[Photo] Colin Haley
From January 18 through 22, Colin Haley and Marc-Andre Leclerc made the first ascent of what had been dubbed the “Reverse Torre Traverse,” a south-to-north enchainment of Cerro Torre, Torre Egger, Punta Herron and Aguja Standhardt in Argentine Patagonia. They called their route, which was first attempted by Bjorn-Eivind Artun and Chad Kellogg in early 2012–and which Haley had also attempted that same year with Jon Walsh only to be stormed off–La Travesia del Oso Buda. The route was named in honor of the late Artun (Bjorn means “bear” in Norwegian, while oso means the same in Spanish; Buda means Buddha) and the late Kellogg (who was Buddhist), the former killed on the Kjerag wall in Norway just weeks after his attempt on the Reverse Torres Traverse, the latter by rockfall on Fitz Roy in 2014.
In 2008, Rolando Garibotti and Haley ran the same ridgeline from north to south for the first ascent of the Torre Traverse, an obvious and iconic prize that climbers had been trying on and off, and exploring in various sections, since the late 1980s. Given the ferocity of Patagonia’s storms and winds, and how quickly conditions can morph from dry rock into a rime-covered nightmare on this exposed ridgeline of four towering spires, any successful attempt needs a solid good-weather window of at least a few days. As Garibotti wrote in his write-up of La Travesia at pataclimb.com , the “reverse” direction, while it does involve less overall elevation gain than the 2,200 meters of the Torre Traverse, differs in character in that it entails “much more ice and mixed climbing.”
Haley, an alpinist from the Northwest, and Leclerc, a climber based out of Squamish, British Columbia, hiked in to the Col de la Esperanza on January 18 and set up their tent. Starting at 4 a.m. on the 19th, the pair climbed the Via dei Ragni (600m 90 degrees M4) on the west face of Cerro Torre, topping out at 11:50 a.m. They rappelled the Ragni’s top three pitches and then set up their tent to nap and wait while Cerro Torre’s north face came into the shade and conditions stabilized. At 6 p.m., they began rapping the north face (El Arca de los Vientos), settling in on a snow ledge one pitch above the Egger-Torre Col (Col de la Mentira) at 10 p.m.
meters before the climbers realized there was too much rime, and decided to finish on the American route instead.
[Photo] Colin Haley
The next morning, the 20th, Haley and Leclerc started up Torre Egger via the unrepeated Venas Azules (350m 95 degrees C1), a steep, futuristic ice line put up by Artun and Ole Lied in 2011. Here, they met their only snafu on the Travesia: five and a half pitches up Venas Azules, the climbers realized that the rime was too heavy to continue. “After the first four pitches, we should have immediately traversed rightwards to join the Americana [route],” Haley wrote in an email. Instead, correcting their error and anxious about having wasted time and energy, they made a single rappel and traversed right, climbing two pitches on the Americana (950m 80 degrees 5+ A4) to move rightward again and finish on the east pillar. The climbers spent the night of the 20th/21st on Egger’s summit mushroom, in a comfortable tent bivy.
On January 21, they quickly rapped Egger’s north face via the Huber-Schnarf to the Col de Lux, blasted up Punta Herron via its south face (Cara Sur: 80m 75 degrees) and then rappelled Herron’s Spigolo dei Bimbi to arrive at 1 p.m. at their final col: the Col de los Suenos between Herron and Standhardt. From there, Leclerc led three new mixed pitches up and to the right to join El Caracol (250m 85 degrees 6a A1), a route Haley and Jorge Ackermann had first-ascended in 2011 and the only established line up Standhardt from the south. As Leclerc wrote in an email, this block of pitches involved “free, aid and ice.” Six more ropelengths led to the summit, including Haley’s final lead of an overhanging knifeblade seam that, wrote Leclerc, Haley “aided while digging a tunnel through rime” to top out in the gloaming.
“For three days I had been rushing as much as possible,” wrote Haley, “but [on this final lead] I finally relaxed and took my time, because with only forty meters left to Standhardt’s summit I knew it would take a raging tempest to convince us to turn around.”
[Photo] Marc-Andre Leclerc
The climbers summited at 11:10 p.m. on January 21 and then rapped through the night, reaching the glacier as it became light again and stumbling back into base camp at Niponino around 5 a.m. on January 22.
While Haley is a Patagonia veteran, Leclerc’s only previous Patagonia climb had been El Mocho. “On day one, [Marc-Andre’s] unfamiliarity with the terrain on Cerro Torre was evident,” wrote Haley, “but he adapted amazingly quickly, made an awesome climbing partner for our first-ever climb together, and by day thee he was a veteran of climbing on the Torres.” The duo enjoyed good weather for the duration, encountering strong gusts only on their final three rappels off Standhardt. Haley says that while La Travesia doesn’t hold any single pitch of extreme difficulty, the challenge lies more in the logistics and endurance required.