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A Quartet for Silent Lands: A Photo Essay

We asked Lise Billon and Jerome Sullivan, two of the four authors of “A Quartet for Silent Lands” in Alpinist 53 (the other two authors are Diego Simari and Antoine Moineville) to share additional photos from their story for us to post online. Below is a series of excerpts from A Quartet matched with images–chosen by them–presented as a photo essay.

In September 2015, the team spent five days approaching 2550-meter Cerro Riso Patron in Chilean Patagonia, and three days climbing the 1000-meter new route Hasta Las Webas (ED- WI5 M5 90 degrees), to complete the second ascent of the peak. In 2016 the Piolet d’Or committee recognized the significance of the team’s ascent.

Lise and Jerome’s comments on the picture: El Principe the king of the fjord.

If the world were flat, our little boat would be close to the edge where the ocean cascades into nothingness.

Lise and Jerome’s comments on the picture: The rudder broke as he was struck by big piece of ice. We first tried to access it from above to fix it, using a chainsaw to cut the floor of the boat. We failed. The last solution was to access it from below, so Juan put on his wetsuit to fix the rudder.

Frost-coated summits detached from the sky like oil from water. Sheets of ice slid down steep alpine faces and calved into the fjord. Juan Vaca wriggled into a thick neoprene suit. His face was expressionless, he shouted “Estamos hasta las webas,” put on his flippers and adjusted his diving mask.

Lise and Jerome’s comments on the picture: The sunset behind Cerro Buracchio and Volcan Lautaro.

The temperatures had dropped, reducing the last turbulent rocks to silence. My soul still seemed to vibrate with a quiet song. The cold light of the moon and stars irradiated the white ridges. Tangles of frost curled as if contrary to the laws of gravity. The Icefield stretched to the four cardinal points in an infinite monochrome, absolutely flat and immobile. Eighty kilometers to the east, Cerro Torre stood out like a lighthouse.

Lise and Jerome’s comments on the picture: We start the descent from the summit of Cerro Riso Patron (ca. 2550m), Patagonia into the last light of the day on a soft, white-mushroom world.

“The light, almost palpable, cast an orangy veil, as if the air were infused with spices. The colors seemed oversaturated. The blade of an axe left a dark furrow in the snow. Frost jellyfish, composed of thousands of chaotic crystals, turned red and squealed under crampons.”

Lise and Jerome’s comments on the picture: The final walk to the summit, walking around this huge jellyfish-like summit mushroom of Cerro Riso Patron.

“There was a music that we’d created with our hands and feet here, a gift that we’d wanted to give to the mountain. Though each of us had probably heard a different tune, we’d played our quartet as best we could to the beat of what surrounded us. And now, at last, without sound, the mountain seemed to be singing back.”

Lise and Jerome’s comments on the picture: Pueto Eden. The fishing village where the adventure started.

“We’d stumbled back across he glaciers, struggled through the rainforest and waded across the swamps , rejoining Principe at the little creek where the sailors had dropped us off. It was so dark that I could only imagine with difficulty that the sun shone somewhere. Or rather, my mind struggled to conceive of the idea that an “elsewhere” existed. Only several boats, colored like tropical birds, seemed to emit a diffuse light.”

Lise and Jerome’s comments on the picture: This was the most psychological pitch of our route Hasta Las Webas (ED- WI5 M5 90 degrees, 1000m, Billon-Moineville-Simari-Sullivan, 2015)–80 meters with almost no protection. It took four hours to lead this section.

“As we moved between sheets of plastered ice and scales of steep rock, I imagined we were improvising the first part of a melody. The second part grew more complicated: an interlude of sparsely protected, rime-coated rock where one false note would be disastrous.

To learn more about Lise Billon visit her website. To learn more about Jerome and Lise’s travels together, pick up Alpinist 43 and read the NewsWire Homeric Journey Ends on Unclimbed Revelations Summit.

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