Weekend Warm-Up: Aguja Mermoz, As Straightforward As Patagonia Gets

Maybe surprisingly, the steep east face of Aguja Mermoz remained a no-man’s-land for decades.

While the rest of the Fitz Roy Massif got sieged by wave after wave of climbers from all over the planet, little Aguja Mermoz (2,732m) stayed mostly quiet. The only route on the tower’s 500m eastern aspect went up in 1955.

Matteo Della Bordella, Leo Gheza, and Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll can see a plum when there’s one to be picked.

¿Qué mirás, bobo? (What are you looking at, dummy?) takes 15 relatively blatant pitches to the Mermoz summit. Grades mainly hover in the 6 range, and the hardest pitch is 7b. The climbers’ topo prescribes a simple rack and an established rappel down nearby Pilar Rojo.

the topo of que miras, bobo?

Photo: Screenshot


An impromptu climb

It’s about as straightforward as a Patagonia climb gets.

So, yeah — for almost 70 years of Patagonia climbing history, what were the rest of us dummies looking at?

This first ascent story feels as brisk as an Argentinian breeze. To start, the whole thing is impromptu. Villanueva was playing his flute to pass the time until his partner arrived, when Della Bordella and Gheza approached him.

Following trivial climbing on the spire skirt, there’s a brief kerfuffle with a damaged rope. “Here we are on Mermoz with two spaghetti-eating Italians, and we already have a big core shot,” Villanueva jokes.

His suggestion is to tape it and trying not to think about it — instead, they tie it off and opt for short pitches.

Part way up the wall, the climbers rip off a huge flake of granite. But it doesn’t happen on lead and no one’s below. It explodes thunderingly but harmlessly.

Soon they’re at the top.

“It was not a deep feeling,” Della Bordella says in voiceover, referring to his emotions at the summit. “This route was an idea we had at the last moment. And so we could just enjoy the moment. Leave the present and think about the great day we lived with friends in a simple way.”

a man pointing an ice ax at the shadow of a mountain peak

Photo: screenshot


If everyone made it look this easy, everyone would do it.

Sam Anderson

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.