“The next morning there was only positivity and every move was an adventure in itself.” – Årtun. Ole Lied leading on Venas Azules. [Photo] Bjørn-Eivind Årtun
This season in Patagonia, a group of six French climbers traversed Cordillera Darwin, while Jorge Ackerman and Colin Haley put up a new route on Cerro Standhardt’s south face. Over Christmas, a Norwegian and an American team added another pair of notable climbs to the list.
Bj?rn-Eivind ?rtun and Ole Lied established Venas Azules (6b+ A1 AI6, 950m), a new variation on the south face of Torre Egger on December 26.
Torre Egger was first climbed in 1976 by American climbers John Bragg, Jim Donini and Jay Wilson. They named the tower after Austrian alpinist Toni Egger, who died while attempting Cerro Torre in 1959. Their route is called the American route (5+ A4 AI5, 1000m), and is the base of ?rtun and Lied’s variation.
Bjørn-Eivind Årtun and Ole Lied on the summit of Torre Egger after climbing their new variation Venas Azules (6b+ A1 AI6, 950m). [Photo] Bjørn-Eivind Årtun
Venas Azules follows the American route to the Egger-Torre Col, at which point it heads up the steep ice on the west side of Torre Egger’s south face. The pair spent the night of December 25 at the col, having had a late start on Christmas morning. ?rtun writes that conditions were slushy and there was lots of water flowing from the snow field on the east face of Cerro Torre. “Fortunately, the night was warm and we had dry socks,” ?rtun reports of their bivy.
The next morning they started early and followed steep ice veins for seven pitches up the sides of two mushrooms on Torre Egger. Upon reaching the summit, the pair rapped the line of the Torre Traverse, ate the last of their food at their bivy site from the previous night and continued on to Niponino, reaching their destination at 5 a.m..
?rtun first noticed this line in 2008 while climbing the Ragni route on Cerro Torre. After ten days of good weather, he could follow blue ice all the way to the summit of Torre Egger and knew the line was climbable. In 2010 ?rtun and Robert Caspersen were in the Torre Valley, hoping to climb the line but never got a substantial weather window, “so I kept dreaming,” ?rtun says.
On the same day, American Hayden Kennedy and Canadian Jason Kruk finished up a new route on the south face of Aguja de L’S. Their route, The Gentlemen’s Club (7a, 900m), is the second route on the face.
Aguja de L’S was first climbed in 1968 by a French team led by Bernard Amy.
Kruk had been eying the face for five years, since his first visit to the area. He writes that on the approach to Niponino basecamp, “two faces stand out as absolutely stunning–the south faces of Desmochada and de L’S.” Kruk and his partner climbed Desmochada during that visit, but he never got on Aguja de L’S until this year.
Jason Kruk keeps it classy on The Gentlemen’s Club (7a, 900m). [Photo] Hayden Kennedy
Kennedy and Kruk “were committed to climbing only in ‘gentlemen’s style’: in good, fast, civilized style, what gentlemen alpinists should do.” They had spent the week warming up on Exocet (5.9 WI5, 500m) on Cerro Standhardt and Chiaro de Luna (6c, 750m) on Aguja Saint-Exupery. In the evening of Christmas day, the pair set off from base camp and completed the 500m approach buttress on the route The Thaw is not Houlding Wright (6a+). They both freesoloed the buttress, defined by its “perfect 5.7 splitter cracks.” After the buttress, Kennedy and Kruk spent the night at the base of the steep south face. Kruk admits that it was not necessary to bivy on the route, “but it seemed like a fun way to spend Christmas.”
Kennedy and Kruk with De L’S above Kennedy’s head. [Photo] Jason Kruk
On December 26, the pair climbed seven new pitches, stretching out their eighty-meter rope on each pitch. Their route’s final pitch on the summit block had been climbed previously. Each pitch was climbed free and onsight. Described as “meat and potatoes crack climbing,” their route was “predominantly hand and finger splitters on bullet-hard granite.”
Full Disclosure: Hayden Kennedy is the son of Alpinist’s Editor-in-Chief Michael Kennedy. –Ed.