Matteo Della Bordella’s 2023: From Patagonia to the Karakoram

Matteo Della Bordella has always sought new lines on hard faces rather than chased altitude or size. Best known for his climbs in Patagonia, he also looks elsewhere for goals, as long as they are vertical, pure, and difficult. This year, he took part in some of the year’s most interesting expeditions, from Fitz Roy in Patagonia to The Ogre (Baintha Brakk I) in the Karakoram.

Della Bordella grew up in the Italian Alps and left his initial career as an industrial engineer to climb professionally. Currently, he lives in the Aosta Valley. Recently, he has taken a break from his normally hectic expedition schedule to prepare for his second baby, expected in January. ExplorersWeb spoke to Della Bordella about his 2023. He admits that he has bittersweet memories about the year.

He is grateful that there were no accidents on his expeditions and no sad news, such as the death of Corrado Pesce on Cerro Torre in 2022.

“It was busy but I feel it was not a very successful year,” he said. “We could not complete the Fitz Roy Traverse in Patagonia, and then in Pakistan…I had some of the worst weather I have ever experienced in both places.”

But that’s what happens with ambitious goals. “You have to aim high!” he says, and be prepared that it won’t always work out.

Della Bordella at home in Patagonia.

Della Bordella at home in Patagonia. Photo: Matteo Della Bordella

Fitz Roy traverse attempt

“Leo Gheza and I spent over two months in Patagonia,” Della Bordella said. “We started pretty fast on the Fitz traverse. At 6 pm on the second day, we were on the top of the Goretta Pillar…Perhaps we could have pushed further and gone for the summit, but we chose to stay on the safe side. Conditions were tricky, we were tired, and the forecast announced rain. All together, that would have meant taking too much risk.”

The decision kept them safe but they lost precious time. They summited Fitz Roy the following day, then went down. “In the end, we didn’t complete the traverse by climbing Poincenot.”

Della Bordella and Gheza plan to try again, although likely not this season.

Bordella and his mate on a summit in a clear day.

Della Bordella and Leo Gheza on the summit of Fitz Roy. Photo: Matteo Della Bordella


Della Bordella and Gheza’s traverse, without the Poincenot spire, is known as the “Carebear Traverse“. It is a major achievement by itself. Della Bordella and Gheza completed it in two-and-a-half days, climbing more than 2,000m up and down.

Della Bordella still hopes to squeeze some time in Patagonia before the 2023-24 season ends.

“For me, Patagonia is the place to climb, my favorite spot on Earth,” he says.

He likes the sense of community in El Chalten and appreciates the lack of competition among teams.

“Generally, each has a different goal,” he says. “You don’t want to meet any other team in the same place or route.”

He adds: “It is amazing also because in Chalten, you are in a town. Last year, for instance, I took my family there and we sent our kid to school there. But then you leave town and enter a completely wild world, with huge challenges all around.”

A climber goes up a crack on a vertical granite face, the sky above.

One of the climbers during the Carebear Traverse. Photo: Della Bordella


Vertical mind-set

Della Bordella’s 2023 featured a variety of different activities:

  • a new route on Patagonia’s Mermoz
  • the Carebear Traverse on Fitz Roy
  • The Ogre
  • another new route on the south face of the Marmolada in the Dolomites
  • a free climb of Bombarollo, a 170m trad route in Vall d’Orco he had opened a year ago. Della Bordella freed the hardest pitch: L2, 8c.
Sun sets above low clouds, behind a granite sharp summit.

Sunset on the Patagonian spires, from Mermoz. Photo: Matteo Della Bordella


What do all these climbs have in common, and how does he pick them? Here is his explanation:

Most of the time, I am the one proposing the goals, although it was not the case with the Fitz traverse. That was Leo’s idea. I am most attracted to big faces and vertical towers. Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy are the perfect examples. And then, I try to look for possibilities of opening new routes in alpine style.

That’s what I like the most, rather than focusing on traverses, or longer but easier climbs. That’s why the Fitz traverse was an exception. But after 2022, when we opened Brothers in Arms and Korra Pesce* died, I felt I wanted to do something different.

No wonder, Della Bordella has never been on an 8,000’er, and neither he nor Leo Gheza seems to have any interest in that direction.

“The Ogre [7,285m] was my first experience on a 7,000’er. It was also a dream for years. Too bad the weather didn’t let us have a proper try at it!”

climbing up a crack on the vertical granite face, the glacier at his feet below.

Climbing on Baintha Brakk I. Photo: Della Bordella


*Matteo Della Bordella, David Bacci, and Matteo De Zaiacomo opened “Brothers in Arms” on the East Face of Cerro Torre on January 27, 2022. Corrado “Korra” Pesce and Tomas Aguilo summited at the same time, after climbing their own line some 150m away.

The two groups separated for the descent. Pesce and Aguilo went down the North Face and Della Bordella, Bacci, and De Zaiacomo down the Southeast Ridge, via the so-called Compressor route.

While Pesce and Aguilo were resting overnight, an avalanche of ice and rocks hit them, seriously injuring Aguilo and leaving Pesce completely paralyzed. Della Bordella only learned about the accident afterward. He ran to the rescue, along with some other excellent climbers who were in the area, including Roger Schaeli, Thomas Huber, and Roberto Treu.

Huber and Treu managed to retrieve Aguilo, while Della Bordella and Schaeli did their best to find Pesce, to no avail. Helicopters later spotted the body, but on a later reconnaissance flight, the remains had disappeared. Finally, Pesce’s family decided that the worsening weather was too risky for the pilots and rescuers. They decided the body would remain on Cerro Torre. 

The Ogre said no

On The Ogre in the Karakoram, Della Bordella worked with a four-person team.

“I believe the best number for this kind of climbing is three, but this time we…adapted the tactics and planned to climb as two separate two-person teams on the easiest part, then join forces as one big team for the hardest sections.”

Della Bordella has climbed extensively with Silvan Schupbach and he also climbed with Symon Welfringer in Greenland in 2021. Francois Cazzanelli also lives in Aosta so they know each other. The four of them teamed up and it worked out well. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate.

Climbers on a flat glacier ski toward a hughe rock and ice face.

Approaching Baintha Brakk on skis. Photo: Matteo Della Bordella


The trip was not completely unfruitful for Della Bordella, Schupbach, and Welfringer. Before leaving, they climbed the 1,000m South Pillar of Baintha Kabata (namely, “the ogre’s son”), a 6,290m peak.

As for even higher mountains one day, “Who knows?” Della Bordella said. “I would not like to be on a crowded normal route, so for now I prefer to stick to my kind of alpinism and keep looking for peaks like The Ogre.”

The climbers shout in jot on a granite summit at sunset.

Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll, Leo Gheza, and Matteo Della Bordella on the summit of Mermoz. Photo: Della Bordella

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.