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Two teams seized the same weather window last week to traverse three of the four summits of the Torre group in Argentine Patagonia, a feat only accomplished once before. However, neither was able to continue to Cerro Torre’s summit for the full traverse, a much sought-after prize for alpinists in Patagonia.
From November 21 to November 23, Patagonian veteran Rolando Garibotti and Jackson innkeeper Hans Johnstone climbed Cerro Standhardt via Festerville (5.11), Punta Herron via Spigolo di Bimbi (5.10 90°), and Torre Egger via its northwestern arête (5.10 and mixed). The two rappelled Torre Egger’s 1976 original route to the Col of Conquest, and then started up El Arca de los Vientos on Cerro Torre’s northwest side, a route established in 2005 by Garibotti, Alessandro Beltrami, and Ermanno Salvaterra. Garibotti and Johnstone made it about halfway to the top before unstable snow mushrooms on the north face sent them down in late afternoon on the 23rd. According to Garibotti, the climbing during the traverse was sustained and enjoyable, with only small sections of loose rock.
At the same time, Italians Salvaterra, Beltrami, Mirko Masè, and Fabio Salvadei were making their own attempt at the full traverse, a few hours behind the smaller Garibotti-Johnstone team. The Italians climbed Standhardt via Otra Vez (5.10 A1 80°), a route first climbed in 1989 by Salvaterra, who began attempting the Torre traverse in 1988. The Italians then climbed Spigolo di Bimbi (another Salvaterra route from another attempt on the traverse, in 1991), and then continued up the northwest side of Torre Egger, one of the few peaks in the region that Salvaterra had not yet climbed. After rappelling to the Col of Conquest, the four climbed one pitch on the north side of Cerro Torre, but then descended because of avalanche danger from warm temperatures.
Earlier this month, the Italians climbed Exocet (VI 5.9 WI6, 1988) on Cerro Standhardt, and Salvaterra was injured by falling ice that hit his back, and then sprained an ankle during the descent. He recovered enough over the next 10 days to allow the traverse.
The first traverse from Cerro Standhardt to Torre Egger, over Punta Herron, was completed in February 2005 by Thomas Huber and Andi Schnarf. All four summits, including Cerro Torre, have yet to be linked, and the full traverse of these surreal towers will require a rare combination of luck, skill, and speed.
Dates of Ascents: November 21-23, 2007