Monday, February 4, 2013

La Via Funhogs

My good friend Dylan Johnson has managed to briefly escape his responsibilities as a new father and self-employed architect to come down to El Chalten for some alpine adventure. Since he is only here for a whopping two weeks, and since he arrived exactly at the end of the enormous, two-week weather window, he was understandably a bit stressed as to whether or not he would get to go alpine climbing while here. Given these circumstances, we have been watching the weather forecasts like hawks, looking for every possible opportunity to do something in the mountains. Last week we hiked into the mountains to try something off the Glaciar Fitz Roy Norte, but with very high winds when the 3am alarm went off, it ended up being just another hike with heavy packs.

After looking at the weather forecasts on Friday morning we wrote off alpine climbing for the weekend, and figured we'd go bouldering in the afternoon. However, while eating our pre-bouldering empanadas, we watched the skies getting clearer, and rationalized that perhaps the weather forecast was good enough for alpine climbing after all. So, it wasn't until 3pm that we made plans to try Fitz Roy the next day, and not until 6:30pm that we finally started hiking towards Laguna de los Tres. We reached our bivy at Laguna de los Tres at dusk, and lay down for a few hours of sleep.

On Saturday morning we left Laguna de los Tres at 3:45 am, and headed up towards Paso Superior with good snow conditions. Our plan was to climb up to the Col de los Americanos (the col between Aguja de la Silla and Cerro Fitz Roy), and decide at that point if the weather was good enough to try the California Route (aka Funhog Route) on Fitz Roy, or simply Aguja de la Silla as a back-up plan. With a bit of fresh snow from the previous week of stormy weather, and no other climbers around due to the marginal weather forecast, it felt like the "old Patagonia," that I often miss.

At the Col de los Americanos it was chilly and definitely windy, but not unreasonably windy, so we decided to stick with Plan A, and headed up the California Route. The California Route is among the easiest routes on Fitz Roy, and ended up being the perfect route choice for the day. I think it was the biggest objective we could've succeeded on that day, considering the wind and cold. The Supercanaleta could've also been reasonable in such weather, but is currently in terrible condition.

The climbing on the California route is mostly very moderate, with only a few pitches of mid-5.10. But, with the weather conditions preventing us from ever donning rock shoes, we still eagerly pulled on gear here and there. We finally reached the summit a bit after 7pm, and eager to get off the mountain before the winds increased, headed down immediately. The descent fortunately went quite smoothly, and at 3:15, just a bit under 24 hours after departing, we reached our tent back at Laguna de los Tres. A great climb, and particularly satisfying to have snuck it in to a marginal window!

Colin harnessing up at the bergschrund below La Brecha de los Italianos, with an awesome sunrise over Lago Viedma. Photo by Dylan Johnson:

Dylan climbing up to La Brecha de los Italianos, via the left-hand route, with Laguna de los Tres far below:

Dylan in some 4th-class mixed terrain below La Brecha de los Italianos:

Dylan climbing 4th-class terrain from La Brecha up to La Silla:

Dylan climbing up to the Col de los Americanos, with La Brecha behind:

Dylan low on the California route:

Colin doing some low-angle aid climbing low on the California route. Photo by Dylan Johnson:

Dylan leading a short squeeze-chimney:

Dylan mid-route, with Cerro Domo Blanco in the background:

Dylan nearing the junction with the Supercanaleta:

Dylan reaching the junction with the Supercanaleta:

Colin climbing a little squeeze chimney near the top of the Supercanaleta. Photo by Dylan Johnson:

Colin happily belaying on the upper portion of the Supercanaleta. Photo by Dylan Johnson:

Dylan high on the Supercanaleta, with the Torres behind:

Dylan near the top of the Supercanaleta, as clouds engulf the Pollone group:

Colin leading the last hard pitch of the Supercanaleta. Photo by Dylan Johnson:

Dylan at a spectacular belay near the top of the Supercanaleta:

Colin on 3rd-class terrain above the top of the Supercanaleta. Photo by Dylan Johnson:

Dylan nearing the summit:

On top of Fitz! Dylan's first time, and now my eighth!