Patagonia – February 2011

Here are some pictures from our trip to Patagonia in February 2011. We summitted two peaks this trip – the Aguja Guillaumet and the Torre de la Media Luna. We climbed the Guillaumet via the Brenner ridge and the Media Luna via Ruby y Azul route.

This trip was Olli’s first time and my second time in Patagonia. I was in El Chalten for the first time with Lauri in February 2007. That trip we climbed the Couloir Amy on Guillaumet. We also tried the Franco-Argentine route on Fitz Roy too many times. On our best try in 2007 we got as far as 1o pitches up the route proper. We were three times in the Italian Breche and we hiked up to Paso Superior four times. We tried the Franco twice in this 2011 trip, too, and twice we turned back before reaching the Breche. We thought about trying it for the third time, too, but the route seems to get very crowded with good weather. As soon as we learned there were going to be at least 10 people on the route at the same time we opted for other objectives. We’ve never been too big fans of queuing and we reasoned it would be much more fun actually summiting something.

In February 2011 there were two long spells of good weather in El Chalten. We missed the first five day weather window because I was sick but in the second window we climbed the Aguja Guillaumet on February 19th and the Media Luna on February 21st. Both these routes are short routes by Patagonian standards. In Patagonia a route with 350m of vertical gain and 500m of climbing length is a short route. On the way up to Media Luna I even joked about going sport climbing.

Aguja Guillaumet: Brenner Ridge (6b, 350m) – February 19th, 2011

The Guillaumet can be approached either via Paso Superior in 7 hrs or via Piedras Frailes in 3 hrs. The Brenner ridge is a first class route if you like rock climbing on stellar granite.

On the summit of Guillaumet we decided to try the Media Luna next. It was not in the original plan but it proved to be a very good decision. Our original plan was to continue to the Aguja Mermoz via the traverse but the problem was that if we did that we’d run out of time. By going ahead we would have bivied and it would have cost us our chance of visiting the Torre Valley. We had a little chat at the summit and we agreed it would the time to widen the perspective. Although I had hiked six times up to Paso Superior and I had spent more than 30 days in El Chalten I had never climbed anything in the Torre Valley.

In the summit of Guillaumet we also knew we had to hike back to El Chalten in between these two routes. We knew it was going to be 40 km of walking and 1500 vertical meters both down and up before we could climb again. We had ran out of food in Paso Superior so we really had no choice of doing any short cuts. But we didn’t mind this. We knew that Patagonia is lot of approaching and we felt strong enough to cope with it.

Torre de la Media Luna: Ruby y Azul (6c, 350m) – February 21st, 2011

The Media Luna is all about splitter cracks! The Ruby y Azul route is roughly the same length but a lot more sustained compared to the Brenner ridge on Guillaumet. Also, it might be a good idea to carry a Camalot #4 for the crux pitch on the Ruby y Azul. We had only one #3 and it was way too small for aiding the splitter dihedral. Olli said that freeing the 6c fist crack felt like freeing any 7b in Bohuslän. But it was not about the grades – we very just very very tired of all the walking.

This was the first time hiking to the Niponino for both of us. It takes about 7-8 hours from El Chalten to the the Niponino and 1-2 hours more to the bottom of the route if you do it the first time at a leisury pace. We’ve heard it can be done few hours faster if you’ve done it before. Sebastian – the owner of the Aylen Aike hostel – told us a legend of a strong Viking climber who had done the 25 km hike in 6 hours both ways. The first 25 km he ran uphill with light gear and the second 25 km he ran downhill carrying two back packs…

El Chalten: February 2nd to February 18th, 2011

Speaking about people the final set of pictures will containg some pics with more people and less summits. This all was before the second spell of good weather. After summiting Media Luna we didn’t have much time left. We arrived in El Chalten at 4 PM on 22nd and our plane was about to leave El Calafate at noon 23rd. We had time for packing our gear, drinking some beers in the evening and taking the minibus to the airport in the morning but that’s about it.

We had no epics on the three day air journey this year. We had chosen LAN Argentina for our first national flight segment from El Calafate to Buenos Aires so we had no problems with our flights. Later we heard almost everyone had denied boarding for their national flights due to Aerolinas Argentinas and Austral having a strike. They all missed their overseas flights… In 2007 we got denied boarning in Sao Paulo because Aerolinas Argentinas had delayed flights. Staying in 5 star hotels is ok if someone else is paying but arriving home in time is much better. We felt lucky since this time the only problem we had was with Lufthansa. They didn’t have any onboard entertainment on their overseas flight from Sao Paulo to Frankfurt. But it was no real problem. We both slept the whole way with no problems at all. A good tip for the future is to avoid flying with Aerolinas Argentinas or Austral.

Another good trip for climbers is Sebastian’s hostel. The Aylen Aike hostel is a very nice place to spend some time with other climbers and friendly staff. But remember – I gave you this tip. If the house is full you sleep outdoors and I sleep indoors! =)

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