This Week in Patagonia: New Adventure Routes and a Big Enchainment

The wire from Patagonia is crackling with climbing news this season, during one of the region’s most active stretches in recent memory. Climbers have rallied throughout the Chalten and Fitz Roy, despite a tragic outcome for Korra Pesce’s team on Cerro Torre back in January.

All season long, teams have seized solid weather windows to notch notable ascents. This week in Patagonia, we learned about big new adventure routes on La Hoja and La Catedral; a new line on Aguja Saint-Exupéry; and a productive trip that produced an audacious enchainment.

Here’s the roundup.

‘Cuarzo Menguante’ (5.11+ A2, 700m), East Face of La Hoja , Torres del Paine, Patagonia

Fresh off their first ascent of the Torres del Paines’ last unclimbed peak, Pepo Jurado and Sebastian Pelletti punched out another bold line nearby. On January 19, they and partner Romano Marcotti became the first humans to stand atop Cuerno Este. By January 28, Jurado and Pelletti topped out Cuarzo Menguante on La Hoja.

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Of the two new routes, Cuarzo looks like the more attractive prize. An obvious crack system thrusts 700m from the talus to the top of the jagged formation (“The Blade” in English). The line stands out clearly; but the climbing was neither straightforward nor technically easy.

In the end, it forced a seemingly unplanned bivy, which resulted in an experience the climbers called “eternal”.

“The ascent was incredible, nails climbing and a lot of route finding was necessary to put the line together,” Pelletti wrote to Planet Mountain. “At one point I aided up a small seam as the crack system sealed up.”

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From there, the two punched out a few more pitches before dark. Then they coiled their ropes on a small ledge and shivered through a cold night. The two began the next morning, Pelletti reported, by “watching an eternal sunrise” before climbing to the ridgeline by the afternoon.

Cuarzo Menguante is the third route on the east face of La Hoja. The two descended by rappelling the nearby Anduril, replacing the anchors as they went.

‘Dos Hermanos’ (5.11+ A0, 20 pitches), North Face of La Catedral, Torres del Paine, Patagonia

If you ever want to know why climbers think the climbing in Patagonia is so good, look at routes like Dos Hermanos by Cristobal and Juan Señoret.

 

Typically, negotiating a 20-pitch first ascent on an unclimbed face requires exhaustive effort, relatively heavy bolting or other permanent hardware, and generally prohibitive logistics.

Dos Hermanos, on the other hand, has a total of three bolts. All you need to climb it is a standard double rack of cams, a full set of stoppers, and two bigger cams. To descend, rappel the route.

 

 

The route looks like a certified stunner. The line sways back and forth up the massive, sun-soaked shield, and a promising bivy on an “obvious ledge” awaits two-thirds of the way up. And the broken blocks on the summit facilitate a panoramic view of the Valle del Francés.

What more can you ask for? Dos Hermanos has the makings of an instant Patagonia classic.

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‘El Zorro y La Rosa’ (6c+ C1, 650m), Southeast Slope of Aguja Saint-Exupéry, Fitz Roy Massif, Patagonia

Horacio Gratton, Esteban Degregori, and 18-year-old Pedro Odell engineered 500m of new climbing (sharing 150m with another route) over two days on Saint-Exupéry.

'El Zorro y La Rosa' (6c+ C1, 650m), Southeast Slope of Aguja Saint-Exupéry

 

El Zorro y La Rosa checks in at an approachable difficulty, with moderate free climbing and clean aid. Based on the route’s technical threshold, topping out the picturesque tower looks like a tidy reward for the climbers.

The route takes 500m through previously unclimbed terrain on the ramp feature at climber’s left. In the final pitches, it joins a 1987 route climbed by Austrians Hans Barnthaler and Ewald Lidl.

El Zorro y La Rosa gains Saint-Exupéry’s south summit, called Punta Cristina. To continue to the summit proper, subsequent teams would have to negotiate a 50m descent and climb about three more pitches.

The route, they said, could easily go free.

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Enchainment: Torre Egger, Aguja Standhardt, Punta Heron

For four days recently, Priti and Jeff Wright bagged three peaks in Patagonia and never touched the ground.

 

 

The Torre Group enchainment toured from Aguja Standhardt to Punta Heron to Torre Egger.

The pair’s routes included Festerville (400m, 90 degrees snow/ice, 6c, 15 pitches) on Standhardt; Spigolo di Bimbi (350m, 90 degrees snow/ice, 6c, 8 pitches) on Punta Heron; and Espejo del Viento (200m, 80 degrees snow/ice, 6a+, 6 pitches) on Torre Egger.

 

Via Instagram, Priti described the outing with intangibles that reverberate to climbing’s adventurous core.

The grade, the heights, the hours, don’t really paint an understandable portrait of this kind of adventure, just like the lines of the topo didn’t really explain where to go.

Climbing in Patagonia means shenanigans. The cracks full of ice and loose blocks must be climbed, wet slab traversed, boots and crampons come on and off, packs must be worn or hauled, rappels made, gear left, weather analyzed, snow melted, bivy ledges flattened, and the way must be found.

It was a great deal of fun, and highly stressful.

Unofficially, Priti Wright is the third woman to stand on the Torre Egger summit — one that some claim is Patagonia’s hardest to reach.

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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John Middendorf
3 months ago

great reports, thanks.