New Zealand Alpine Team Expedition
Cerro Torre & Torre Egger 10th November – 20th December 2015
Jono Clarke, Daniel Joll, Steve Fortune
For a video of the trip check out https://youtu.be/JzUyIJDHgCI
Patagonia 2015 the first three weeks. Ascents of El Mocho, St Exupery and Guillaumet. - Update by Daniel Joll
10 years ago I made my first trip to Patagonia. At the time we climbed the North Tower of Paine, then moved over to the Fitz Roy region and climbed the Brenna Ridge on Guillaumet. We climbed the ridge only and didn’t continue onto the summit due to not having crampons or an ice axe with us, having left these half way down the ridge finding our pack to heavy to lead with. The guy I was climbing with refused to second with a pack so I was forced to lead with it. After a couple of pitches it got to much and I left it behind. It was full of bivy gear, boots, crampons and ice axes. At the time the Brenna ridge ascent took us 3 days. One to approach, one to climb and descend the ridge with another day to walk back over to Paso Superioer and down to Rio Blanco. It felt like a real adventure. At the time I could not have conceived how I would one day repeat this route.
Skip forward ten years and Steve Fortune, Jono Clarke and myself are currently three weeks into a five week trip to Patagonia. The trip has been going well with one attempt on the West Face of Cerro Torre where tough conditions on the mushroom pitches turned us around, followed up with successful ascents of El Mocho via, Voie Des Benditiers and Saint Exupery via Chiaro Di Luna. Much has changed but the major difference to ten years ago is I am now climbing with good friends who know their craft. No more trips with random strangers. Our plan to bring a group of skilled climbers together through the NZ Alpine team is starting to pay dividends with many of the guys upping their skills through regular climbing with each other. This in turn forms stronger friendships and more efficient climbing partnerships leading to more successful ascents.
Two days ago during a short window of nice weather Steve Fortune and myself took the opportunity to go back to the Brenna Ridge and this time climb to the summit of Guillaumet. It was interesting to re live the experience of ten years ago. What was once a great adventure was now a simple half day trip from town! We hiked in from the road early in the morning reaching the base of the route in good time. Roping up we simu climbed the 500 odd meters of rock climbing with difficulties up to 6b or grade 20 in NZ grading. Arriving at the crux pitch I recalled the memory of struggling to jam my way up the right leaning hand crack 10 years before. This time I only carried a few cams and a handful of nuts. I arrived at the top of the 50m pitch not even placing any of my hand sized cams. Its funny what the passage of time does. Back then the pitch felt sand bagged and desperate. This time it felt relaxed and enjoyable requiring just a few pieces of protection placed more out of habit rather than necessity. It was nice to feel the improvement that experience brings. Steve and myself arrived at the summit in under three hours and were back at the road end approx 13 hours after starting. It was the second time I have day tripped a Patagonian peak from town. However the first time it has taken less than 24 hours. My last outing with Owen Davis the year before took us around 35 hours to climb Rafael in a town to town push. To put some context into day tripping a peak from town it usually involves between 20-40km of walking and over 2000 vertical meters of ascent. For the climb of Guillaumet we spent move of our time walking in and out but this was due to the fact we could move quickly across the technical part of the route.
With two weeks left to go Jono, Steve and myself will hopefully get one or two more opportunities to climb something in the mountains of Patagonia before heading home. However with Patagonian weather you never know. Our main objective for the trip an ascent of Torre Egger still awaits. Conditions have improved on our chosen route and we have our gear in place near the base of the climb ready to go in the next fine spell.
Macpac (clothing, packs, sleeping bags and tents), Jetboil (cooking stoves), Tendon Ropes, Gu Energy, Salewa footwear. Financial support for this expedition has also come from the NZ Alpine Team and the NZAC Expedition Fund.
ObjectivesAscents of the East Face of Torre Egger and Corkscrew on the SE Ridge of Cerro Torre,
El Chalten is now an established town with accommodation, climbing shops, groceries, and restaurants. There is wifi and internet cafes, and weather forecasting is available (see www.pataclimb.com/knowledge/cheltenweather.html). The weather is general poor in the mountains, with short clearances in which to climb. It makes sense to stay in comfort in El Chalten, watch the forecast and move quickly on an objective once the weather starts to clear. To make this easier, you can stash your climbing equipment at a high bivvy site (eg Noruegos or Passo Superior) and walk in lighter. So tactically it’s good to have multiple objectives accessed from this single base. For this expedition we will be basing our gear stash under the East Face of Cerro Torre at Noruegos a small rock bivy on the edge of the glacier. This is a great spot to access the SE Ridge of Cerro Torre and the East Face of Torre Egger.
A mix of free climbing, ice climbing and aid climbing. The routes we are aiming for on this trip will require a wide range of climbing skills and approaches. Everything from short fixing, simul climbing, soloing and regular pitched climbing.
