Climbing in Patagonia is everybody’s climbers dream. As Hans Weisskopf asked me to go there, my motivation rose in the sky and I counted every hour until the flight. 48 hours before we planned to start we got a real bad weather forecast. Some real tuff meteorologists promised us, that we wont have even a change for a small weather window… I skip the details of these 48 hours but finally we were sitting in the airplane with a lot of desperation.
First night in our hostel in El Chalten is over. I am looking to the new weather model and cannot believe what I am seeing. Between clouds, strong wind and snowfall is a sun. Let’s go!
I felt like on my first routes in the Alps, where I mostly had to turn because of heavy backpacks and much useless gear. But no later than you are lying in your tent, in the Niponino Camp, drinking warm tea while the wind is blowing stones trough the air, you know its better to drag the heavy backpack. We slept for 3 hours and started going around 01:00 AM. The wind was still very strong but the sky was clear and during the sunrise we reached Col Standhardt. Klaus, Xander and David, another party started climbing in front of us with the same goal, to climb Exocet. The two first pitches were in very bad conditions and when we reached the ramp we already noticed that the rime-ice is falling down. We climbed on, but underneath the gully it gets impossible to continue and we decided to rappel down. In a small cave we were waiting around 1 hour until most of the rime came down. The rappelling on knot loops and stoppers trough waterfalls, has given us a feeling of extreme canyoning. Ice avalanches came down directly to us and we were unbelievable lucky to reach the bottom uninjured. After digging out our poles, which were also caught by an avalanche we wiggled down to our tent and on day later back to Chalten.
El Chalten during bad weather can be very tiring but if you get to know this lovely little town you have some possibilities to get trough this tense time of waiting. Beside of sleeping, our main activity was probably eating. First Steak and then “Dulce de Leche” (kind of caramel). Try it and you will fall in love!
Our next weather window was very instable. We went for the Supercanaleta on Cerro Fitz Roy and carried our Blue Ice Yeti backpacks underneath the entry of the huge couloir. Our weather forecast was not correct and so we were surprised by lots of wind and snowfall. We tried to sleep and some hours later when we planned to start, the weather was still bad. We discussed a lot, changed our opinions every minute and finally decided to go back to El Chalten. When we arrived there we were kind of depressed and did not know if we made the right decision. Finally Rolando Garibotti brought us our motivation back by telling us stories about other retreats and saying that this is the way it is in Patagonia.
We just had one day of rest since our last “trekking tour” and packed our big backpacks again. The next weather window is going to be really short. 10 hours of sun with wind speed around 50-80 km/h. Later a huge storm is coming and will bring fresh snow and wind up to 150 km/h on the mountains. We played safe and went for the “Willans-Cochrane” on Poincenot. This route allows us to get to the top in a day and for sure without a bivouac. But first of all we had to go to “Paso Superior”, which we reached after about 6 hours. Cooking, playing cards and sleeping while planning for the next day was the evening entertainment. The next adventure started at 01:00 AM and after eating an “Oatking bar” we were ready for the final day. We knew that this will be our last change in Patagonia this season, to reach a top and so our motivation was very high. After 2 hours of ascending we started climbing up the ramp. We had really good conditions, were really fast and with the first sunlight we started into the key pitches. 80 meters of mixed terrain with steep cracks and corners up to V+. Really fun climbing up there but when we reached the shoulder the wind gets stronger. We climbed on, looked for the easiest way to the summit and two hours later we were on the top. What an amazing day! We rappelled down the same way, which was a bit tricky, but we had luck and our rope did not stuck once. As mentioned the weather window was very small and we already noticed the first snowfall. Back at the tent we made us ready for another night, cooked the last food and melted snow but when we noticed the amount of fresh snow which has fallen in one hour we decided to go back to El Chalten at the same day. The next 5 hours we were thinking about our beds and how many kilometres are in between El Chalten and us. It was 03:00 AM when we were back in our hostel and after a spoon of “Dulce de Leche” i fell into my bed.
The last evening in Patagonia was the culinary highlight of our trip. Some friends of Austria invited us to 15kg beef and lots of side dishes. I thought I could get a vegetarian now because I have just eaten the best meat of my whole live. The rest of the evening we spent with making music and talking about our adventures and finally I was tired enough to sleep in the airplane for the next 40 hours.
Phillip Pichlbauer, Blue Ice Ambassador.