Colin Haley has done the first solo ascent of Torre Egger, the most difficult and seldom-climbed summit of the Torre Group in Patagonia. Along the way, Haley also made the first solo ascent of Punta Herron.
Haley climbed a complex, traversing line to the top of Torre Egger, the dramatic spire that was first climbed in 1976 by Americans John Bragg, Jim Donini, and Jay Wilson. He first traversed ramps across the east face of Cerro Standhardt, then made several rappels toward the notch between Standhardt and Punta Herron. He joined the last pitch of Tobogán (Garibotti-Karo, 1999) and followed this up to the col, then climbed Spigolo dei Bimbi (Cavallaro-Salvaterra-Vidi, 1991) to the summit of Punta Herron. After traversing to the col between Herron and Torre Egger, he climbed the Huber-Schnarf Route (2005) up Torre Egger’s north face to reach the summit.
“This is the overall easiest route to the summit of Torre Egger,” Haley said. “I had done it entirely last year with Alex Honnold, and most sections of it I had done multiple times before.”
Haley said he free-soloed all but four pitches on Spigolo dei Bimbi and four pitches on the Huber-Schnarf, and rope-soloed these eight pitches. “That makes for a small percentage of the total climbing, but a large percentage of the difficult climbing,” he said.
To descend from Torre Egger, he rappelled the south face to the col between Egger and Cerro Torre, and from there down the original 1976 line on the lower east face. During his second-to-last 60-meter rappel to the col, disaster nearly struck when a rappel rope hung up. “Because the terrain above was overhanging, I couldn’t retrieve the other end, which was now hanging in the air a couple meters above me,” he said. “I spent literally 1.5 to 2 hours bouncing as hard as I could on my rappel rope with a Micro Traxion, pulling it down a few centimeters at a time. For a while I was quite terrified that I would be descending the lower east face of Cerro Torre with only 20 meters of 5.5mm rope.” The rope eventually pulled loose, and though his thinner cord lost a bunch of sheath from the aggressive yanking, he was able to continue the descent without further mishap.
Haley has completed a number of extraordinary solo ascents in his career, both in Patagonia and elsewhere. In 2010, he made the first solo ascent of Cerro Standhardt, meaning that he has now done the first solos of three of the four summits of the Torre Group. In 2012, he made the first solo ascent of the north buttress of Alaska’s Mt. Hunter (for which Haley uses the native name of Begguya); he continued above the buttress to within 100 meters of the summit before turning back, and thus labels the remarkable climb an “attempt.” That summer he soloed a traverse of Mt. Waddington, Mt. Combatant, and Mt. Asperity in British Columbia’s Coast Mountains, making the first solo ascent of each. Earlier this season in Patagonia, he soloed the California Route on Fitz Roy (a.k.a. Chaltén—his second solo ascent of the mountain.
“Torre Egger is a harder solo than Standhardt, Cerro Torre, or Chaltén, for the same reasons that climbing Torre Egger with a partner is harder than climbing those other peaks with a partner,” Haley said. “It is long, complicated, and while there are no specific sections that are truly difficult, the overall ascent is hard to pull off.
“Also, just to be clear,” Haley added, “while I think that soloing Torre Egger is a greater accomplishment than soloing the Ragni Route (west face of Cerro Torre), I think that this ascent at best equals Marc-André Leclerc’s accomplishment last year of soloing the Corkscrew Route on Cerro Torre. And, of course, the solo first ascent of the Goretta Pillar [on Fitz Roy] by Renatto Casarotto is still the most badass solo that’s been done here, when put in the context of the era.”