Sunday, March 11, 2012

Goretta Pillar, Mt Fitzroy

Six weeks of alpine climbing in Patagonia has really taken its toll on me mentally and physically. I think I lost a fair bit of psych at around 5 weeks even though we had only done three major outings into the mountains. All I wanted was to go sport climbing and clip bolts with minimal time spent on approaching the cliffs. Another weather window approached and it would be the last for the trip so we packed our bags and made plans for one more route anyway. After our great time on Guillaumet we knew we wanted to do something north/northwest facing that would be relatively free of ice. The shortlist of routes for the final foray was the northwest ridge of Mt Fitzroy (Afanasieff), the Kearney-Knight or Mate, Porro y Todo los Demas, both on the Goretta Pillar of Mt Fitzroy. We ended up choosing Mate, Porro y Todo los Demas as the approach to the Kearney-Knight was up a mixed gully on the east side most likely out of condition and the Afanasieff is described as a really long scramble without much real climbing (despite summiting Fitzroy, which would have been awesome). We had also had really good reviews from a semi-local climber who had done the route previously.
Our topo for the route.
Day 1:
We left El Chalten around 10am starting the same approach as for when we climbed Guillaumet (short taxi ride, 2hr flat walk then 2 hrs straight up a hill to the Piedra Negra bivvy). From Piedra Negra we continued up to a pass (Paso Cuadrado) from where we could drop down to a glacier on the northwest side of the Fitzroy group of peaks. I think my psych was at its lowest point here knowing that once we dropped down to the glacier that would mean I would eventually have to walk back up!). Once down to the glacier we started walking along its edge skirting an ice fall until we could see the steep snow slope that led to an outcrop of rock/scree which would be our bivvy for the night a few hundred meters below the start of the route. We arrived after dark and exhausted.

Day 2:
Up before light again although this time it was later than usual, around 5:30am, as its not light till 7am at the moment (Autumn has arrived). The few hundred meters to the start of the route seemed to take forever up frozen hard snow, sections of which we had to front point with our aluminium crampons and single ice axe. It was mid morning before we started the actual rock climbing. Owen led the first seven pitches and I jugged with the heavy back pack we had loaded up with all our bivvy gear and food. We had left our boots and ice axes at the base of the rock to reduce weight (We took our approach shoes and climbing shoes on the route). The first seven pitches were up a perfect right facing dihedral. I was happy when I could hand over the back pack to Owen and finally do some climbing! Six pitches later we made it to a good bivvy spot just before dark and settled down melting snow and eating freeze dried meals.
Owen leading up the dihedral near the beginning of the route.
Owen jumaring in the afternoon.
Day 3:
An awesome clear view greeted us in the morning which was a relief as the evening before had started to get a bit cloudy. By the time it was light enough to see we had packed up and melted a small amount of water. Seven long pitches and one short led to the summit of the Goretta Pillar. Owen took the first three and the last short pitch while I took the middle four. From the top of the pillar you could look over and see Mt Fitzroy not too far away. It was an idea that if we had made it to the Goretta pillar summit with enough time, and the conditions were good, we would rappel down off the south side of the pillar and climb the four pitches and blocky scramble to the Fitzroy summit. We were surrounded by cloud, tired and had a long way to go getting down so we bailed on that idea. It took the entire afternoon to rappel down the north side of the pillar and back down to where we had stashed our boots and ice axes. The steep snow slope leading down to the bivvy was a bit softer late in the day compared to when we came up so it was a touch easier although there was long sections we spent facing the slope down climbing. We arrived back at the first bivvy spot an hour or two after dark.
Morning view from our bivvy 13 pitches up.
Owen getting ready for another big day.
Owen leading in the morning of the third day.
Owen jumaring later in the morning on the third day.
Owen:  "Are we there yet!"
Summit photo!
Owen next to the summit block with Mt Fitzroy in the clouds behind.
A natural window near the base of the north side of the Goretta Pillar.
Day 4:
We slept in since we would have plenty of time to get back to El Chalten which means we were up at first light and not before. This day was the exact reverse of day 1 except it was easier because the majority of it was downhill and we knew good food and a real bed awaited. We made it back to town by 5:30pm and stuffed ourselves on one of the huge Argentinean steaks, potatoes, salad, bread and a chocolate brownie with ice cream for dessert.
Overview. Red is our line of ascent, green descent. Photo from our bivvy in the morning of the fourth day.
Mate, Porro y Todo was definitely the best rock route we did during the trip although I am totally over the approaches here. It seems that for a little bit of climbing in Patagonia you spend way too much time walking up hills, glaciers or steep snow/ice slopes (with a heavy pack!). I am looking forward to getting to Spain in a week where I can do a five minute walk, tie straight in and start climbing!


Rob Wall said...

Mate the blog is awesome. Climbing with Owen for 5 weeks will burn anyone. The climbing on that last route looks sensational! Have fun in Spain. I'll be at Kalbarri after easter :)
Rob Wall.

Logan Barber said...

Cheers Rob. Have a great time in Kalbarri!

Scott said...

Sweet Loges!

Your blog is always a great read - well written!

See you back in Oz mate when we both run out of money again!