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Glorious Days in Patagonia

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Fitz Roy’s east side, showing the line of the new route The Real Kekec on the Goretta Pillar. Photo by Rolando Garibotti /

1/23/12 – A new route on Fitz Roy, the second of the season, has capped a flurry of activity in recent days in Argentinean Patagonia, as a combination of good weather and motivated climbers has led to many big climbs and a few first ascents.

Slovenian climbers Luca Krajnc and Tadej Kriselj forged a new line up the left side of the Goretta Pillar (north pillar) of Fitz Roy over three days of climbing. Their new route, The Real Kekec, shares a pitch with The Devil’s Dihedral, a 1983 Slovenian route, before launching up more than 2,500 feet of new ground, with difficulties up to A2. The two men climbed alpine-style, without jumars or bolts, and once atop the pillar they followed the 1979 Casarotto Route to the summit. They spent their third night on top, and then bivied once more, completely out of food, before reaching the glacier.

Earlier this season, the Argentinean-Swiss team of Jorge Ackermann and Michel Lerjen-Demjen climbed another major new route on Fitz Roy’s east face.

The Pataclimb website documents many other interesting recent ascents, including:

• The first free solo of the Ragni Route on Cerro Torre, by the Austrian climber Markus Pucher, who reached the summit in just 3 hours 15 minutes. Pucher carried a single rope and one ice screw for protection on this difficult ice climb, which is in exceptionally good condition this year and has seen dozens of ascents—facts that do not make Pucher’s solo any less impressive.

• A new traverse by Mikey Schaefer and Josh Huckaby, who climbed Aguja CAT, the four pinnacles of Aguja Cuatro Dedos, and then two other peaks before descending. Their route, called Manos y Mas Manos, took three days plus approach and descent time.

• New lines on both Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy by the Argentinean trio Gabriel Fava, Wenny Sanchez, and Roberto Treu—a remarkable season for any climbers! The three climbed a 1,000-foot new finish to the Ragni Route, following ice to the right of that line, and then climbed a 2,000-foot new route up the Goretta Pillar on Fitz Roy.

• A new traverse across the Cerro Pollone group by Japanese climbers Katsutaka “Jumbo” Yokoyama and Ryo Masumoto, taking three days and 29 pitches, all free.

• Many significant repeats, including the first female ascent of Mate, Porro y Todo lo Demás to Fitz Roy’s summit by Sarah Hart, as well as the first all-female ascent of that route, by Kate Rutherford and Madaleine Sorkin.

Guidebook author and historian Rolando Garibotti wrote a stirring summary of the season so far at his Pataclimb website, worth quoting in full:

“There is so much vibrant energy and motivation here, so much upward momentum. It is hard not to feel that we are living a special moment for the climbing in this area…. Courtesy of climate change (the weather far from being what it used to be, the legendary storms being but a distant memory), the services and comfort in the nearby town of El Chaltén, the readily available and very accurate weather forecasts, collective knowledge and plentiful route and climb information (including and Patagonia Vertical, which are undoubtedly to blame) this massif is not the mythical “great range” where the likes of Jose Luis Fonrouge, Casimiro Ferrari, Jim Donini, Silvo Karo, Ermanno Salvaterra, and many others made history. Today instead it is a phenomenal playground where hundreds of climbers are having deeply fulfilling experiences. We may shed a few tears for what has been lost, but it is hard not to have a big smile in one’s face for what is happening.”

Dates of ascents: January 2012