Travel Tips for Argentina
At the time of travel the official exchange rate was around 12 Peso - 1 USD. Black market rates were between 13 - 14 Peso per 1 USD
Or if your looking for a moderately priced hotel, Hotel Bauen http://www.bauenhotel.com.ar/ a room with breakfast was around $50 NZD for the night or 440 peso. Central and clean.
In El Chalten we spend our time at Hostel Aylen Aike. This is one of the best hostels in Chalten if your a climber. Sabestian the owner keeps a very clean and tidy hostel, plus he is a climber and really goes out of his way to look after the visiting climbers. You will find other teams from all over the world here and its a great place to spend your bad weather days next to the fire with a bottle of wine from his collection. You can contact Sabestian via fb or email. Its good to book ahead if you have a big team. You can find Aylen Aike on FB and its good to book in advance if you want to stay in the climbers room or as Sebestian likes to call it the "Mother Fuckers Room" A five week stay cost approx 625 USD
If your looking for the best steak house in Palermo or for that matter one of the best in Buenos Aires dont forget to check out La Cabrera http://www.parrillalacabrera.com.ar/ you can book online.
Taxi's will usually rip you off if you give them the chance in Buenos Aires, we have fallen for most of the common scams ie no meter running and then on arrival they demand a huge fee our worst a 500 peso bill for a short ride from the airport to our hotel. So check that the taxi is a proper on i.e radio taxi, check they have a working meter and make sure it is on.
The Gear List has been made up for a three man team with the plan of climbing a mix of rock and ice routes.
For this trip we are staying in town with our gear stashed under our planned objectives.
- Boil in a bag meals, 6 double size meals per person
- Gu Shots x 40 per person
- Gu Chomps 20 packets per person
- Power Bars x 30 per person make sure they are ones that don't freeze to easily
- Gu Brew Tabs x 50 per person
This will give us enough climbing food for two – three full attempts, 20 – 60 hours each. For any one day attempts where we are just learning the route etc or making the most of a short weather window we will use other food from town. As of the 2014 season there was little good climbing specific food available to buy in town, you can however get a most other food there including things like instant mash for taking on the mountain.
- 2 x 9.7mm 60m rope for jummaring and short fixing. We use Tendon Master Ropes 9.7mm ropes
- 2 x half ropes 60m. We use Tendon Master Half Ropes
- 1 x cragging rope for town 60m is fine.
- 12x quickdraws for town cragging.
- 20m of 6mm prussic cord for fixing anchors. You can buy cord in town but it is expensive.
- Main climbing crampons for ice climbing
- 1 x light weight aluminium alpine climbing crampon
- 2 x ice axe and or mixed climbing tools per person with hammers
- 1 x light weight walking axe
- 1 x small file for sharpening crampons / picks
- 1 x spare pick for ice tools.
- 1 x allen key or spanner for tightening axes
- 1 x travel bag for crampons
- 12 light weight 60cm extendable quick draws
- 2 x 120cm light weight spectra sewn sling
- Pitons (approx 6, 3 each of knife blades and angles)
- 2 x auto locking screw gate style biners for atc and fixing anchors per person.
- 2 x light weight screw gates per person
- 5 x old snap locks per person for leaving on abseils on the route.
- 1 x atc guide style belay device per person
- 2 x jummars
- 2 x daisy chain or safety sling per person small spectra style light ones
- 2 x alpine light weight etrier per person (or foot loops for 2nds)
- 1 x helmet per person light under 400g
- 1 x climbing harness per person (needs to weigh less than 350g)
- 1 x climbing harness for cragging in town
- 2 x sets of wires number 1 – 8 + 1 set rps & offsets
- Triple set of cams 0-4 camalots (this allows us to have gear stashed in two seperate climbing locations)
- 1 x light weight biner per cam
- 12 x ice screws for team, 2 long, 8 med 2 short, Petzl light weight screws
- Ice screw sharpener
- 1 x V threader per person
- Umbilicales for attaching ice axes to harness
- Ice Clippers for harness
- Ice axe wings
- 2 x snow pickets
- 3 yates screamers
- 1 x chalk bag per person
- 1 x spare pot of chalk
- Crack climbing gloves.
- 1 x sky hook + 1 x talon + 1 x copperhead
- 1 x fifi hook per person
- 2 x light weight alpine aiders
- 2 x grigri. Adapted for self belay
- 3 x tibloc
- 1 x micro traction
- 1 x monical or similar binoculars [optional]
Route bivvy gear:
- 1 x shovel (light weight) [optional]
- 1 x double bivvy bag (Macpac prototype), 1 x single bivy bag Macpac Alpine Cocoon
- 2 x double sleeping bag one winter weight and one summer weight (Macpac prototypes)
- Bothy Bag 3 person Rab Sil Bothy
- Mat (3/4 Z rest with clip in point)
- 2 x 120L Macpac Duffle bags for travel
- 1 x 35 - 45 L climbing pack (under 600g) NZAT Macpac Pursuit 40
- 1 x 1L water bottle per person
- 2 x 1L bladders per person
- 1 x 1.5L piss bottle
- 1 x 10L water bladder
- 1 x pen + notebook per person
- 1 Jetboil 800ml variety (Gas bought in El Chalten)
- 1 spoon per person
- Drybags for gear at least five large ones per person. (and stashing kit at high bivvy sites)
- Sat Phone is handy for getting up to date forecasts while away in the mountains and emergencies. You can now get txt message forecasts direct to your sat phone from NOA.
