A 5th Climber Dies in Patagonia

The Patagonia climbing season is unfolding with several great climbs, solos, traverses and new routes, but also an alarming number of fatalities. The latest occurred on Tuesday near the base of Cerro Torre.

Marcos Gorostiaga, a 28-year-old doctor from Bariloche, Argentina, was climbing 1,953m Cerro Mocho when a large rock struck him. His climbing partner was some 80 meters away and radioed for help, Cumbres Mountain Magazine reported. Somewhat unusually, the army deployed a helicopter to the site, but rescuers could only verify that the climber had died.

Cerro Mocho. Photo: Cultura de Montaña -Argentina

Five dead so far

Gorostiaga is the fifth casualty in Patagonia this season. Christoph Klein of Switzerland fell to his death on an icefield near Cerro Standhart in December; Cassandra Doolittle of the U.S. died of hypothermia after getting lost on her way down from soloing Aguja Guillaumet. Two weeks ago, an avalanche swept Basque climbers Iker Bilbao and Amaia Aguirre into a crevasse near the Brecha de los Italianos, during their descent from a successful climb of Fitz Roy.

Notice published by El Chalten’s Guides Association


The crew at Comision de Auxilio (Aid Commission) in El Chalten is overwhelmed, rescue doctor Carolina Codo told TiempoSur two weeks ago. The volunteer rescue service desperately lacks resources. There are only six rescuers, Codo said, while the number of visitors in the region is increasing. They have no helicopter of their own and only rarely, as on this occasion, does the army send a military helicopter. However, it is not suitable for mountain rescues.

“Four climbers dead in a season is a record,” said Codo in mid-January. After this week’s fatality, that mark is now even higher.

Does good weather kill?

Some suggest that unusually high temperatures are triggering avalanches and rockfalls. In some cases, the dangerous conditions have prevented rescuers from approaching the sites of accidents. In an article in Gripped, editor Brandon Pullan points out that “Every year…more climbers die in Patagonia.”

Pullan also cited Jacob Cook’s comments on social media. Cook was climbing on Fitz Roy when Bilbao and Aguirre died at the base of the mountain. The accident occurred at the same place where a friend of Cook’s had lost his life the previous year. Cook and his partners had to make a nerve-wracking descent through that region just hours after the Basques perished.

“I was literally shaking with fear until we found ourselves running along the glacier through the avalanche debris,” Cook wrote. “Honestly, the frequency with which people die and the extent to which the mountains are decomposing within each warm weather window [makes] climbing here feeling almost suicidal.”

Argentinian climber Guillermo Martin, who maintains the Cultura de Montaña blog, confirmed to ExplorersWeb that the weather has been unseasonably warm in Patagonia for the last month.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.