Alex Honnold and Colin Haley earned Patagonian notoriety in 2016 when the pair made the second ascent of the famous Torre Traverse—ascending and descending along the jagged skyline composed of Torre Standhardt, Punta Herron, Torre Egger, and Cerro Torre. Their ascent was not only notable as the route’s first repeat, but also because they did it in 20 hours and 40 minutes, shaving three full days off of the original time. Honnold’s boldness coupled with Haley’s alpine experience—he’s spent 15 of the last 16 years in Patagonia—make them a formidable team for the region’s climbing. This season the duo joined up down south again. Here’s a quick look at their trip.
Bad weather this season prevented many climbers of El Chaltén from going after big objectives. Even when the weather cleared the rock was often covered in verglas, making the climbing extremely difficult. The Honnold-Haley team’s first objective was the Care Bear Traverse, a partial traverse of the Fitz Roy Massif consisting of Aguja Guillaumet, Aguja Mermoz, Aguja Val Biois, and Cerro Fitz Roy, but poor conditions thwarted their attempt. Haley wrote on Instagram: “Even after a few days with no precipitation, there was still a lot of ice in cracks, verglas on face holds, and snow on ledges… After climbing Aguja Guillaumet and Aguja Mermoz, it was pretty clear that climbing Chaltén [Fitz Roy] was not in the cards.”
Nonetheless they carried on and climbed Aguja Val Biois before descending. “It was a much smaller traverse than we had envisioned, but in any case, climbing three Patagonian spires between sunrise and sunset is a great day!” Haley wrote.
During the next weather window, the pair made a four day foray into the mountains, completing the first traverse (though it followed mostly previously climbed terrain) of Cerro Pollone, Cerro Piergiorgio, and Domo Blanco, which they deemed the Crystal Castles Traverse. The first and last summits in the traverse were relatively easy warm-ups and cool-downs for the climbers, with Cerro Piergiorgio being the bulk of the challenge and making for the third complete ascent of that mountain.
“In the Chaltén Massif, more than anywhere else that I know, there is often a big difference in overall difficulty to arrive at the true summit versus some point below,” Haley wrote. “These sorts of tricky finishes help explain the otherwise baffling fact that our ascent of Piergiorgio a few days ago was only the third-ever complete ascent of this mountain, despite the fact that it is one of the most prominent peaks here.”
Honnold wrote on Instagram: “Colin did all of the leading, because he’s an alpine boss, though it was mostly traversing terrain which made it a bit engaging for me as well.”
With their last weather window, the team set out to retrieve some gear left behind on Piedra Negra. From there, they simul-soloed what is likely the first ascent of Cerro Electrico Oeste (Honnold wore his approach shoes while Haley opted for the extra security of his rock shoes). “We continued southwards along the ridge, first passing two granite towers on the west side, and then regaining the ridge crest one tower before the start of the Giordani ‘sit start,’” Haley wrote. “We continued simul-soloing up the Giordani, and then finally put on the rope at the base of the Comesaña-Fonrouge, which we simul-climbed in two pitches.”
In between outings with Haley, Honnold ventured out to solo the route Thaw’s Not Houlding Wright (5.10d) on Aguja de l’S, first put up by Kevin Thaw, Leo Houlding, and Cedar Wright. He had good weather for the approach and up the first 2,000 feet of the buttress, but a storm blew in with 1,000 feet more to go. Instead of downclimbing the buttress Honnold opted to finish out the hard climbing and descend the East Face.
“I wound up climbing very icy cracks in a very windy snow storm and made it to the top,” Honnold wrote. “Thankfully the descent was a lot more sheltered and I downclimbed the historic East face down to the glacier and then back to the normal hiking trails. It wound up being a little under 12 hours house to house, which is a pretty awesome way to climb mountains. Something like 7.5k ft of vertical and 24mi of hiking/jogging in and out. What a day!”