Some members of Ragni di Lecco climbing association, can always be found here. Italian mountaineers are historically linked to this land, which has been dotted with red sweaters featuring a black spider on the arm for over half a century now.
Matteo Della Bordella,
joined forces with Sean Villanueva and Leo Gheza to establish “Qué mirás, bobo?”; a new 500 m route, up to 7b, on Aguja Mermoz. About one week later, the two Italians performed a rarely-seen repetition of the “Care Bear” traverse, reaching the peaks of Guillaumet, Mermoz, Goretta Pillar and Fitz Roy in the space of just 2.5 days. This involved climbing over 2000 metres. Even though there was still plenty of food and energy to go around, and they were on an adrenaline high after fully completing the first repetition – Fitz Roy –, the imminent arrival of bad weather discouraged them from going any further and they returned to the village. Three incredible days spent in the mountains, and then off home, without taking any unnecessary risks. During the other short-lived and “sneaky” windows of good weather, Matteo climbed Aguja Guillaumet with some of his other friends: Guillotina and Rayo de Luz. “It still amazes me that after many years of returning to Patagonia, these mountains continue to provide the perfect mix of adventure, quality crack climbing and mountaineering engagement.”
partnered with Swiss climber Roger Schaeli. They climbed two thirds of the Ferrari at Mermoz, before having to abseil to avoid the oncoming slaught of bad weather. The two then linked Guillaumet and Mermoz together, and explored a goulotte on the east face.
partnered with Pete Whittaker in an attempt to climb some recently established routes (“Yacaré” on Rafael Juarez and “Anda p’alla!” on Guillaumet), which had never been fully scaled by free climbing... Until Sean got to them that is!
another Patagonia great who was fresh off the back of the winter solo at Fitz Roy’s Supercanaleta, joined forces with youngsters Pedro and Tomas Odell. The two Argentinian brothers are part of the first generation of mountaineers born and raised in El Chalten. A passing of the baton, as you will, from an old hand to up-and-coming climbers. “For the first time ever, the combined ages of my climbing partners (19 and 17) amounted to less than my age (38). And I fear that won’t be the last time!”
Colin’s extensive experience and desire to get stuck in proved useful when climbing the Renato Casarotto route on Fitz Roy. The Vicenza-born mountaineer first completed this ascent solo in 1979 and dedicated it to his wife, Goretta. The American champion decided to repeat the route in the exact same fashion, i.e. solo. “I think it’s the first solo ascent of the alpine-style route. It was a great challenge and I am very proud of it. I belayed pretty much the whole way up, which took the stress out of free-solo climbing, but all the rope work and heavy loads required for such a long and complex solo climb wore me out physically.”
Together with Tyler Karow, Colin then attempted to speed climb “El Corazón”; a big wall on the gigantic east face of Fitz Roy. Despite not having a big or good-enough weather window at their disposal, the two decided to go for it anyway. And they almost made it too, but after hours of “fast and light” climbing, they got caught in a sudden blizzard, just four pitches from the summit. They therefore had to descend at night, reaching the bottom at 9 in the morning, after one of the most epic and riskiest descents of their lives. The Patagonian wind doesn’t care how experienced or prepared you are, it will show you who’s boss anyway.
Another remarkable “one push” feat was accomplished together with Francesco Ratti and Claudio Migliorini. After having repeated the classic yet magnificent “Pilar Rojo” route on Mermoz, the three Italians established a new route: “Wake Up!” on the southern peak of Guillaumet. 450 metres of climbing for 32 hours of uninterrupted activity. “Upon return to the Piedra Negra advanced base camp, we were worn out, in a state of disbelief and happy with our plan-B choice. Given the short-lived and bad windows of good weather we had available, being able to establish a new route was an unforeseen gift. That’s another of the beauties of Patagonia, it’s always surprising you!”
a French mountain guide and mountaineer who is besotted with Patagonia – joined the all-female team consisting of Lise Billon and Maud Vanpoulle. Although Fanny wasn’t feeling too well, the girls tackled “Mate, porro y todo lo demás”, a climbing route on the Goretta Pillar, during the first few days. However, ice-filled cracks and ill health caused the trio to retreat, immediately after a memorable bivouac just below the summit.
