Major New Link-Up on Cerro Torre
Americans Kelly Cordes and Colin Haley completed a fast, alpine-style ascent of a much-discussed link-up on Cerro Torre, following the Marsigny-Parkin line to the Col of Hope, then the original 1974 route up the West Ridge to the summit. The result is a magnificent but dangerous ice climb that ascends Cerro Torre from its accessible southern side without using the regular route’s artificial bolt line.
The two started up the steep ice couloirs of the Marsigny-Parkin line early in the morning on January 5 and raced up about 2,600 vertical feet, with much simulclimbing to move fast through falling debris. They reached the Col of Hope at around 1:30 p.m. and rested there, then started up the ice towers of the 2,000-vertical-foot upper West Ridge. Darkness caught them about three long pitches below the summit, and they decided that navigating complex gendarmes and tunnels of rime ice at night would be too dangerous, so they dug a shallow snow hole and shivered for about six hours until dawn. Difficult and surreal climbing through the rime mushrooms gained the top around 1:30 p.m. on January 6. They rappelled the Compressor Route to return to their glacier camp around 2:30 a.m. on January 7, 48 hours after leaving.
The Marsigny-Parkin line (aka A La Recherche du Temps Perdu) is a committing approach to Cerro Torre’s West Ridge, partly because of ice-fall danger from the South Face of Cerro Torre and from a huge serac band that threatens the line from west of the col. Given this threat, retreat down this route in a storm or warm conditions could be suicidal. During the 1994 first ascent, Frenchman François Marsigny and Englishman Andy Parkin hoped to complete the route followed by Cordes and Haley this year to the summit, but a storm trapped them at the Col of Hope for three days. In slightly better weather, they continued up the West Ridge, but then, after another bivouac, deteriorating weather and lack of food forced them to rappel all the way to the Hielo Continental, the isolated ice cap on the opposite side of Cerro Torre. It took them three more days to stagger out to civilization, nine days after starting. For this, they won the Piolet d’Or despite bailing hundreds of feet below the summit.
In an email from Patagonia, Cordes expressed great respect for the 1974 Italian route, led by Casimiro Ferrari, which conquered Cerro Torre by the West Face and West Ridge. At the time, Cordes wrote, “I was 6 years old, Colin nothing more than a glimmer in his dad’s eye 10 years out, and today, with our fancy gear and beta and hard-man fantasties, we thought the upper West Ridge was pretty f***in’ hard.”
Dates of Ascent: January 5-7, 2007
Sources: Kelly Cordes, Colin Haley, 1995 American Alpine Journal