[Photo] Alex Honnold
Alpinist catches up with Alex Honnold and Colin Haley after the climb
Colin Haley and Alex Honnold have made the second ascent of the “Torre Traverse,” (from north to south) and its first one-day ascent. On January 31, the two Americans, starting at Col Standhardt, climbed the four major Torre Group peaks–Aguja Standhardt, Punta Herron, Torre Egger and Cerro Torre in just over 20 hours (20:40).
In a NewsWire from January 28, 2008, Rolando Garibotti said the north to south Torre Traverse “involves little extreme climbing, with difficulties never above 5.11 and A1.”
The traverse was completed once before–in 2008, by Garibotti and Haley. Garibotti and Haley took four days during that first ascent. In January 2015, Haley and Marc-Andre Leclerc reversed the route in four days, calling the south to north version “La Travesia del Oso Buda.” Linking up the peaks in reverse has less elevation gain but “much more ice and mixed climbing,” Garibotti reported. Last year, Haley and Honnold almost pulled off the first one-day ascent of the north to south traverse, but turned back below the summit of Cerro Torre in a storm.
The route involves thousands of feet of rime-covered stone, snow-mushroom-capped summits, tricky route finding and rappels–along with potential hazards such as storms and rockfall. “Something tells me this record will stand for a long time to come,” Garibotti wrote on his website PataClimb.com.
“What makes it demanding is how technical the terrain is, not necessarily how big it is,” Honnold said. The total elevation gain is about 2200 meters (7200 feet).
[Photo] Colin Haley
The pair began by climbing snow and ice to Col Standhardt, and then continued up and left on Exocet (5+, WI5 500m, Bridwell-Smith-Smith, 1988) to reach Aguja Standhardt’s summit (ca 2700m).
“Since this climb [Exocet] is done all in crampons, it was my lead block,” Haley wrote on his Facebook wall today. “It isn’t an especially difficult climb for me in general, but in late-season conditions the ice is more difficult. We were climbing as quickly as possible, and short-fixing three pitches of ice chimney with seven ice screws makes for some serious runouts.”
They rappelled to the Col dei Sogni, a sharp notch, and climbed Spigolo dei Bimbi (6b, 90 degrees, 350m, Cavallaro-Salvaterra-Vidi, 1991) to the top of Punta Herron (2750m), a sub-summit of Torre Egger. A short downclimb led to another notch. The pair climbed the Huber-Schnarf (6b+, 80 degrees, 200m, Huber-Schnarf, 2005) up Torre Egger’s exposed north ridge to a snow mushroom cap and Egger’s summit. Next, Haley and Honnold made several long rappels down Torre Egger’s South Face to the Cerro Torre-Torre Egger Col.
“We breezed over Standhardt, Punta Herron and Egger,” Haley noted. “It almost felt too easy…. We reached the summit of Cerro Torre at exactly midnight, for Alex’s first time and my eighth.”
On Cerro Torre, they faced their main challenge: warm temperatures. “The entire north face of Cerro Torre was running water,” Honnold said. “And there was a non-stop rain of rime chunks coming down because it was so warm … The mountain was falling apart above us. It made the climbing wet and slow.”
They climbed Cerro Torre via Directa de la Mentira (6b+ C1, 250m, Haley-Leclerc, 2015), first done last year by Haley and Marc-Andre Leclerc. The route goes directly up the face left of the North Ridge, then finishes via El Arca de los Vientos (6b+ C1, 60 degrees, Beltrami-Garibotti-Salvaterra, 2005) to Cerro Torre’s famous summit icecap.
The pair descended Cerro Torre’s southeast ridge, “which took forever,” Honnold said.
Haley and Honnold were able to climb the Torre Traverse so quickly, Honnold says, simply because “Colin is probably more familiar with the terrain in the Torres than any other human, ever. That was the biggest help. For me it was good to feel a little more comfortable on the terrain than last year, just general familiarity.”
Honnold compared the route to his other long enchainments.
“The Torre Traverse in a day felt a bit like a combination of doing the Nose speed record and doing the triple link-up [South Face of Watkins; Free Rider on El Cap, and the Regular Route on Half Dome] with Tommy [Caldwell] in the Valley,” he said. “It was all about having the logistics dialed and having a clear idea of which team member would be doing what. Colin and I actually talked through our strategy and beta several times the day before and on the hike in to make sure that we knew the plan super well. So when we executed the plan, it went pretty much seamlessly.”
Honnold’s other big noteworthy Patagonian enchainment was the Fitz Traverse–climbing the Fitz Roy massif’s ridgeline, including Aguja Guillaumet, Aguja Mermoz, Cerro Fitz Roy, Aguja Poincenot, Aguja Rafael Juarez, Aguja Saint-Exupery and Aguja de l’S–in 2014 with Tommy Caldwell.
Haley has climbed numerous routes on Patagonia’s best known spires, including ten ascents of Fitz Roy and eight of Cerro Torre, and in January this year, Haley and Andy Wyatt made the first one-day “car-to-car” ascent of Fitz Roy, taking just 21 hours and 8 minutes.
Haley and Honnold were taking a break in El Chalten after their wild climb above the Torre Valley when they exchanged information with Alpinist. Asked what was next, Honnold said, “We have a few other little things we might try to climb, but the traverse was certainly my big dream. Cerro Torre is a lifetime summit for me–one of those mountains you have to climb eventually in your life.”
[Photo] Colin Haley
Haley, meanwhile, noted on his Facebook wall, “On no other day of my life have I covered so much extreme terrain, with such a great variety of climbing styles.”
This story was updated on February 4 at 12:24 p.m.