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Rolando Garibotti and Colin Haley have completed the much-discussed—and occasionally attempted—Torre Traverse: the link-up of Aguja Standhardt, Punta Herron, Torre Egger, and Cerro Torre in a single alpine-style outing.
Garibotti, 36, an Argentine who lives much of the year in Colorado, is one of the most accomplished Patagonian climbers of recent years. Haley, 23, lives in Washington and has climbed very successfully in Patagonia two times before this season.
In an e-mail, Garibotti wrote, “Usually I would prefer to keep my doings to myself, but since, because of the high-profile nature of this climb, this was going to be impossible, Colin and I decided to provide the info right from the horse’s mouth to make sure there are no mistakes.”
Here, then, is exactly what these two horses have to say about their link-up, written in an e-mail on January 26:
THE TORRE TRAVERSE Argentine Patagonia January 2008
The Torre Traverse climbs from north to south the skyline comprised by Aguja Standhardt, Punta Herron, Torre Egger, and Cerro Torre, with approximately 2,200 meters of vertical gain.
This traverse is the brainchild of Italians Andrea Sarchi, Maurizio Giarolli, Elio Orlandi and Ermanno Salvaterra, who tried it on several occasions in the late ’80s and early 1990s. In 1991 Salvaterra, together with Adriano Cavallaro and Ferruccio Vidi, managed to climb to Punta Herron, completing what is likely the first ascent of the peak. Salvaterra climbed Herron via a new route on the north ridge, the aesthetic Spigolo dei Bimbi.
Around mid-January 2008, Alex and Thomas Huber, together with Swiss Stephan Siegrist, arrived in Chalten, also with hopes of trying the traverse. On January 21, in less than ideal weather and conditions, Haley and Garibotti began the traverse while the Hubers and Siegrist decided that conditions and weather were not suitable.
Haley and Garibotti climbed Standhardt via Exocet, reaching the summit slightly past midday, then rappelled to the Col dei Sogni between Standhardt and Herron. Climbing up Spigolo dei Bimbi, they found rime-covered rock and were forced to climb variations to pitches 2, 3, and 4. Slowed down by the snowy conditions and windy weather, they bivied below the Herron mushrooms. On January 22, in perfect weather but feeling unusually tired, likely due to carbon monoxide poisoning inside their bivy sack, they continued over Herron and Egger to reach Cerro Torre. On Egger’s north ridge they were also forced to climb some variations to avoid rime-covered rock.
The good weather brought unusually high temperatures, so upon reaching the Col of Conquest they were forced to find a place to hide from the falling ice, and stopped to bivy at around 5 p.m. under a prow of rock. The next morning, January 23, brought a pleasant surprise when they discovered that the rime mushroom that had stopped Garibotti and Johnstone’s attempt two months before had fallen off.
Haley and Garibotti found the upper Arca in worse conditions than Garibotti had encountered in 2005, and were forced to clean much ice from the cracks. Garibotti was forced to place one bolt at a crux pendulum to avoid yet another rime mushroom. Tired from the previous two days and slowed down by the conditions, they reached the top of Cerro Torre’s north face at 5 p.m., and here joined the final pitches of the Ferrari route on the west ridge. They climbed two pitches through natural rime tunnels to reach the base of the last pitch, notorious for having turned many climbers around. Haley and Garibotti, both of whom had led this final pitch before, found it in more difficult condition that they had previously seen. This final pitch is climbed by laboriously digging vertical trenches through the rime, and since no other party had yet attempted it this season, they found the 50 meters of protection-less rime daunting. Haley attempted the pitch in the evening, digging 30 feet of half-pipe in one hour before giving up for the day. Under a full moon they bivied one pitch below the Torre summit.
“Rested” after a long night shivering, Haley attacked the pitch again, digging a tunnel from the top of his half-pipe. He spent three hours completing a 20-meter tunnel inside the mushroom, and exited to finish in a naturally formed tunnel. At midday on January 24 they reached the summit of Cerro Torre, completing the first ascent of the much-fantasized Torre Traverse.
After a short rest they descended the Compressor Route along Cerro Torre’s southeast ridge to reach the glacier by evening.
For maximum efficiency, Haley and Garibotti divided the leads based on their differing skills, [with] Haley leading the pure ice and rime pitches, and Garibotti leading the rock and rime-covered rock. The follower jumared with a heavy pack, and the leader either climbed with a pack or hauled it depending on the terrain. Because of bad conditions, they climbed slower than expected and summited Cerro Torre with no food left. Under ideal weather and conditions, and with the final Ferrari pitch already excavated, they feel the traverse could be done significantly faster.
Haley (left) and Garibotti on the summit of Cerro Torre. Photo by Rolando Garibotti.
Although success on the Torre Traverse has been elusive because of strategy and weather difficulties, Garibotti comments that it involves little extreme climbing, with difficulties never above 5.11 and A1. Other than the last Ferrari pitch, there are no really committing leads. Garibotti feels that the future of Patagonia alpinism lies not in link-ups or traverses but perhaps in alpine-style repeats of the immense routes of the 1980s, such as Silvo Karo and Janez Jeglic’s Cerro Torre south face or their Devil’s Directissima on the east face.
Having felt partly responsible for delaying an academic career, Garibotti was relieved upon returning to their bivouac in the Torre Valley to hear Haley exclaim, “The Torre Traverse is way better than mineralogy homework!”
A big thanks goes to “il Maestro,” Ermanno Salvaterra, for the idea, for the inspiration, and for continuing, twenty years on, to show the way…
Dates of Ascent: January 21–24, 2008
Sources: Rolando Garibotti and Colin Haley