Wednesday, March 6, 2013

El Mocho

Last week there was yet another good weather window in the Chalten Massif. However, the window was unfortunately immediately proceeded by a torrential storm, and wet conditions thwarted many climber's attempts. Sarah and I hiked into the Torre Valley with our sights set on some lower summits, that fortunately accumulated less snow during the storm.

On the last day of February we climbed El Mocho via the first ascent route, the Bridwell-Staszewski. Although Sarah and I have very similar rock climbing abilities, my wealth of alpine-climbing experience generally makes me a bit more efficient in the mountains here, and since speed is critical in Patagonian climbing, I generally do most of the leading when we are alpine climbing together here. So, having been a lead-hog recently, when we finally headed up an objective where we could afford a slightly more relaxed pace, it was time to return the favor, and Sarah led us up El Mocho.

Most people who climb on El Mocho don't bother trying to reach the summit, because they can't be bothered to carry their alpine-climbing equipment up the rock pitches. However, the summit ridge of El Mocho has some of the best views in the massif, so we carried up the boots, crampons and ice axes that let us reach the summit. We descended via a direct variation of the Bridwell-Staszewski, the Via Benitiers, which can be easily rappelled with a single 60m rope, by the way.

After a rest day in Niponino, we attempted Aguja Bifida via the northeast buttress, but got off-route early on. We eventually joined the correct line about halfway up Bifida, but had wasted too much time on tricky pitches, and bailed a few pitches after joining the correct route.

The southwest side of Fitz Roy coming out from the clouds:

Sarah low on the Bridwell-Staszewski:

Sarah climbing to the left to avoid the off-width on the Bridwell-Staszewski. I think we should have gone right instead:

The rock quality improved as we got higher on El Mocho:

Sarah leading on the Bridwell-Staszewski:

Climbing on the Bridwell-Staszewski, after the Benitiers variation joins in:

Sarah on the Bridwell-Staszewski:

Sarah leading on the Bridwell-Staszewski, with Cerro Piergiorgio and Cerro Pollone behind:

Sarah on the Bridwell-Staszewski, with Filo del Hombre Sentado and the southwest face of Fitz Roy behind:

Sarah on the last 5th-class pitch of the Bridwell-Staszewski, with Cerro Solo in the background:

Sarah scrambling up to start of El Mocho's summit ridge:

Colin nearing the summit of El Mocho, with the sun just barely poking through the Col de la Mentira. Photo by Sarah Hart:

Sarah coming up the summit ridge of El Mocho:

The summit of El Mocho. The last time I climbed El Mocho (in November 2007) the highest point was on the snow - this time it was the rock at the very western point of El Mocho. I wouldn't be at all surprised if, within the next ten years, the summit of El Mocho becomes just a bare rock slab, like the summit of Aguja Desmochada is now.

Sarah coming up the first pitch we climbed on Aguja Bifida:

Colin on the second pitch we climbed on Bifida. Photo by Sarah Hart:

Sarah low on Bifida:

Sarah climbing on Bifida - at this point we were definitely going the wrong way:

Colin navigating on Bifida. Photo by Sarah Hart:

We may have been off-route and going too slowly, but at least the climbing was nice! Photo by Sarah Hart:

Sarah on Aguja Bifida:

Sarah making a traversing rappel to try to join the correct buttress:

Colin on the northeast buttress of Aguja Bifida, after we finally joined the correct line. Photo by Sarah Hart:

A nice cracked-up slab! Photo by Sarah Hart:

Sarah on the correct line on Aguja Bifida:

Sarah following the last pitch that we climbed on Aguja Bifida:

Cool views of Cerro Domo Blanco, Aguja CAT, and Quatro Dedos: