Another Patagonia First Ascent, Aptly Named ‘Pain and Gain’

Two Slovakians gutted out a new route in Patagonia in late January despite marginal route conditions and an unavoidable emergency bivouac. Ondrej Huserka and Jozef Kristoffy’s 570m Pain and Gain on Aguja Desmochada, goes at 7a+ C1. The first ascent, which came during an unusually busy but also tragic Patagonia climbing season, also required 700 vertical metres of approach via a ridgeline.

The two Slovaks encountered brutal weather during the push, which affected not only their abilities but the rock itself. “Extreme heat, terrible cold, wind, ice, snow — all this was given to us by the peak of Aguja Desmochada,” they reported (auto-translated).

An arduous approach

First, they established a sort of advanced base camp at the base of the wall. Getting there required a seven-hour walk from their previous camp, then the 700m ridge climb.

patagonia climbing

“Walls as far as the eye can see; you just have to get to them.” Photo: Ondrej Huserka

 

The climbers found the trek alone brutal, because of all the gear they had to hump with them. When they scouted the wall above, the climbing looked intimidating but worth the effort.

“To get here with all the things for a comfortable bivouac, as always, was a real hell,” they said. “But the whole wall was in front of us in the palm of our hand. At first glance, with her rock plumbs and roaring wind, she inspired fear.”

Challenges overcome; short-lived joy

They started figuring out a solution for the ascent but seemed to find little traction for planning. In the end, the duo simply resolved to climb it in a single push.

When the pair did get started, they found an abundance of ice and wet rock. The mediocre route and weather forced the emergency bivouac somewhere on the wall. But Huserka and Kristoffy persevered and secured their proud first ascent the following morning.

“The joy of success did not last long,” they reported. They quickly made their way down and shortly heard the news of Corrado “Korra” Pesce’s tragic death on Cerro Torre.

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents' evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.


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