Two "New" Routes in Patagonia


Colin Haley spent Christmas climbing the rarely summited Aguja Desmochada in Patagonia via a partial new route. After an aborted solo mission on December 24, Haley had returned to his bivy site and was frustratedly lounging in good weather when Carsten von Birckhahn, a German who lives in Switzerland, found him and asked if he wanted to partner up for Desmochada. The German climber had already made two attempts on what he believed to be a new route on this satellite summit of Fitz Roy.

The two climbers quickly prepared and started at noon on Christmas Day. Haley reports, “The route we climbed on Desmochada is a dihedral system on the ridge that starts from the Aguja Desmochada–Aguja de la Silla col, or basically the Northeast Ridge. I’m quite sure that it is now the easiest route on Desmochada, and only hadn’t been climbed until now because the approach is long and convoluted, including a long fourth-class buttress, snow gullies, a 6b (5.10+) crack pitch, and a hurried scamper below a serac at the end. Our route, or at least the vicinity of our route, was the descent route used by Bridwell and partners after the first ascent of Aguja Desmochada. [El Condor, Bridwell-Dunmire-Smith, 1988.] We found a knifeblade on the summit, but nothing below.”

The two had planned to bivouac before starting the upper route, but they reached the col earlier than expected and started the headwall in the evening. The final climb was short, with only five pitches at 5.9 A0 and some scrambling to gain the top, though, as Haley points out, “It is difficult to separate ‘the approach’ from ‘the climb’ in this case.” The two rappelled through the night and returned to their camp at 3:30 a.m. Haley concluded, “The Birckhahn-Haley is by far the easiest route on this difficult-to-reach summit, but will likely never become the voie normale because the approach is complex and technical.”

Aguja Bifida with the 1993 route on the East Face in yellow, joining the existing route Cheoma (red). The American-Chilean team's 2007 variation at the bottom is in green; other variations higher on the route are not marked. Photo by Rolando Garibotti.

Aguja Bifida with the 1993 route on the East Face in yellow, joining the existing route Cheoma (red). The American-Chilean team

After their climb, the two discovered that Alexander Huber and Mario Walder had approached the peak from the opposite side and climbed a similar line on the Northeast Ridge in February 2007, a route they called Puerta Blanca (1,300m, 5.10 A0). Huber described his line in similar terms as Haley’s: “Even though technically not really hard, the route is highly alpine, challenging, and very long.”

Earlier this season, Haley climbed the Exocet route on Cerro Standhardt and the Supercaneleta on Fitz Roy with Canadian Maxime Turgeon.

Meanwhile, American Crystal Davis-Robbins climbed what she thought was a new route on the East Face of Aguja Bifida, a twin-peaked needle north of Standhardt, with Chilean Nico Gutierrez. The two climbed the 2,500-foot face in a day at 5.11 A1 and rappelled through the night. “The first half was pretty broken and loose, [but the] second half was splitter!” Davis-Robbins said.

After returning to town and consulting with the local experts, Davis-Robbins realized she and Gutierrez likely repeated most of the 1993 Paul Bruckner–Georg Shöerghofer route Cogan, with a two-pitch variation at the start and shorter variations en route. Unlike the 1993 team, however, Davis-Robbins and Gutierrez continued to the summit, making the first complete ascent of this route to Bifida’s south peak.

Dates of Ascents: December 2007

Sources: Colin Haley, Crystal Davis-Robbins, Rolando Garibotti, Alexander Huber,

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Alex Huber leading steep ground near the start of the upper Northeast Ridge

Two "New" Routes in Patagonia