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Rutherford and Schaefer Find Astro Choss on St. Exupery

Rutherford and Schaefer on the summit of Aguja Saint-Exupery after climbing Astro Choss. The pair do not recommend repeating their route. [Photo] Mikey Schaefer

Early in January, Kate Rutherford and Mikey Schaefer climbed a new route, Astro Choss, on the east face of Aguja Saint-Exupery (2558m). The ascent featured about 500m of new climbing.

Just to the south of Fitz Roy, St. Exupery was first climbed by Italians Gino Buscaini, Lino Condot, Silvia Metzeltin, Walter Romano and Silvano Sinigo via the east ridge (6a+ A1 45 degrees, 700m) in 1968. The only other complete route on the east face is Ural Path (5+ A2 65 degrees, 600m), put up by a group of seven Russians in 1996.

After retreating from the mountain due to rain, Rutherford and Schaefer returned under clear skies and sunshine. Recent rock fall littered their approach and more rocks rained down as they started their climb. Though the climbing began in the sun, after a few pitches the sun left the east face and they found running water and verglass. Deciding they didn’t want to get wet that late in the day, the two did a sideways rappel across Condorito in search of dry rock.

As daylight faded, Schaefer aided the crumbly face in an attempt to avoid the choss-filled crack above them. After a few attempts, Schaefer eventually tied a #3 Camelot to the end of his ice axe, clipped several long slings to it, and face climbed as high as he could. Using his new tool, Schaefer reached as far as possible around a large block, and created an axe-cam hand hold, the climbing eventually reached good rock and Schaefer set a belay. At 3:30 a.m. the following day, the two reached the ridge and the Italian Route. Rutherford and Schaefer found a relatively flat spot and bivied. As the sun came out, they leisurely advanced up the ridge to the summit. Rutherford sums up Astro Choss with little excitement, “Sadly, I would not recommend repeating it. At least now we know it’s not worth it. Maybe it would be better as a mixed ice line…”

Choss and verglass on the route. [Photo] Kate Rutherford

Rutherford and Schaefer later learned that while they were summiting, Carlyle Norman, a Canadian climber, had been hit in the head with a rock and died just a few hundred feet below them. “A sadness now takes over,” lamented Rutherford. “all I can think, is that if we had known… could we have helped? We were so close.”

Astro Choss as climbed by Kate Rutherford and Mikey Schaefer. [Photo] Mikey Schaefer

Kate Rutherford,