I got a small cut on my thumb while trying to remove them, and 24 hours later it got badly infected and swollen, requiring hard antibiotics and a week of rest. These ladders are ugly, they’re garbage, and they really need to be removed!