- Adapted Macpac Olympus Tent fly no inner. We had the sides of this extended so that they all reach the ground with snow flaps. We use this at our rock bivy for shelter in bad weather. We leave the inner behind to save weight.
- 1 x leatherman multi tool per two people
- 1 x light climbing knife i.e. petzl knife that can attach to harness one per person
- 1 x long flexible drinking straw per person for use on route and glaciers each person, 30cm or longer.
- Lighters, gas, soap, other cooking supplies can be brought in town.
- 1 x silk sleeping bag liner per person
- 1 x small dry bag for top of pack per person
- Stuff sack for organising clothing or a Macpac cram sack
- 1 x alpine boot mid weight. Good for ice climbing but light enough to take on rock climbs. Salewa Pro Series
- 1 x pair jandles per person
- 1 x running or town shoe
- 1 x pair approach shoes per person Salewa Mtn Trainer
- 1 x spare laces for climbing boots per person
- 1 x tight fitting rock shoe per person for sport climbing in town.
- 2 x climbing shoe that can fit a mid weight sock snugly per person. Taking two pairs of mountain rock shoes is so you have have two fully stocked stashes in different parts of the mountain range.
- 1 x spare laces for climbing shoe per person
- Lube for boot zippers
- Wax or waterproof boots before departure
- Walking poles
Clothing: (all items for each person)
- 1 x Pro Thermal Leggings Macpac
- 1 x Pro Thermal Hoody Macpac
- 1 x Fitz Roy Soft Shell Pants
- 1 x Fitz Roy Soft Shell Jacket
- 6 x sports style underwear
- 2 x mid weight sock Macpac Tech Ski Socks
- 2 x thin sock (running, approach walks) Macpac Fast Hiker Sock
- 1 x thick sock (Bivvy's) Macpac Expedition Sock
- 1 x travel sock
- 1 x Macpac Sonic Windshirt
- 1 x Macpac Energy Fleece
- 1 x Macpac Supanova light weight down jacket
- 2 x Macpac Dash gloves
- 2 x Macpac Stretch Fleece gloves
- 1 x waterproof shell to go over the wind stopper gloves if it starts to rain.
- 2 x warm water proof gloves Macpac Powder glove
- 1 x warm mitt is useful if going early season and doing ice routes.
- 1 x pair of light walking pants Macpac Trecker Pants
- 1 x causal travel pants
- 2 x tee shirts causal
- 1 x small travel towel
- 1 x sun hat with neck protection
- 2 x sun glasses with neck strap and cleaning case, nose cover could be useful
- 1 x snow googles
- 1 x thin thermol balaclava
- 1 x face mask
- 2 x short sleeve thermal shirt / sports top Macpac Warp range
- 2 x long sleeve thermal shirt / sports top Macpac Warp range
- 1 x silk or non cotton long sleeve shirt for climbing on hot days / approach walks, not for use on actual route
- 1 x synthetic Macpac Pulsar Jacket
- 1 x light weight rain coat, Macpac prototype
- 1 x light weight rain pants Macpac prototype
- Shoe Gu for shoe repair
- Aqua seal for clothing repair
- Bees wax for keeping gloves and boots waterproof
- Sewing kit
- In town warm jacket/fleece. Macpac Mountain Hoody Fleece It often ends up that you leave all your climbing gear at a high camp so its good to have a spare fleece and something like a wind shirt as spare tops for walk ins and spending time in town
General Equipment: (for each individual person)
- 1 x medium size tube of sun block
- 1 x re usable mini sun block case
- 1 x lip balm with sting so it can hang around your neck
- Baby wipes as many as you feel you need (these can be purchased in El Chalten if space is tight when packing)
- 1 x personal first aid kit, you can buy basic pain medication in town, however bring any specific strong pain medication you think might be necessary plus general antibiotic.
- 1 x small bottle of detol / hand sanitiser
- 2 x rolls of dental floss
- 1 x tooth paste
- 1 x small tooth brush
- 1 x tube of mouth ulcer gel
- 1 x tube of canastine style unti fungle cream
- 1 x small travel alarm clock
- 1 x alpine climbing watch with altitude and barometer (need 1 between 2 minimum)
- 1 x compass
- 1 x area topo map (can buy El Chalten)
- 2 x head lamps and 2 sets of spare batteries
- 1 x digital camera + spare memory card if required
- Charger for digital camera
- Spare camera batteries and memory cards
- Spare batteries watch
- Spare batteries travel alarm
- Personal toiletries
- Vitamin supplements
- No power adaptors needed for Argentina as they use the same three pin plug as NZ.
- Eye patch & ear plugs for bivvys