The last several weeks delivered mostly all bad weather to the Chalten region. On one of a few slightly better days, Tommy Caldwell and I headed out to climb the Brenner Ridge on Aguja Guillaumet. Guillaumet is one of the smallest, most accessible of the spires here, but nonetheless it was fun to get out climbing in the mountains.
During the last week, however, there has been a bunch of dry weather. During the first half of this window it was still quite windy, and I teamed up on with fellow Washingtonians Mikey Schaefer and Jens Holsten to climb a new route on Mermoz that Mikey had scoped last year and they had attempted a couple weeks earlier in bad weather. Our route, "Jardines Japoneses," (650m AI4 M5 5.10 A1) climbs a very obvious ice and mixed gully on the east face of Mermoz, that joins the Argentine route on the north ridge, and follows the Argentine route to the summit. It had very enjoyable climbing, with all the good alpine ingredients: some ice climbing, some scrappy mixed climbing, some pendulums and makeshift aid climbing, and finally some rock climbing on excellent granite. I took my third-ever alpine lead fall when a snow mushroom I was standing on collapsed. I had fortunately just placed a good camalot, and the fall was down a clean slab. The route is a good addition to the range because it is climbable in conditions less-than-ideal for rock climbing (after you've climbed the Whillans on Poincenot, Amy on Guillaumet, Todo O Nada on Mocho and Exocet on Standhardt you start to run out of options for climbing in boots during mediocre weather). We made the ascent in one long day round-trip from Laguna de los Tres (Dec. 28), slowed down quite a bit on the descent by high winds.
During the later half of the recent good weather it was much calmer, and extremely warm. Lacking a good plan or partner, I hiked up the Torre Valley with vague soloing plans. At Niponino, however, an Italian friend, Andrea, asked if I would climb together, and we made last-minute plans to climb the Kearney-Harrington route on Aguja St. Exupery. We made the ascent in a long day round-trip from Niponino, losing a lot of time by accidentally climbing a scary six-pitch variation at the start called "Los Angelitos."
Tommy leading an excellent hands-to-fists pitch on the Brenner Ridge.
Tommy on the Brenner Ridge.
Tommy atop the rarely-climbed V1 boulder problem of Guillaumet's summit.
Mikey leading on the third pitch of Jardines Japoneses.
Colin leading a super-aesthetic, super-fun and super-easy AI3 chimney-runnel pitch on Jardines Japoneses. Photo by Mikey Schaefer.
The alpine trickery: Mikey making a lower-out from a pendulum point while Jens belays.
Jens and Mikey on Jardines Japoneses.
Colin doing some make-shift aid climbing a couple pitches below the junction with the Argentine route. Photo by Mikey Schaefer.
Jens leading excellent granite on the upper Argentine route.
Jens on the summit of Aguja Mermoz. Photo by Mikey Schaefer.
Colin rappelling in very windy conditions. Photo by Mikey Schaefer.
The line of Jardines Japoneses (650m AI4 M5 5.10 A1), to it's junction with the Argentine route, which is hidden behind the right skyline. Photo by Mikey Schaefer.
Colin making a pendulum on the not-recommended "Los Angelitos" variation to the Kearney-Harringon, on Aguja St. Exupery. Photo by Andrea.
Andrea is a pretty laid-back guy to climb with. Following an A1 corner of the original Buscaini route.
Colin on the upper part of the same corner system near the summit of Aguja St. Exupery. Photo by Andrea.