Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Besos to Pesos

Cheyne was wiped out and he finally decided that he didn't think he could make this small weather window.  I can't imagine why, the Carebear Traverse only summits Gijame, Mirmoz AND Fitz Roy.  It only took 3 or 4 days.  I mean, really, tired so easily?!  Alright, fair enough!
Luckily for me John Schafer, a friend I had met in the Black Canyon, a guy with more ascents there than anyone else I have heard of, was sharing our trailer and was sitting right there as Cheyne and I discussed how he felt.  As soon as Cheyne called it I turned to John, "Want to climb tomorrow?"  He smiled big, "Yeah sure, I have a few ideas."
The next morning, with a casual, perhaps lazy start, John and I hiked in towards the Nipo Nino base camp in the Torre Valley heading for Aguja De L'S.  The smallest of the peaks in the Fitz Roy range.  But it is important not to forget that small is a relative term in this case.  We had armed ourselves the day before with 6 empanadas each.  We hiked in fast, listening to music, and stopping to enjoy an empanada and fuel ourselves every now and again.

IMG 0428John takes down a few empanadas with the first view of Cerro Torre standing proud.

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The great empanadas of Estepa.

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John heads across the tyrollean traverse and into the Torre Valley we go.
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Glacial ice at the entrance to the Torre Valley.
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On the lower right, El Mochito, above that El Mocho.  The Cerro Torre standing tall with
Torre Egger and Punta Herron to the right.

Looks can be deceiving, none of these are small, in fact, they defy reality by how massive they actually are.
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Aguja De L'S is right of center, our route will be just right of the major feature below the summit.

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John follows up the 5.4 hands

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John takes in the approach route above, 700m or so of 5.7 to 5.9 only gets us to the base.
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We rope up as the climbing gets a little tougher, but we kept the approach shoes, comfort is key!

Finally, after the hike in, the approach climb, building a bivy and scoping the route above we sit down, have dinner, and get ready to snuggle up for the night.  We decided to skip bringing a sleeping bag and bring an extra down jacket and bivy sack that we huddled under.  The views would keep us warm, until the sun went down.
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Cerro Torre in the never ending sunset.
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Sitting Man Ridge.  I hear he has been there for quite a while...
I accidentally forgot to take photos a photo looking up the route.  We started on our first idea for a line, climbed 1 pitch up and realized we should have listened to the gut instinct that called us to the second option we had spotted.  So we quickly called it and rapped down, and headed up the better option.
John lead and we simul-climbed for an amazing ~90m pitch.  It brought us to a small stance with the main portion of the wall tower overhead.  The steepness of the wall immediately became apparent, the entire root, from this point up was gradually overhanging.  A crack system shot from where we stood up and slightly right to the summit.  Golden rock split by a never ending splitter.  I lead out onto the first hard pitch of climbing.  John and I were both grinning as I left the belay, focused, comfortable and ready.
The pitch took us up an finger crack, the crack was always to the left, good finger locks lead upwards, slashes appeared for feet, the cracks thinned, brass nuts went in, I stemmed left, moved.  I felt comfortable with the hard climbing, good locks and face holds appeared.  I was moving up in a crack system with a precariously perched in the system to the left.  I staid right and bypassed the block.  A handcrack lead to a massive flake that I grabbed, it was apart of the mountain and I casually swung out, feeling the steepness of the wall as both feet flew behind me.  Despite our efforts to remove the block, it just wouldn't move.  John stepped onto to it, stood and stomped.  So the block remains.
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John approaches the hanging block. 
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The Hanging Block
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Somewhere in the lower half, one of the many wide sections.

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Amazing, if a little wet, stem box action followed by a squirmy off width.

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John comes up one of the off width sections.

The pitches were starting to wear on us, we were getting tired, and the route kept giving.  John swung through and kept us moving up into the steep and sustained corner, one of the crux pitches.
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The pitches were starting to wear on us, we were getting tired, and the route kept giving.  John
swung through and kept us moving up into the steep and sustained corner, one of the crux pitches. 

I swung through for the final beating, a short, bouldery pitch with everything from sideways stemming between crack systems to climbing out two roofs.  I was brought to my knees despite a giving it hell, after taking a fall, I figured out what to do, and climbed through to a belay at the base of a final never-ending handcrack, capped by a giant roof.  Exhaustion was upon us as john Battled to the belay.
John took off, leading the final but sustain hand crack in a corner for over one hundred feet to the base of the roof.  The beautiful crack that split the right side of the roof was definitely climbable.  We stared up at it, laughing.  Despite it being 830pm, the sun was still shining behind us.  We had battled with all we had but the time for free climbing had come to an end.  I climbed up under the roof, placed some gear and stepped out into slings.
Hanging in space above the entire wall I looked around.  I was nearly a straight drop back to the start of the route, like a massive granite wave crashing to the right, I was perched at the lip.  A few easy cam placements put me over the roof and into the final corner heading to the top of the wall.  I was off belay and sitting on the summit ridge.  We didn't waste time as we changed shoes and headed to the ridge, the summit (which I looked at, 10 feet away, but no, I did not stand upon it).

