A Solo Winter Attempt on Cerro Torre

Three months ago, American Colin Haley confronted the mighty Cerro Torre alone during the bitter Patagonian winter.

“Despite being singularly focused on it, and putting in a lot of effort (one of the biggest efforts I have put into a climb), I was unable to achieve my goal,” he admitted.

The main reason was the unbearable cold. It was worse than he had experienced during 16 climbs of Alaska‘s Denali and also Mt. Huntington in winter.

“Because of the frigid temperatures, because of the deep snow, and because of the tremendous labor of a long winter approach with a ton of gear [plus] the demand of facing difficult situations day after day by myself that was psychologically exhausting…I didn’t make it very far up the mountain.”

Aerial photo of Cerro Torre with the cols separating the spires marked.

The Ragni Route and the cols on the Cerro Torre massif, including the Elmo to the right of the main spire. Photo: Simone Moro


Haley aimed for the classical Ragni route (also known as the Ferrari route of 1974), the most popular line up Cerro Torre nowadays. Haley had climbed that route a number of times in the summer and with a partner in “a handful of hours.” But alone in winter, breaking trail completely by himself, he only reached the top of the Elmo, a bivy spot on a col before the main spire of Cerro Torre.

Virgin vs trafficked conditions

“There is a huge difference between climbing the route in virgin conditions or in ‘trafficked’ conditions,” he explained. “There is a huge difference between climbing the route solo or with a partner, and there is a huge difference between climbing the route in winter or in summer.”

Haley posted a detailed account of the climb, pitch by pitch and illustrated with many stunning photographs, on his blog. And yet he hesitated before writing about the experience at all.

“I generally prefer to keep quiet about my climbing projects, because it is nearly never helpful to attract more attention to them,” the climber said. He then explained further:

However, in this case, I don’t think that I’ll attempt this project again, for a number of reasons. One is that the approach to the Ragni route is exceptionally long, and doing such a long approach by oneself, in winter conditions and with so much weight, is a huge amount of hard labor.

Another reason is that the Ragni route gets extremely little sunlight in the wintertime, so it is particularly cold…[Finally,] with every passing year, it becomes less likely that one will be able to have the route to oneself and find the route in virgin condition, for the true, full-value solo experience. But by far the biggest reason is that I am (once again!) swearing off rope-soloing.

Rope-soloing is a highly technical method that allows a climber to solo a route while securing himself with a rope. Haley previously used it on climbs such as the first solo of Torre Egger and the first alpine-style solo of Cerro Chaltén via the Goretta Pillar. Yet he still doesn’t like it.

“I like to climb light and fast, and…rope soloing is the opposite of light and fast,” he explained. “It is slow, laborious, and heavy. I would rather climb with a partner when climbing on a rope, and keep my solo climbing limited to objectives that I can comfortably free solo all of, or at least almost all of.”

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.