Italians Battle Fierce Patagonia Weather on Torre Egger

Ermanno Salvaterra, Fabrizio Rossi, and Roberto Pedrotti are not having an easy time on Patagonia’s Torre Egger. Here, the veteran Salvaterra is trying — for the fifth time! — to open a route on the peak’s west face.

The 67-year-old climber has been passionate about Patagonia since his first trip there decades earlier, following the advice of the legendary Renato Casarotto.  Salvaterra envisions a line up the centre of the face. As he puts it, his desired route “crosses the heart of the wall”. However, bad conditions and the vicious Patagonian weather have always pushed him back.

Expeditions in the Wild South

Patagonia is not a place for the impatient. The team has spent a month just approaching the peak and shuttling loads forward. The Cerro Torre Massif lies 40km from civilization. Unlike many other mountain ranges, helicopters are not an option. The climbers carried everything in their backpacks and pulks.

To spice things up a bit, a landslide buried one of the loads, and the team lost most of their food and their solar panels. Fabrizio Rossi and Marquino Scallabrine (who are accompanying them to the base of Torre Egger) had to return to El Chaltén to pick up extra food.

 

Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre, and the glaciers near El Chaltén. You can enlarge the map on its site at Trekar.com

 

From El Chaltén, the climbers need two days to hike past the Piedra del Fraile. They then ski across the Marconi Glacier and Marconi Pass and continue over the Southern Patagonian Icecap until the refuge that they are using as a base camp.

The difficulties begin even before reaching the granite wall of Torre Egger. The glacier at the foot of the peak is “terrible”, the climbers say, because of its many crevasses. It takes at least two tense hours to cross it roped-up.

Approaching the Cerro Torre massif, with Torre Egger in the middle (between the higher Cerro Torre and lower Cerro Standhardt). Photo: Ande.it

 

First pitches done

Luckily, last week Salvaterra found a safer, diagonal route across it. Yet the force of the wind was something that even he, as a seasoned Patagonia climber, had never experienced.

“It was a beastly day, it’s better not to go into details,” he said. “Silence is better. But I will never forget that. Often we would stop and point our ski poles in front of us, trying not to fall on the ice and get swept away by the headwind.”

The team has now managed to fix the first pitches and to reach the first place where they will set up their portaledges. They have already had a close call with falling ice from the upper reaches of the peak.

The climbing team at the base of the face. Photo: Ande.it

 

Salvaterra is sending short updates to Ande.it, despite poor coverage on their satphone. In his latest report, the team is sheltering in the refuge, waiting for better weather.

“The gale is raging, but no one seems ready to give up for the moment,” says Salvaterra.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides is a college-graduated journalist specializing in high-altitude mountaineer 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.