Marc-Andre Leclerc of Squamish, British Columbia, made the first free ascent of Titanic (formerly 6a A2, now 7b M5 WI4 950m) on Torre Egger (2850m) in a final push over two days at the end of September with the support of Austin Siadak of Seattle, Washington, who also filmed. This was Leclerc’s second time up the route in about a week after his solo of the Winter Link-Up, which climbs the top half of Titanic. Leclerc’s free ascent is also the first continuous ascent of the route as well as the first known repeat of the lower pitches.
“Earlier in the week they had explored the first couple of pitches, freeing the second pitch, a run-out slab,” Rolando Garibotti reported on his Facebook page, Patagonia Vertical. “The [final] ascent took two days, with a bivy on the snowfield halfway up. The crux is in the upper headwall, a slopey undercling to a slabby boulder problem that took Marc-Andre four tries (7b). The ‘pearl’ of the climb is the five-pitch-long ice goulotte in the lower half.”
“The route Titanic was originally climbed in 1987, though the first ascent party jumared 500 meters of fixed ropes left by another party,” Siadak said. “The bottom ten or so pitches of the route had never been repeated, I believe. After Marc did his solo ascent of Egger a couple of weeks ago, he decided he wanted to attempt to free the entire original line since we were going back up there. The five-pitch ice runnel in the bottom third of the route was one of the more amazing bits of ice climbing I’ve seen. Not particularly hard at all (maybe AI4) but strikingly beautiful. It is crazy that it had never been repeated, as it would be an all-time classic anywhere in the world.”
The men fixed two or three ropes on their initial reconnaissance, which they ascended on their final push. Leclerc led all but three of the pitches, which Siadak led in order to film Leclerc soloing them.
“We went up there planning to primarily film a recreation of Marc’s solo ascent a couple weeks ago, and Marc also wanted to try to free all of the original Titanic route, since there were a number of pitches he didn’t free completely on his solo ascent,” Siadak said. “Also he took a different start to the route on his solo ascent [the Winter Link-Up].”
Leclerc was unavailable to comment in time for this story, but he shared some of his experience with Gripped magazine earlier: “In the first section we bypassed an A1 section by climbing a very run-out 5.10+ face pitch to the right. This gained an all time five-pitch ice runnel in an awesome dihedral. An A1 pitch at the top of the runnel went easily at M5, which brought us to the junction with The Martin/O’Neill linkup. Before the mid-way snow arete, another wet A2 section was avoided by climbing overhanging 5.11 cracks on the right hand wall. The next day, after a bivy on the snow arete, we started up the headwall. All the pitches went easily at 5.10 or less, but the steep arching undercling, linking ramp systems was much more difficult. The pitch was reminiscent of the sloping undercling crux on University Wall [in Squamish, a grade IV 5.12a] but ended with an exit on 5.12 face to reach the belay. This took me four tries to figure out the cryptic and powerful boulder problem. Higher up a rock step in the mushrooms went with an overhanging M6 Boulder problem and a tension traverse was avoided with a 10-meter mixed down climb to gain the ice tube leading to the summit. Overall not a super hard climb, which is indicative of how few people are even trying to climb these peaks free. I think there is an epic amount of potential in this department in the Torres.”
“I doubt I could have freed the crux pitch,” said Siadak, who had to jumar all but six or seven pitches because of his filming duties. “Everything else seemed pretty doable and no harder than mid 5.11. Marc called the crux 7b, but I think it would be a hard 7b at the very easiest. He said that he graded it for how it would feel if you were toproping it at the crag.”
According to Patagonia Vertical, the 1987 first ascent of Titanic was climbed over two efforts by two different teams a month apart. Giorgio Cominelli, Lorenzo Nadali and Andrea Sarchi fixed 500 meters of rope. Then Maurizio Giarolli and Elio Orlandi used those ropes and climbed the upper half.
As far as anyone knows, the bottom half has remained unrepeated until now.
“There are many unrepeated routes in Patagonia,” Garibotti said. “There were no attempts to repeat [Titanic] — not free, not in any style. In this case people found an easier access to the middle section via the Martin-O’Neill, so the original line got forgotten in spite of having five really good pitches up a hanging ice gully. Free climbing is a relatively new and unusual phenomenon in the area. Many people are still climbing those peaks in the ‘anything goes’ style. This was understandable until the mid 2000s, but since the advent of more reliable weather forecasts there are more certainties, so hence one can add new variables. Time, information and communal experience erase certain unknowns, so others get added on to keep things interesting.”
This was Siadak’s fourth trip to Patagonia.
“I first met Marc in Patagonia in January of 2014, and have filmed/shot with him a number of times in Patagonia, in Yosemite, and in the Canadian Rockies,” he said. “I had not climbed with Marc before this trip beyond a few cragging pitches in the Valley. It was super fun to get to rope up with him on this trip and get an opportunity to spend quality time in the mountains together. We were rarely more than 60 meters apart from one another for most of two weeks!”
Siadak said the weather was mostly really good for the majority of the time he was there on this trip. “A rarity!” he said. “Weather windows lined up really well for us, and we experienced many clear, sunny days up in the Torres. Halfway through our second day on the route, however, higher winds and moisture began to move in, and we topped out Torre Egger amidst thick clouds blowing everywhere in constant winds. We did get a few brief glimpses of the icecap and the north face of Cerro Torre through the clouds, but mostly we were in the white room in the upper few pitches. It was still not too bad by Torres standards though!”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with new information that corrects the previous reporting of the climb as a “two-day” ascent. The climbers fixed ropes on an earlier reconnaissance and then used those ropes to regain their high point on the final push.