2/18/14 – Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold have completed one of the great prizes of Patagonian alpinism: the so-called Fitz Traverse, crossing the full ridgeline of 11,171-foot Fitz Roy and its six neighbors. The north-to-south traverse took four full days (plus approach and descent), even though Caldwell and Honnold simul-climbed much of the route in approach shoes. The two men had generally good weather but poor conditions on the rock, with much snow and ice in the cracks. It was Honnold’s first route in the Fitz Roy massif.
Below is a full report, generously provided by Rolando Garibotti, author of Patagonia Vertical, the climbing guidebook to the Fitz Roy area.
Between the 12th and 16th of February, Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold completed the first ascent of the much-discussed “Fitz Traverse,” climbing across the iconic ridge-line of Cerro Fitz Roy and its satellite peaks in southern Patagonia.
This ridge line involves climbing Aguja Guillaumet, Aguja Mermoz, Cerro Fitz Roy, Aguja Poincenot, Aguja Rafael Juárez, Aguja Saint-Exúpery, and Aguja de l’S.
In all they climbed across over five kilometers of ridge line, covering close to 4,000 meters of vertical gain with difficulties to 7a (5.11d) C1 65°. They simul-climbed much of the climb, dispatching 20-pitch sections such as Pilar Goretta in a mere three pitches.
They started at 9:45 a.m. on the 12th, climbing the “Brenner-Moschioni” route in two pitches to reach the summit of Aguja Guillaumet by 12:15 p.m. They continued south, along the Cresta Sur, to reach Aguja Mermoz, climbing the “Argentina” route to reach the summit by 5 p.m. Four hours later they decided to stop to bivy, placing their tent in the ridge leading to Aguja Val Biois.
On the 13th they started at 8:30 a.m., climbing past Aguja Val Biois to reach the col at the base of Pilar Goretta at 11:30 a.m. In three pitches they climbed the “Casarotto” route with the “Kearney-Knight” variation to reach the summit of the pillar and start up the final headwall at 7:45 p.m. Finding terrible conditions in the upper headwall, with way too much rime and ice in the cracks, they were forced to slow down, reaching the summit of Cerro Fitz Roy at 2:30 a.m.
On the morning of the 14th, after a short night just below the summit, they rappelled the “Franco-Argentina,” reaching La Silla at 12:45 p.m. and weaving their way through the various summits of Aguja Kakito to reach the base of the “Potter-Davis” route on Aguja Poincenot by 6 p.m. Short-fixing, they made quick work of it, reaching the summit by 9:15 p.m.
On the morning of the 15th they rappelled “Judgment Day” to reach the Col SUSAT by 11:30 a.m. At noon they started up the “Piola-Anker” route on Aguja Rafael Juárez, climbing it in two pitches to reach the summit at 2:15 p.m. By 4:30 p.m. they had traversed the ridge to Aguja Saint-Exúpery, and by 6:20 p.m. they were on the summit, having climbed it in a mere two pitches.
By this point their rope was reduced to 38 meters in length, so they made an endless number of rappels down the “Austríaca” to reach the Col de los Austríacos, setting camp for the night in the boulderfield at the base of the final climb, the north ridge of Aguja de l’S.
In the morning of the 16th they climbed that final section, doing a single pitch to reach the summit by 8:50 a.m., and descending east to reach the glacier just after 10 a.m.
On this epic adventure they took:
• two backpacks (35 and 25 liters) • one sleeping bag • BD First Light tent • stove and three gas canisters • one ice tool • two pairs of aluminum crampons • one ice screw • 2 each Camalots to #2 • 1 Camalot #3 • two sets of Stoppers • a 60m 9.8mm lead line • an 80m 6mm tag line • three ascenders/locking pulleys (Petzl Micro-traxion, Kong Duck and Futura) • 6 quickdraws • 14 slings
It should be noted that their success was in spite of very bad conditions, with much ice and snow in the cracks and on the ridges, courtesy of one of the wettest summer seasons in many years.
Caldwell and Honnold wore rock shoes to climb Pilar Goretta and the north face of Aguja Poincenot, but climbed everything else wearing approach shoes (!!).
This was Honnold’s first climb in this area of Patagonia. Over the years Caldwell has done a number of impressive ascents in the area, most notably the first free and onsight ascent of Linea de Eleganza on Cerro Fitz Roy.
Respect, respect and more respect.
Dates of ascent: February 12–16, 2014