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John heads across the ridge. Aguja de l'S is the nearest, in the background, superimposed
upon each other stands, Saint Exuberie, Poincenot, La Silla, Desmochada and Fitz Roy

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The view looking out towards the east.

We stumbled back into camp sometime around 300am.  We found some water and drank hot drinks, ate dehydrated meals, cookies and anything else we could find in our bags then passed out and slept in the shadows of the mountains until 1130am.  When we woke up, sore and still tired, we packed our bags and headed back to town.

  •  Besos to Pesos (V 5.12 A0) - Aguja De l'S - John Schaffer + David Allfrey 1/2013

A major thanks to CAMP, Rab, Maxim, Totem, and Raw Revolution for helping to make this happen.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Arrival.

I got off the plane and stepped into the customs line.  I was brushing the cobwebs off my spanish as I stepped up to the window and started a difficult conversation with the customs lady.  All I heard was Hola followed by a string of sounds.  The lady immediately looked over my shoulder, signaled another gal who explained a little slower.  I my way to the computer at the back of the building to pay the reciprocity tax that apparently exists between the US and Argentina.

Back through the line I found the bus company to change airports for the final flight to El Calafate.  I had a much smoother conversation, bought a ticket and headed outside.  The driver packed our bags into the trunk like sardines in a can and I noticed a huge cockroach crawling along his shoulder.  I stepped forward and tried to look casual as I brushed the thing off, without him even noticing.  
After a late night cab right, a booking error with my plane ticket and a 3 hour bus ride, I found myself in El Chalten.  The ride in under clear blue skies gave full views of the iconic Patagonian skyline.  My mind was working in Spanish much better after a coffee and small chat with the girl next to me on the bus.  When we arrived at the bus station in El Chalten I was greeted by friendly faces, a hot sun, and a week of good weather.  Joel and Neil Kauffman and I made plans to leave the next morning, but not before we drank a beer and swam in the river for the rest of the never ending afternoon, taking in the long day and the 1030 sunset.  
The next morning Planet Kauffman and I headed up to Cerro Pollone so I could be served my first piece of Patagonia on a silver platter with a glass of fine wine.
Cerro Pollone

The next morning we headed to Cerro Pollone where the Kauffmans had a stash of food and gear, and A Fine Piece (V 600m 5.11).  Lucky for me the Neil was quick with the camera and we were able to get some excellent photos of each other.

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The hike in with some spectacular views -- Photo: Planet Kauffman
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Planet Kauffman themselves.  

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We ran into some friends on the hike in.  We might have talked about climbing a little bit...

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Base Camp, Cerro Piergiorgio towering behind, Cerro Pollone at the left.

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Paso Marconi and the Continental Icecap at Sunset
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Me, tired and jet lagged in front of the beast that I came to see and the beast I came to climb.  Cerro Piergiorgio at the right, Cerro Pollone at the left with Pollonecito poking through in the middle.
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Cerro Pollone and Pollonecito, the route follows the left trending crack system on Pollone.

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The roofs and face climbing of the first few wild pitches.  The Kauffmans let me loose to have at it.  Photo: Planet Kauffman

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Joel and Neil find the amazing face traverse.
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Getting' it done with Piergiorgio looking on.  Photo: Planet Kauffman
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I head up my final pitch, a little off width in the mountains does the body good.  Photo: Planet Kauffman
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Joel takes over the lead.
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Which way do we go..
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Yeah, the views aren't that bad.
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Cerro Torre stands out between Pollonecito and Piergiorgio

 I head up some of the final pitches.  Neil snaps the photo.
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An almost summit, the true Pollone summit is standing behind us.  We decided to skip the ridge traverse and start the raps down.  Photo: Planet Kauffman

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Fitz Roy with its North Pillar standing proud on the left side.  Photo: Planet Kauffman
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Neil takes it all in. 
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 Taking in the view of Fitz with Piergiorgio in the background.  Photo: Planet Kauffman
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Starting the rappels down.

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I scope which way Neil went as he leads the rappels in the never ending sunset.  Photo: Planet Kauffman

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Back across the river crossing, and we were nearly home free. 
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We managed to catch a ride on top of the clown car
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Day 3 in Patagonia.  I couldn't ask for much more.

A major thanks to CAMP, Rab, Maxim, Totem, and Raw Revolution for helping to make this happen.