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Patagonian Weather Keeps Strong Teams at Bay

The following dispatch was sent to Alpinist by Colin Haley from El Chalten. Alpinist will post updates on Crysal Davis-Robbins and other news as the Patagonian season unfolds. –Ed.

For the past few weeks that we’ve been in Patagonia, the weather has been mostly no good, and the only climbing that got done were smaller routes in mediocre weather. Maxime Turgeon and I climbed El Mocho via Todo o Nada, two Swiss climbed Guillamet via the Amy Route and two Swiss climbed Poincenot via the Whillans route. One of the Swiss on Poincenot frostbit his toes. There might have been other routes climbed, but none that I know of.

During the past week we finally got some better weather. At first the weather maps showed an awesome four-day window, but it gradually shrunk into twenty hours of truly good weather. On Friday the 14th Maxime and I climbed Stanhardt via Exocet in mediocre but not horrible weather. It was windy and socked in the whole time; we climbed almost entirely in our belay parkas, and the chimney pitches had some of the worst spindrift I’ve ever encountered… It was really fun! Two Norwegians attempted Exocet the same day, but turned around at the Stanhardt col (the base of the route).

We rested the 15th and 16th, and the weather was mostly bad those days. On the 17th Maxime and I climbed Fitz Roy via Supercanaleta, approached from Niponino (in the Torre Valley), and descended via the Franco-Argentine. This was the best weather day, and it didn’t start precipitating again until around midnight. On the same day, two Swiss climbed the Benetiers route on El Mocho (but didn’t summit), and three Italians climbed Media Luna (Salvaterra route). They were all Compressor hopefulls, but decided the weather window was too short. Zoe Hart and two climbers named Joel and Octavian, all Americans, climbed Rafael via the Anglo-American route. Two parties (one Argentine, one American) attempted Exupery via Ciaro di Luna, but both got off route early on. The Americans bailed relatively low, but the Argentines kept going (perhaps on new terrain?). The Argentine headlamps were seen high on the wall once it got dark–I don’t know if they topped out or not, but I suspect not.

Crystal Davis-Robbins and a Chilean partner attempted a new route on Aguja de la Silla, and like Maxime and I on Fitz Roy, they approached from the Torre Valley up the Filo del Hombre Sentado (Sitting Man Ridge) (and broke trail for us–thanks Crystal!). When Maxime and I finished rappelling the Franco-Argentine, we saw Crystal and her partner across La Silla, at the col between Aguja de la Silla and Fitzroy. We yelled “Como va!?” and got a reassuring “Todo bien!” in return. I haven’t seen Crystal back in town yet, so I don’t know whether or not they succeeded on their new route. Since the window turned out to be so short I suspect they were not able to, but if they did they certainly climbed it fast!

I also heard that sixteen people attempted the Franco-Argentine on the 17th, but no one summited. Maxime and I saw their tracks stop at about Pitch 5 while we were rappelling the route.

So, in conclusion, the weather’s kept us to a few ascents of commonly climbed routes–unless Crystal was successful. We’re all awaiting that news. [On December 20, Haley sent another update, reporting that Davis-Robbins and partner “bailed on the new route attempt fairly low, partly because of loose blocks, partly because of the short weather window.” –Ed.]