Villanueva O’Driscoll Solos Patagonia’s Fitz Traverse

Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll of Belgium has just soloed the ridgeline of Cerro Fitz Roy and its six satellite peaks, marking only the second-ever traverse and the first solo.

“This is the most impressive solo ascent ever done in Patagonia,” says alpinist Colin Haley. “I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t simply the most impressive ascent ever done in Patagonia.”

Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold completed the first ascent of the Fitz Traverse in four days in 2014. There are scant details of Villanueva O’Driscoll’s ascent but it appears that he followed the same route in reverse.

The climb features over five kilometres of ridgeline, almost 4,000m of vertical gain, and climbing grades to 7a (5.11d).

The Fitz Traverse, from Caldwell and Honnold’s 2014 climb. Photo: Rolando Garibotti/


Many climbers best know Villanueva O’Driscoll for his wacky film, Adventures of the Dodo, which highlighted mountain festivals recently. In it, he, several climbing companions, and a grizzled old skipper spent three months on a 10-metre sailboat hitting big walls in that part of the Arctic, a la H.W. Tilman.

Villanueva O’Driscoll began climbing in gyms at the age of 13 and eventually focused on big walls, especially those in western Greenland and on Baffin Island shown in Dodo. In 2010, he won a Piolet d’Or for one of those Greenland climbs.

Located on the border between Argentina and Chile, the iconic, serrated Fitz massif is the familiar logo of the outdoor clothing juggernaut Patagonia. Its imposing spikiness is just part of the challenge; its wild weather often gives climbers just a handful of workable days a month. Many an epic has involved almost a month spent in tents, as the Patagonian weather rages. Fitz Roy’s aesthetic beauty has drawn many great names in climbing history, from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard to France’s great Lionel Terray.

Villanueva O’Driscoll turned 40 a few days before the ascent.

Martin Walsh is a freelance writer and wildlife photographer based in Da Lat, Vietnam. A history graduate from the University of Nottingham, Martin's career arc is something of a smörgåsbord. A largely unsuccessful basketball coach in Zimbabwe and the Indian Himalaya, a reluctant business lobbyist in London, and an interior design project manager in Saigon. He has been fortunate enough to see some of the world. Highlights include tracking tigers on foot in Nepal, white-water rafting the Nile, bumbling his way from London to Istanbul on a bicycle, feeding wild hyenas with his face in Ethiopia, and accidentally interviewing Hezbollah in Lebanon. His areas of expertise include adventure travel, hiking, wildlife, and half-forgotten early 2000s indie-rock bands.

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Don Paul
Don Paul
1 year ago

Wow. Leaves me with a few questions, such as how long it took him compared to four days, and whether it was all free climbed or involved rappels or aid. What gear did he have? Did he have a sleeping bag & stove? Anyway this is what real climbing is about. I hope to visit down there someday.

Eddy De Wilde
Eddy De Wilde
1 year ago

balls of steel