Stu McAleese's thoughts on Cerro Torre
4 Feb 2013
On the 13th January Dave Turnbull, Dan Donovan and myself climbed Cerro Torre in Patagonia. The climb involved a 4.5 day round trip from Chalten, during a great 4-day weather window. We climbed the Ragni route on the West face of Cerro Torre, which was in great condition this year.
Day 1 was a hike into the Torre Valley with a bivouac at Niponeno and Day 2 involved a climb over Col Standhardt then down to the West Face of Cerro Torre above the Patagonian Ice Cap. The team then had to climb up through snow and mixed climbing terrain to another bivouac just under the Col Esperanza.
With an early start we climbed the Ragni route on Day 3, reaching the summit around 2pm. The descent involved abseiling the route on mainly ice threads returning to the bivouac around 7pm.
Day 4 was the trek out via the Ice cap, long and at times with complex route finding down the glaciers toward the end. We decided to stay the fourth night in a little Mountain hut called Piedra de fraile, returning to Chalten in the morning.
The Ragni route on Cerro Torre is known for its difficult rime and ice flutings, however this year there was little rime and we climbed excellent ice for most of the route and the last pitch involved climbing the summit mushroom through an ice tunnel! With afternoon temps rising in the sun a speedy descent was necessary. Amazing climbing on the route with stunning ice formations everywhere, mixed terrain in the middle and 90 degree ice on the Elmo, Headwall and final pitch. We enjoyed the summit for a while in perfect weather with little or no wind, and views all the way over the Ice cap on one side and Fitzroy on the other - totally amazing!
Difficult, long approaches to the West face of Cerro Torre, carrying a minimal amount of food made the adventure a huge undertaking and a serious climb. We all felt it on arrival back in Chalten.
We were all relieved that we had put in plenty of training prior to the trip but were all still totally exhausted (not to mention a little weathered).
Everything seem to fall in place. A strong team, up to date beta on the approach and climb, a great weather forecast and excellent conditions on the climb, all made climbing Cerro Torre amazing!