Three to Attempt ‘Riders on the Storm’ on Torre Central

Siebe Vanhee, Brette Harrington, and Jacopo Larcher are on their way to Patagonia to climb the mythical “Riders on the Storm” route on the beautiful east face of Torre Central.

It’s likely that they’ll aim to complete the first free ascent of the line, though they haven’t confirmed this.

Siebe Vanhee (left), Brette Harrington and Jacopo Larcher.

From left: Siebe Vanhee, Brette Harrington, and Jacopo Larcher. Photos: Siebe Vanhee, Brette Harrington, and Ignacio Sandoval Buron


An evocative name with a rich history

The big wall of the 2,460m Central Tower of Paine has witnessed several outstanding climbs.

The first attempt was in 1940 when a German duo attempted to climb from the saddle that separates the Central Tower from the South Tower.

Chris Bonington and Don Whillans made the first successful ascent, via the north ridge (VI, A2 600m), on January 16, 1963.

There are about 12 different routes on the east face, including the northeast and southeast routes. The Riders on the Storm route traces a direct line 1,300m up the compact granite east face of Torre Central. This was the third route opened on the east face, after the northeast “South African Route” in 1974, and “Magico Est” in 1986.

Kurt Albert, Wolfgang Gullich, Bernd Arnold, Norbert Batz, and Peter Dittrich opened Riders on the Storm (7C, A3, 1,300m) in 1991. They topped out in two groups, one on January 23 and another on January 27. It took 15 days of climbing over six weeks. They named their route after Gullich’s favorite song by The Doors.

A red line show the "Riders on the Storm" route.

The Riders on the Storm route. Photo: Ines Papert/Mayan Smith-Gobat


The route was first repeated in February 2002, by David Stastny and Jan Kreisinger. Then, in November of the same year, the French team of Arnaud Boudet, Jean Yves Fredericksen, Yann Mimet, and Martial Dumas also topped out. In 2006, Nico and Olivier Favresse, Mike Lecomte, and Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll made the fourth ascent.

Can it be free-climbed?

In 2016, Ines Papert and Mayan Smith-Gobat made the first female ascent of the line, accompanied by photographer Thomas Senf. They had also wanted to free-climb the route. However, Papert eventually decided that she didn’t want to go back to attempt to free-climb the pitches because it was too dangerous.

“Especially in warm weather, this face is quite exposed to both ice and rockfall for the top of the peak, which is composed of loose blocks held together by ice,” Papert wrote later.

Ines Papert climbing pitch 23 on "Riders on the Storm".

Ines Papert climbs pitch 23 on Riders of the Storm. Photo: Thomas Senf


In 2017, Brette Harrington and Mayan Smith-Gobat tried to free-climb the route, but they had to give up because of bad weather. Their days “often ended in a snow blizzard and we were drenched and frozen from head to toe,” Smith-Gobat recalled. The pair free-climbed two of the four pitches.

If the current trio of Vanhee, Harrington, and Larcher manage to free-climb this impressive route, it would be a historic moment.

Kris Annapurna

KrisAnnapurna is a writer with ExplorersWeb.

Kris has been writing about history and tales in alpinism, news, mountaineering, and news updates in the Himalaya, Karakoram, etc., for the past year with ExplorersWeb. Prior to that, Kris worked as a real estate agent, interpreter, and translator in criminal law. Now based in Madrid, Spain, she was born and raised in Hungary.