South America, Argentina, Southern Patagonia, Chalten Massif, Torre Egger (2,850m), West Face, Attempt

Publication Year: 2012.

Torre Egger (2,850m), west face, attempt. In December 2011 and January 2012 Matteo Bernasconi and Matteo della Bordella made attempts to climb the west face of Torre Egger. They followed the large corner system on the left side of the face, which was climbed for 300m in 1997 by Adriano Cavallaro and Ermanno Salvaterra, who retreated due to objective danger. (A previous attempt by unknown climbers reached 150m from the ground.) Bernasconi and della Bordella had tried the line during the 2010-2011 season and left ropes in place.

The pair fixed ropes, but found that the central section, starting with pitch 12, was dangerously exposed to ice falling from the vicinity of the Col de Lux (Herron-Egger Col). They tackled part of this section, before retreating to their snow cave on the glacier, where they sat out nine stormy days. Due to increasing temperatures, on their return they found the glacier changed. Enormous crevasses had opened, and it took a very long time to reach the face. They descended to Chalten and came back with an aluminum ladder to bridge gaping gaps.

By the time of their final attempt, for which they received a forecast of four days’ good weather, they had fixed ropes to pitch 17. They opted for a lightweight push to the summit, taking no real sleeping gear, just bivouac sacks and food for five days. Passing their high point they made a cold bivouac and the following day reached the top of pitch 23, 20m below the Col de Lux. They had climbed difficulties of 7a and A2 and placed two bolts. A little after 8 p.m., hoping to bivouac on the col and reach the summit the next day, della Bordella had just moved off the belay when he fell, pulling most of the anchors. Climbers and haul bags were left dangling from a 0.3 cam. Shocked and with no workable bolt kit to pass this section, they retreated, leaving ropes in place. They also abandoned the ladder.

They had planned to climb capsule style, with a portaledge, but once they saw how exposed the section from pitch 12 to pitch 17 was to falling rock and ice, they changed tactics. However, Bernasconi felt that in the prevailing conditions it was still Russian Roulette, even siege style. The two chose this line in preference to the center of the west face (attempted in 1996 by Italians) because it offers greater free-climbing potential.

Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO, from information supplied by Fabio Palma and Matteo della Bordella.