Americans Jimmy Haden and Mike Pennings have made the first alpine-style ascent of Royal Flush—and only the second complete ascent of the route to the summit of Fitz Roy. Haden and Pennings climbed the 4,000-foot route on the stupendous east face of Fitz Roy over two days, free climbing much of the line.
Royal Flush (5.12c A2) was established in 1995 by Kurt Albert, Bernd Arnold, Jorg Gershel, and Lutz Richter, but, with Arnold hobbled by a broken knee caused by rock fall, the Germans stopped where they joined the existing route El Corazon, about 1,000 feet below the summit. The Germans free-climbed all but two short sections of the route, and since then, with its ample fixed protection and belays, Royal Flush has been a coveted target of free climbers. Tommy Caldwell freed the crux pitch at 5.12c in 2005, but like other aspirants he and partner Topher Donahue were driven down by icy cracks and poor weather before completing the climb.
Haden and Pennings lucked out with nearly perfect conditions. “We were standing atop Fitz Roy after our ascent only four days after touching down in Argentina,” Pennings said. “We spent one night sitting on a small ledge, right where Royal Flush converges with the El Corazon route. We found the route mostly dry and were able to free-climb the majority of it.” The two completed the climb in a 48-hour round trip from a high camp at Paso Superior.
In 1998, Guner Gäbel, Michael Schafroth, and Rainer Treppte made the first complete ascent of Royal Flush to Fitz Roy’s summit. However, they fixed some ropes before launching their three-day round-trip push.
Date of Ascent: January 2008
Sources: Mike Pennings, Rolando Garibotti, American Alpine Journal