Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Adela Traverse

I have been back home in Seattle for the past week, and while I often feel that life in Chalten is very busy, life in Seattle is busier yet. After missing all of the Northern Hemisphere winter I have been out skiing almost every day - the thing I miss most during extended stays in Patagonia. Thus, it has taken me some time to finally write about my last climb of the 2012-2013 Patagonia season.

There was an exceptionally good weather window during my last week in Chalten. However, rock routes were fairly snowed up, temperatures were chilly, and by mid March the nights are pretty long and cold. Sarah had a cold, so I headed by myself to the Adela Peaks, which I have always wanted to try, and seemed to fit the conditions well.

I hiked into Niponino on March 11th. On the 12th I slept in, and then took a leisurely second approach day, scrambling up the large buttress that separates the Glaciar Adela and Glaciar Grande Superior (and is essentially an extension of the east ridge of Cerro Adela Sur). I bivied on the top of this buttress, and on March 13 I started hiking up the Glaciar Grande Superior towards Col Trento. In mid March the fresh snow does not consolidate as quickly as in mid-summer, and I quickly found myself post-holing through the snow from the last storm. When I had finally made it across the glacier, I started up the east slopes of Col Trento. This icefall turned out to be much more complicated and time-consuming than I had anticipated, and also the serac hazard on the lower portion was more severe than it had looked from far away - I will definitely try to avoid this icefall in the future!

At the Col Trento I took a brew stop, and then left my bivouac equipment there while I took off to tackle Cerro Adela. The north-south ridges of Cerro Adela were wind-swept, and the good snow conditions were a relief after all the toil up to the Col Trento. It had taken me over six hours to reach Col Trento, and then it took me only an hour and a half from Col Trento to reach all three summits of Cerro Adela - confirmation that, as always, conditions make all the difference. Cerro Adela Sur and Cerro Adela Central were both quite easy, but with cool ambiance, sneaking through a maze of rime mushrooms. Cerro Adela Norte would have also been quite easy, except for one unavoidable step of steep climbing just below the summit - a 6 meter step of vertical to overhanging ice and snow-ice, the last couple meters of which I aided off of ice screws and a snow picket. I think my visit of Cerro Adela Norte might have been only the third ascent of this summit (the first in 1988 by Eduardo Brenner and Silvia FitzPatrick, and the second just last season by Max O'Dell, Agustin Raselli and Juan Raselli). I re-traced my steps over Adela Central and Adela Sur in the evening light, grabbed my bivouac equipment at Col Trento, and then climbed part-way up the north ridge of Cerro El Ñato, to a nice bivouac spot shortly below the summit.

On the 14th, after another uncomfortably cold bivouac, I climbed the remainder of Cerro El Ñato's north ridge, then descended the southeast ridge to Col Doblado. I climbed Cerro El Doblado via the north ridge, and descended the south side towards Cerro Grande. While traversing to Cerro Grande I climbed Punta Paganella by accident, which is a bump so small that it is cute to be named. I climbed Cerro Grande via the north ridge, unfortunately with all my equipment because I planned to descend the east ridge. From the summit of Cerro Grande the upper east ridge didn't look very appealing to down-solo with a heavy pack, so instead I re-traced my route back down the north ridge. I descended back down to Glaciar Grande Superior from the col between Punta Paganella and Cerro El Doblado. Once back down on the glacier I resumed my post-holing exercises, and slogged across the glacier to the top of the same rock buttress I had used on the approach. I scrambled back down the rock buttress, returning to Niponino around 7pm. I was tired and it would soon be dark, but I had accidentally dropped my sunscreen while climbing up to the Col Trento, and I decided I would rather hike to town by headlamp than fry my face any more than it had been already.

Hiking to town by headlamp turned out to be serene and enjoyable, with very bright stars overhead, and the bushes already covered in frost by 11pm. Traversing the Adela Peaks was not very technically difficult, but satisfying to visit a bunch of summits I had always wanted to, and a relaxed, scenic finish to a fantastic Patagonia season. The views are exceptional from every summit along the ridge, and I would highly recommend this traverse, or some variation of it, to climbers who are experienced alpinists but aren't interested in the steep rock of the Torres or Fitz peaks.

The awesome south face of Cerro Torre in the morning light, from the top of the rock buttress where I first bivouaced:

The slopes leading up to the Col Trento turned out to be much worse than they looked from down here:

The east faces of Cerro Adela from the Glaciar Grande Superior:

Looking back at the Fitz Roy peaks while slogging up the Glaciar Grande Superior:

Looking south towards Cerro Solo and Lago Viedma from about half-way up to Col Trento:

Looking east towards the Fitz Roy peaks from most of the way up to Col Trento:

Looking at the Fitz Roy peaks from just below Col Trento:

Looking north at Cerro Adela Central and Cerro Torre from the summit of Cerro Adela Sur:

Self portrait on the summit of Cerro Adela Sur:

On top of Cerro Adela Central, with Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy behind:

Looking towards Cerro Adela Norte while descending from Cerro Adela Central:

The west side of Cerro Adela Norte, which I briefly reconnoitered, searching for a way to avoid the steep ice step below the summit:

Aiding the last couple moves of the steep ice step below Cerro Adela Norte's summit:

On top of Cerro Adela Norte - my third summit of the day, and I believe the third ascent of this summit:

The view of Cerro Rincon and the Marconi Peaks from the summit of Cerro Adela Norte:

Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy from the summit of Cerro Adela Norte - a vista that shows how impressively steep the south face of Cerro Torre is:

The Fitz Roy group from the top of Cerro Adela Norte:

Looking back at Cerro Adela Central from the top of Adela Norte:

The ice step just below the summit of Adela Norte, after rappelling back down:

Evening light on Cerro Torre, Fitz Roy and Aguja Poincenot:

Evening light on the north ridge of Cerro El Ñato - I slept just below the summit:

Morning light on the south ridge of Cerro Adela Sur and Fitz Roy from my bivouac spot:

The friendly sun rising in the east on the 14th:

Sunrise on the Fitz Roy peaks from near the top of Cerro El Ñato:

Cumbre number four - on top of Cerro El Ñato:

Looking southwest over the icecap from the summit of Cerro El Ñato, with Cerro El Doblado below:

The north side of Cerro Grande from the summit of Cerro El Ñato:

The north aspect of Cerro Solo from the summit of Cerro El Ñato:

Looking up the north ridge of Cerro El Doblado from Paso Doblado:

Looking up the southeast ridge of Cerro El Ñato, which I had just descended:

On the north ridge of Cerro El Doblado:

Cumbre number five, on the summit of Cerro El Doblado:

The north ridge of Cerro Grande from the summit of Cerro El Doblado:

Looking back at Cerro El Doblado, Cerro El Ñato and Cerro Adela Sur, from partway up the north ridge of Cerro Grande:

Looking towards Cerro Huemul and Paso del Viento from just below the summit of Cerro Grande:

On the summit of Cerro Grande. I would've held up six fingers, but one hand was holding the camera:

The Fitz Roy peaks and Laguna Torre from the summit of Cerro Grande:

Looking down the east ridge of Cerro Grande, which I declined to descend:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

El Mocho

Last week there was yet another good weather window in the Chalten Massif. However, the window was unfortunately immediately proceeded by a torrential storm, and wet conditions thwarted many climber's attempts. Sarah and I hiked into the Torre Valley with our sights set on some lower summits, that fortunately accumulated less snow during the storm.

On the last day of February we climbed El Mocho via the first ascent route, the Bridwell-Staszewski. Although Sarah and I have very similar rock climbing abilities, my wealth of alpine-climbing experience generally makes me a bit more efficient in the mountains here, and since speed is critical in Patagonian climbing, I generally do most of the leading when we are alpine climbing together here. So, having been a lead-hog recently, when we finally headed up an objective where we could afford a slightly more relaxed pace, it was time to return the favor, and Sarah led us up El Mocho.

Most people who climb on El Mocho don't bother trying to reach the summit, because they can't be bothered to carry their alpine-climbing equipment up the rock pitches. However, the summit ridge of El Mocho has some of the best views in the massif, so we carried up the boots, crampons and ice axes that let us reach the summit. We descended via a direct variation of the Bridwell-Staszewski, the Via Benitiers, which can be easily rappelled with a single 60m rope, by the way.

After a rest day in Niponino, we attempted Aguja Bifida via the northeast buttress, but got off-route early on. We eventually joined the correct line about halfway up Bifida, but had wasted too much time on tricky pitches, and bailed a few pitches after joining the correct route.

The southwest side of Fitz Roy coming out from the clouds:

Sarah low on the Bridwell-Staszewski:

Sarah climbing to the left to avoid the off-width on the Bridwell-Staszewski. I think we should have gone right instead:

The rock quality improved as we got higher on El Mocho:

Sarah leading on the Bridwell-Staszewski:

Climbing on the Bridwell-Staszewski, after the Benitiers variation joins in:

Sarah on the Bridwell-Staszewski:

Sarah leading on the Bridwell-Staszewski, with Cerro Piergiorgio and Cerro Pollone behind:

Sarah on the Bridwell-Staszewski, with Filo del Hombre Sentado and the southwest face of Fitz Roy behind:

Sarah on the last 5th-class pitch of the Bridwell-Staszewski, with Cerro Solo in the background:

Sarah scrambling up to start of El Mocho's summit ridge:

Colin nearing the summit of El Mocho, with the sun just barely poking through the Col de la Mentira. Photo by Sarah Hart:

Sarah coming up the summit ridge of El Mocho:

The summit of El Mocho. The last time I climbed El Mocho (in November 2007) the highest point was on the snow - this time it was the rock at the very western point of El Mocho. I wouldn't be at all surprised if, within the next ten years, the summit of El Mocho becomes just a bare rock slab, like the summit of Aguja Desmochada is now.

Sarah coming up the first pitch we climbed on Aguja Bifida:

Colin on the second pitch we climbed on Bifida. Photo by Sarah Hart:

Sarah low on Bifida:

Sarah climbing on Bifida - at this point we were definitely going the wrong way:

Colin navigating on Bifida. Photo by Sarah Hart:

We may have been off-route and going too slowly, but at least the climbing was nice! Photo by Sarah Hart:

Sarah on Aguja Bifida:

Sarah making a traversing rappel to try to join the correct buttress:

Colin on the northeast buttress of Aguja Bifida, after we finally joined the correct line. Photo by Sarah Hart:

A nice cracked-up slab! Photo by Sarah Hart:

Sarah on the correct line on Aguja Bifida:

Sarah following the last pitch that we climbed on Aguja Bifida:

Cool views of Cerro Domo Blanco, Aguja CAT, and Quatro Dedos: