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Weather Window Triggers Patagonia Frenzy

Frenchmen Amyeric Clouet and Christophe Dumarest, who climbed the variation (marked in blue) to the French Northwest Ridge Route (aka Afanasieff Ridge, marked in red) on the west aspect of Fitz Roy, were one of many teams to take advantage of the excellent weather in Patagonia during mid-January: “one of the best weather windows in recent memory.” Clouet and Dumarest called the 400-meter variation El Buscador del Absoluto. The black line marks earlier French attempts on the West Pillar.
[Photo] Rolando Garibotti

“One of the best weather windows in recent memory”–the same that gave passage to Rolando Garibotti and Colin Haley on their first ascent of the Torre Traverse last week–encouraged numerous other teams to pluck unclimbed lines in Argentine Patagonia. More than half a dozen new routes were established within days.

Frenchmen Amyeric Clouet and Christophe Dumarest climbed the classic Supercanaleta (TD+: 5.10 90 degrees, 1600m) on January 16, and a week later dispatched a difficult nine-pitch starting variation (400 meters) to the 1700-meter Afanasieff route on the West Pillar in alpine style (with the exception of two fixed pitches). They completed the new variation and link up in about fifty-three hours. The West Pillar was tried in 2004 and 2005 by French teams that reached a point about 700 meters above the glacier before retreating. Dumarest and Clouet climbed a different line on the lower portion of this pillar, then traversed left into the Afanasieff route. They named their new variation El Buscador del Absoluto, after a book by Theodore Monod.

Americans Jesse Huey and Toby Grohne likely found some new ground on the North Pillar, which they climbed all free except for a tension traverse in the initial snow gully, from January 18-20. Currently it is unclear how much terrain was new, as some of the climbing was in the vicinity of the already-established Chimichurri y Tortas Fritas (ED-: 5.11 A0 60 degrees, 900m).

Bean Bowers and Garibotti climbed a new route, Mate, Porro, y todo Lo de Mas (5.11 with aid, 2,800′) on the west side of the North Pillar, resorting to a few points of aid when ice choked the cracks. They believe the new route ascends right of the unfinished line attempted in recent years by Jim Donini and Tom Engelbach.

The Donini-Engelbach team were back at it again this season, but Engelbach’s hand injury convinced the pair to switch objectives from Fitz Roy to the relatively unexplored Avellano Towers. In mid-January they made the first ascent of the south tower in seventeen hours round-trip via a new route (V 5.11- A0, 500m) that had “potentially dangerous sections and difficult route finding.” The approach was no picnic either, they reported.

From January 22-23, Alex and Thomas Huber, with Stefan Siegriest and Mario Walder, made the first ascent of La Silla’s west face: El Bastardo (5.10 A0, 1500m).

Jason Kruk and Will Stanhope made the first ascent of Poincenot’s complete west ridge, loosely following the ridge in order to enchain a tower (previously attempted by Polish climbers) and the upper flanks of the main peak. Stanhope reported that the route may have intersected with Southern Cross (Copp-Taylor), and at the top it shared ground with the Carrington Rouse and Fonrouge Ronsasco routes. Aside from “kitty litter granite corners in the vicinity of the Fonrouge,” the pair freed the entire route, DNV Direct (5.11 R/X A1), the second following by jumar. They endured two open bivies to complete the route January 22-24, and they descended via the Carrington Rouse.

Stanhope reported that Eamonn Walsh and Mark Westman made “a damn impressive attempt on Cerro Torre,” climbing from the valley floor to Bifida Col and up its west face from January 21-24. They turned back two pitches from the summit and endured a long walk out via the ice cap to Piedra del Fraille.

As of Sunday, January 27, the excellent weather was still holding. “[These numerous ascents are] just the tip of the iceberg,” Stanhope said. “A lot of people are still in the mountains, as the weather just refuses to turn bad.”

Sources: Will Stanhope, Rolando Garibotti, Jim Donini, Amyeric Clouet, Christophe Dumarest, Alex Huber,,

Christophe Dumarest works through a diagonal crack before hooking into the Afanasieff Ridge. He and Aymeric Clouet climbed this nine-pitch variation and the upper Afanasieff to the summit from January 22-23. [Photo] Aymeric Clouet /