Dave Sharratt on the first ascent of El Sacraficio del Raton (VI 5.11 A1, ca. 3,800′), Aguja Poincenot, Argentine Patagonia. With new free routes on Peru’s Esfinge, Malaysia’s Dragon’s Spire and Patagonia’s Torre Innominata to his credit, in addition to 5.14 redpoints and 5.13 R/X headpoints, Sharratt has quietly established himself as one of America’s most accomplished–if unassuming–adventure climbers. [Photo] Freddie Wilkinson
By the dawn of the new year in El Chalten, there’d been no good weather all season and most climbers’ nerves were strung taught. Some returned home without climbing, while others stayed on waiting and hoping–and passing the time with ethical debates. Fixed ropes? Bolts? At least everyone agreed that the dismantling of the historic Bridwell hut had made the Torre gods righteously pissed off.
Enter Freddie Wilkinson, the ever animated and motivated. As he lay reading in his Campo Bridwell tent, Freddie’s angst brewed inspiration: in one deft blow of David McCullough’s 1776, he bludgeoned the mouse that had been living in the tent for the last seven weeks. Freddie hung the sacrificial corpse in carefully selected locations throughout camp, thus appeasing the tormented and tumultuous Torre gods with overdue honor and respect.
Needless to say, the weather cleared, and the next day Freddie and I walked up the glacier in the evening to attempt a new route on the south face of Poincenot. With a big push ahead and a stable weather window, we slept in and left camp at 7 a.m. well rested and eager.
After an exposed approach on firm snow, we began climbing a lower-angle apron below the steep south face: eight pitches of snowy rock and iced-up cracks. We free climbed with an axe clipped to our harnesses to clean out gear placements and chop steps across short snowfields. The ensuing ten pitches followed a steep, vertical-to-overhanging, wide-crack corner system. Whereas the rock, by all estimations, should have been great, it turned out to be rotten and flaky. We aided awkwardly until it consolidated and I could free a nice thirty-five-meter section of hard 5.11. At 1 a.m. we sat out the night on a small, but good ledge. As dawn broke colorful and cold, we urged our stiff bodies into motion. A few more pitches to the top of the south wall, and we joined the Fonrouge Route (V, 4,000′, Fonrouge-Rosasco, 1968) for another 1,600 feet of easier terrain, which we mostly simulclimbed to the summit in sunny, windless conditions.
Freddie’s savvy descent skills dropped us above the pack we’d left at the base. It’s a challenge to strike the balance between packing light and packing enough. We didn’t bring a stove, and on the way down we were happy to find little huecos holding puddles that we could suck up with a straw. Although we were dehydrated and worked, Freddie’s seemingly endless supply of enthusiasm kept us easily psyched.
At the first running water down the approach couloir, we sat and drank a cold liter. The full moon hid behind the Fitz Roy massif, casting crisp shadows onto the lower half of the Torres. El Sacraficio del Raton (5.11 A1, ca. 3,800′) had temporarily quenched my thirst for climbing, and I savored seeing these peaks–now bright in silver moonlight–as stone and snow and not as climbing objectives.
–Dave Sharratt, North Conway, New Hampshire