American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Argentina, Southern Patagonia, Chalten Massif, Aguja Standhardt (2,730m), South Face, First Complete Ascent via El Caracol; Other Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2012

Aguja Standhardt (2,730m), south face, first complete ascent via El Caracol; other ascents. In 1977, when Aguja Standhardt was the most compelling unclimbed peak in the Fitz Roy range, Brian Hall and John Whittle (U.K.) attempted a line that traverses ramp systems on the east face and turns the corner onto the upper south face. They were turned back only 20m below the summit, and although during the decades since several other teams had attempted the line, no one had surpassed Hall and Whittles highpoint.

I was climbing in the Fitz Roy range for much of the 2011-2012 season, and on December 3 found myself climbing to the Standhardt Col with Jorge Ackermann (from Bariloche) for an attempt on Festerville. Winds raking Festerville would make rock climbing on the exposed ridge too cold, so we changed our objective to the south face.

We made rapid progress on the mixed pitches above the Standhardt Col and simul-climbed across the east face ramps. But when we turned the corner onto the upper south face, our progress slowed significantly. We climbed the upper south face in eight time-consuming pitches, which were typical of the Torres in that they involved ice climbing, dry-tooling, aid, free-climbing, and a bit of rime climbing. Not having photos of the face, I once chose the wrong crack and had to make two complicated pendulums to get back on track The key to exiting the south face is that, at the point where Hall and Whittle traversed left to a point on the west face directly below the summit mushroom, we continued straight up a mixed chimney, in which a knifeblade crack allowed aid through the steepest section. One more pitch up the standard (east) side of the summit mushroom brought us to the summit at last light. We spent the night rappelling Exocet. Because of the routes spiral shape and our snail-like pace, we named the route El Caracol (500m, 5.9A1+M4).

I also made other climbs. On November 8 I attempted to solo Cerro Pollone, via the south face, but was unable to surmount the summit block, reaching my ice tool to within 40cm of the highest point but unable to get my body there. [Editor’s note: Due to glacier recession the original 1949 line is now relatively dangerous, so Haley climbed a steep gully farther east, joining the original line less than 100m below the summit.] On December 8I made the third solo ascent of Aguja Innominata, via the Anglo-American route. On Decemeber 14 I made the fourth solo ascent of Aguja St. Exupery, via the Kearney-Harrington route, and on the 15th soloed Aguja de l’S, via the standard north ridge, completing a several-year personal goal of making solo ascents of the seven principal summits on the Fitz Roy ridgeline (Guillaumet, Mermoz, Fitz Roy, Poincenot, Innominata, St. Exupery, and de l’S - an alternate list of the Seven Summits).

On December 25 and 26 Jorge and I ascended the east pillar of Torre Egger, via the O’Neill-Martin link to upper Titanic. On January 22 and 23 Rolando Garibotti, Doerte Pietron, and I climbed Aguja Desmochada via Golden Eagle.

Colin Haley, AAC

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