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Aguja Desmochada, Circus Pets

At the beginning of February 2011, Peter Fasoldt, Carsten von Birckhahn, and I began a new route on the southeast face of Aguja Desmochada. Due to the bitter cold and our general slowness we only made it up six pitches before bailing. The climbing was great and we were psyched to give it another go when weather permitted.

About a week later, the weather cleared, and on February 9, we gave it another shot. Unfortunately, Carsten had to return home with his family, so Pete and I began the complicated approach from Camp Polacos at 1:00 a.m. This approach involves a lot of scrambling, a pitch of 5.10, and travel under a big, scary serac. Just before dawn, Pete started leading the 5.10 pitch in the dark. About halfway up, while mantling around a bulge, he pulled out a huge, loose block and both Pete and the stone came tumbling down. Pete smashed his head, broke his headlamp, and took some chunks out of his hand, elbow, knee, and butt. He was pretty shaken, but some Percocets helped him continue.

The sun rose and we began climbing under blue skies. The route starts at a snow ledge about 30m below the huge, horizontal ledge that splits the first third of the tower’s south face, and follows a major crack system for 13 long pitches. The climbing is great, on clean rock, and mostly in the mid-5.10 range. We climbed the entire route free except for two meters of ice-filled off-width on the last pitch. I’m sure it would easily go free at 5.11.

After a few summit shots, we descended the route. About halfway down, the wind picked up, and, in typical Patagonian style, our ropes got continuously stuck. After a cut rope and a bunch of gear left behind, we reached the base 12 hours after leaving the ground. We named the route Circus Pets (600m, 5.10 A0), a play on the word Percocets. Those little pills proved to be the key to our success.