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Patagonia: Weather Respites Spur Strong Teams

Editor’s Note: The series of climbs reported below was the second en masse new-routing push in Patagonia this year, following the mid-January weather-window spree, reported in the January 30, 2008 NewsWire.

In Chilean Patagonia, from January 28 to February 7, 2008, Italians Elio Orlandi, Rolando Larcher and Fabio Leoni climbed a new and difficult route on the east face of the Central Tower of Paine (2454m) they called El Gordo, El Flaco y l’Abuelito (7a+[5.12a/b] A3+, 1250m). It took Orlandi (l’abuelito), Larcher (el gordo) and Leoni (el flaco) eleven days to complete the twenty-three-pitch route due to wind and rain and the strenuous nature of the climbing, which included numerous pitches of difficult aid.

On the other side of the border, Mike Pennings and Jimmy Haden made the first alpine-style and second complete ascent of Royal Flush (5.12c A2, 4,000′) on the east face of Fitz Roy from January 27-28, 2008. They freed portions of the route, but encountered wet conditions that prevented an entirely free ascent. The route was established in 1995 by Germans Kurt Albert, Bernd Arnold, Jorg Gershel, and Lutz Richter, but the party didn’t try to complete the route after rockfall caused Arnold to suffer a broken knee. Tommy Caldwell and Topher Donahue had attempted to free climb the entire route in 2005 when icy rock and bad weather forced them to retreat, despite having bested the 12c crux. Pennings and Haden had excellent weather and completed the route in a 48-hour round trip.

Crystal Davis-Robbins and up-and-comer Max Hasson established a new route on Fitz Roy’s north face in late January that climbs right of Tehuelche (5.11 A1) and left of the Hoser Chimney (5.10 A1 M5, 1300m), established days earlier on January 21-22 by Freddie Wilkinson and Dana Drummond (see the February 14, 2008 NewsWire for more). Davis-Robbins and Hasson established the route onsight, without support.

At the end of January, Will Stanhope and Jason Kruk freed The Sound and the Fury (5.12b or 5.11 A1, 14 pitches), a Dave Sharratt and Freddie Wilkinson line established in 2006 on Desmochada. Stanhope said that the crux of the route went at about 5.12b and featured “wild liebacking to avoid a shallow tips crack, finishing with a punishing finger crack reminiscent of the Optimator at Indian Creek.” A few slips kept them from their goal–to climb everything without falls for both the leader and second–but the route went “team free,” the leader climbing everything free stance-to-stance and the second following sans jumars. The pair topped out at dusk and had to rappel through the night to get back to camp.

Alex Huber used the good weather to make the first ascent of the west face of La Silla. He also reached the summits of Aguja de la S, St. Exupery, Aguja Rafael Suarez, El Mocho, Cerro Standhardt and Torre Egger. “You can imagine how much we have been on our feet during the last two weeks,” Huber said.

Sources: Will Stanhope, Alex Huber,,,,