The weather in Patagonia this year has been more like the "Old Patagonia". In recent years there have been periods of extended good weather that, according to the long time Patagonia climbers, were uncharacteristic of the range. This year there have been only a few brief 1-2 day good weather windows with lower wind speeds and no precipitation. In many cases climbers have waited for over a month without getting even one of these marginal opportunities to go climbing.
I arrived on January 4th and within 48 hours caught a cold/flu bug that seems to have infected much of the climbers here in El Chalten. After skipping one marginal window to recuperate, I felt well enough to take advantage of another window on January 17th when Dan Aylward and I hiked just beyond Niponino in the Torre Valley on an attempt to climb the route Exocet on Cerro Standhardt. Unfortunately I would soon find out that I really hadn't fully recovered from the persistent bug that infected me.
|Left to right - Cerro Torre (tallest peak), Torre Egger, Punta Heron, Cerro Standhardt, and the Standhardt Col. Exocet follows the deep chimney system to the right of the summit.|
|Steve climbing the short pitch out of the Standhardt Col on rime covered rock|
|Dan leading the crux rime covered 5.10 rock pitch above the chockstone|
|On the traverse under the East Face towards the Exocet Chimney.|
|Dan leading the first pitch in the Exocet Chimney|
|Dan at the first belay in the Chimney. Note the narrow section in the bottom of the photo.|
|Steve leading the 2nd pitch in the chimney looking down on Dan at the belay.|
|View of Poincenot across the valley from the 2nd belay|
Soon after Dan and I started rappelling it got dark. But with minimal problems with the rope getting hung up we made the dozen or more rappels by headlamp to get onto the glacier and follow the Austrians tracks to our last rappel over the bergschrund.
We reached our tent around 3AM and three hours later our camp was hit by high winds that signaled an abrupt end to our weather window. We tried to sleep a bit more, but the severe tent flapping kept us awake so we packed up in the storm and headed down the glacier.
As we walked down the Torre Glacier the wind gusts of up to 100mph would knock us off our feet. We would have to hunker down low to the ice to wait for a lull between gusts and then run to get as far as we could before being forced to stop again during the next gust. We eventually got off the glacier and into the forest where we were protected from the wind. After a leisurely walk on the Laguna Torre trail we reached Chalten in time to order take out pizza and watch the Seattle Seahawks defeat San Francisco and head for the Superbowl.