Climbing Season in Patagonia - La Via Funhogs
By Colin Haley
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.
Every year, Patagonia ambassadors, along with climbers from around the world, visit the small town of El Chalten in Argentina. Their goal: climb huge granite peaks in the Patagonia region, some of the most challenging in the world. Follow the updates from our ambassadors and friends on these Patagonia channels and #vidapatagonia:
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.
[Above: Colin harnessing up at the bergschrund below La Brecha de los Italianos, with an awesome sunrise over Lago Viedma. Photo: Dylan Johnson]
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!
Dylan climbing up to La Brecha de los Italianos, via the left-hand route, with Laguna de los Tres far below. All photos by Colin Haley, except where noted.
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: 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: Dylan Johnson
Colin happily belaying on the upper portion of the Supercanaleta. Photo: 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: 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: Dylan Johnson
Dylan nearing the summit.
On top of Fitz! Dylan's first time, and now my eighth!
Patagonia ambassador Colin Haley grew up hiking, skiing and climbing in the rugged Cascade Mountains where he developed a love of mountain adventure and an indifference to foul weather. His climbing is focused on the mountains of Alaska and Patagonia, where he’s drawn to the steepest alpine faces.
This report was first posted February 4, 2013 on Colin's personal blog, Skagit Alpinism.
If the California Route on Fitz Roy sounds familiar, it's because Patagonia's founder Yvon Chouinard made the first ascent in 1968 with his friends Doug Tompkins, Dick Dorworth, Chris Jones and filmmaker Lito Tejada-Flores. The climb became the inspiration for the name of our company, it also made for a great film.
[Mountain of Storms, a film by Lito Tejada-Flores.]
This is the flag Yvon and crew held aloft on the summit of Fitz Roy. It's now displayed in the Patagonia HQ reception area.
Finally, in other #vidapatagonia news, Kelly Cordes will be giving a slide show presentation at Patagonia Buenos Aires on February 26. Sign up to attend if you happen to be in town or know somebody who lives there. There will surely be lots of laughs.
El próximo martes 26 de febrero nos visita Kelly Cordes, histórico embajador de Patagonia. Kelly viene de vuelta de hacer temporada en el Chaltén. Vendrá a contarnos sobre esta y otras temporadas más, su historia y su vida como escalador. Si les interesa venir a escucharlo pueden registrarse acá > https://eventioz.com.ar/kellyenbuenosaires
[Kelly brushes up in Yosemite. Photo: Jeff Johnson]