#6 out of 7 and only one more left on my goal of climbing new routes on all of the major summits of the Fitzroy skyline!
After an amazing streak of good weather things returned to a slightly more regular (not that there is regular pattern) for the later part of January and into early February. As mine and Kate’s trip was nearing its end I had all but given up on getting another route done this season. Thankfully just a few days before our planned departure another good little weather window appeared. After nearly 3 straight weeks of bad weathered I figured the mountains were going to be pretty plastered with new snow but for some reason they turned out to be fairly free of snow and ice.
When up on the South Face of Poincenot in early December I had plenty of time to look directly south on the north face of Innominata (also know as Aguja Rafael Juarez). Before our ascent there were only two routes (and a short variation) up the north face proper. The face is quite narrow but it appeared there would be room for another route shooting straight up the middle, well thats at least what I hoped.
We left Niponino camp sometime just before dawn (i’m sure it wasn’t to early because getting up isn’t something we are good at). The approach took a casual 3.5hrs to base, with a little bit of cramponning and post-holing required, but nothing to unpleasant. I’ve gave Kate the fist block knowing that it would keep her a bit warmer, and well, I of course ended up getting pretty cold. Our first few pitches followed Jon Walsh’s variation to Artebelleza, called Como No! The climbing was quite enjoyable and fairly straightforward. And YES, the rock was actually really good. After dealing with some shitty rock on my last two routes I wasn’t in the mood to climb any more choss.
Kate made quick work of the Como No pitches and took us to a nice ledge underneath the splitter crack the went up the steep headwall. I wish I could say I then started to dispatch of the headwall cracks with speed and grace, but no, that is not the case. I was feeling a lot less than great. Maybe it was the lack of any actual crack climbing in the last few months, or maybe it was just me being lame. Anyhow I still managed to keep the rope moving upwards though it was with a fair bit of hanging on gear.
Climbing is complicated. It comes in many forms. It evokes many emotions and tries us in many ways. More than any other week of my almost 20 years of climbing have I felt that this week. The highs have brought tears just as much as the lows. I used determination to overcome fear and just a day later have had my determination smothered by fear. I high-5’d with my bros and heard their story of one of the best climbs of their life and then had to break the news to them of the loss a beautiful young strong lady that was a friend of us all. I’ve spent nearly a year of my life climbing in Patagonia waiting for the perfect weather window to arrive and now that it has it seams like the most unimportant thing to me. Now I want it to rain, I want it to snow, and I want it to blow so I don’t have to go…
My desire to climb runs deep in my veins except for right now.
Below are some pics from mine and Kate’s new route on St. Exupery, called Astro Choss. Not much to say about it. We started and the bottom, jammed some clean rock, climbed some icy rock, aided some chossy rock, and then stood on top.
Kate in front of St. Exupery after our failed first attempt
Rapping from pitch 3 after our first go at it
Me crossing the schrund via a cool bit of face climbing
A bit of good climbing on pitch 3 before the rock gets bad
More photos after the break.
￼Nearly three months ago while descending El Cap I took one false step, heard a pop, and fell to the ground clutching my ankle. I instantly knew I wasn’t going to be “walking it off.” Fast forward two months and a change of location to Smith Rocks, where Kate and I posted up for my recovery. After sitting around for so long I started to loose the plot and deemed it time to start climbing again. I gradually worked back into it, 5.8,5.9 and 5.10 the first day. 5.11 the second day. And then the real surprise came on the third day when I managed to climb Chain Reaction, one of the most classic 5.12c’s anywhere. Needless to say I was fairly happy with my progression though I knew Chain was a more of a monkey trick than a rock climb.
Fast forward another month and this time to El Chalten, Argentina, the small cozy town that lays at the foothills of the massive Fitzroy massif. I arrived early December with my sights set extremely low knowing that climbing a 35ft 4 bolt sport climb at Smith Rocks hardly got me ready for climbing in alpine. Or maybe it did? At least thats what I had to tell myself as a weather forecast started to appear that I knew I couldn’t miss out on.
Cerro Torre on the approach to the Torre Valley
Thankfully for me Jens Holsten and Joel Kauffman offered to take a gimp along with them (that would be me). What I lacked in fitness though I made up for with a good plan, which be might arguable looking back… But never the less they were sold and the bags were packed. Our plan, take a new steep and direct line up the 900m south face of Poincenot.
Like any alarm that goes off at 3am, this one came way to early for me. We took our time getting out of camp waiting for a faint illumination from the sum , wanting to avoid crossing the loose moraine by headlamp that guards the entrance to the Poincenot-Inominata couloir. Slowly we picked our way through huge loose boulders and up into the couloir that leads to the base of the massive and steep south face on Poincenot.