Another week, another “wind(ow) of good weather”. Fanny and her climbing companions attempted “Greenpeace”; a route up the immense west face of little-frequented Cerro Piergiorgio. This time, nature attacked in another form: a waterfall in the midst of the face prevented them from climbing any further. Nobody has succeeded in climbing that route since 1985 and its degree of difficulty continues to inspire many a generation of mountaineers.
“Even though we sadly turned back, it was a wonderful adventure. I’ve never been so calm and collected about a mountain defeat... perhaps that means I’m getting wiser!” Before returning home to France, Fanny got the opportunity to climb with Maud and photographer-mountaineer Tad McCrea: they repeated Carrington-Rouse on Aguja Poincenot. It was a great climb and perhaps an even greater battle to descend safely in the midst of a storm that had arrived a few hours ahead of schedule. “For the first time in my life, I found myself thinking that if something were to go wrong, we would be in serious danger. I promised myself that I would never climb a Patagonia route again without giving myself some margin for the good weather window!”
Marcello Cominetti e Francesco Salvaterra,
our long-standing Alpine Guide on his 33rd expedition in Patagonia, had abandoned the relatively dry winter in the Dolomites for a few weeks and headed for Argentina. Once again, Marcello had arrived at El Chalten with Francesco Salvaterra, his historic climbing partner and colleague, in tow. The two Alpine Guides, together with Marquiño, a Brazilian porter who has lived in El Chalten for two decades now and helped carry their equipment, joined Alberto Bettoli as he confronted his lifelong dream/worst nightmare: Cerro Torre. They were the first of the season to attempt it and, unfortunately, were forced to turn back due to the very dry and dangerous conditions.
However, they did succeed in climbing 12 pitches on one of the most beautiful and difficult mountains in the world: certainly a bigger, more demanding and more memorable adventure than many of the renowned climbs in the Alps, which are perhaps ascended more quickly when the paths have already been traced, just days earlier, and in perfect weather conditions.
“The steep slope that after just a couple of hours walking in the snow, led to the start of the first difficulties experienced on the Spiders’ route, has become a long and torturous obstacle course this year. We climbed 10 long pitches on snow, ice and a combination of both to reach the spot we used to be able to reach by just donning our skis. A large cascade of water was flowing into the only passable dihedral; it was virtually impossible to climb the traditional route. We stopped to take stock: perhaps if we forced passage further over to the left, we would be able to continue, but it was already midday. We’d already taken twice as long as expected and the dry, difficult conditions, together with the high temperatures, didn’t exactly instil us with confidence to continue. We quickly decided that, as the sun was soon due to make an appearance and there was a chance that even more stones would fall on the slopes we had just climbed: it was time to call it a day. We were disheartened, but our safety must always come first. Everybody is reluctant to give up, but instinct and careful deliberation were the deciding factors in the end.”
Finally, let’s not forget to mention and thank Rolando Garibotti: the head and more importantly, the soul of the mountaineering community who see El Chalten as their second home. He has written a mountain guide, studied and reconstructed many pieces of mountaineering history, collected memorabilia, and found or taken memorable photographs. Over the years, he has also learnt to interpret the complex weather conditions, which are so crucial and unpredictable. He has successfully completed major climbs and loved these mountains like few others ever have or will. He is now focused on the new mountaineer generations, who attentively listen to and heed his advice. Besides being a great mountaineer, Rolo is also an impressive man: he is generous to a fault and basks in others climbing feats, as if they were his own. And well, I guess to some extent they are partly his: because comparison, trust and his real-time satellite weather updates are a truly invaluable aid.
Patagonia is a special place, where bad weather is truly awful and everything is taken to the extreme: the length of the approaches and technicalities of the climbs. Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre and all the other peaks can be seen in the background, just like a painting. Unperturbed, craggy and austere: few reach their summits and only when the wind is in their favour. For us here at Scarpa, it is an honour and privilege to be a part of this large, lively and colourful mountaineering family who dream, love and even court these mystical mountains.