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    Chaltén 2015-2016

    By Colin Haley

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    My previous Patagonia climbing season, climbing last year mostly with Marc-André Leclerc and Alex Honnold, had been my most successful yet. Among a bunch of other activity was the first ascent of the Travesía del Oso Buda, the first repeat and direct variation to El Arca de los Vientos, and a nearly complete, one-day Torre Traverse. It was the most successful climbing trip of my life, and I honestly thought that I would never have a more successful Patagonian climbing season.

    One year later, and to my surprise, I can say that this season has been my most successful yet. Of course that is mostly the result of the three big factors (good weather, good conditions, good partner) fortunately coinciding again and again, but I can also say that this year I’ve felt more psychologically strong than in years past. For whatever reason, something clicked for me this season, and I felt, I think, more confident than I ever have before.

    Editor’s note: Rolo Garibotti kicked it off and now Colin Haley concludes our Vida Patagonia coverage for 2015-16 with a collection of excerpts from his incredibly detailed end-of-season report.

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    The 2015–16 Patagonia Season ‘Patagonia d’Or’

    By Rolando “Rolo” Garibotti

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    While many historic climbs occurred this past season, if I were giving awards, my “Patagonia d’Or” would go to a selfless and lasting non-ascent.

    The momentum began in late 2014, with climber Steffan Gregory, who sent me an email: “I’m looking at returning to Chaltén next season and wanted to put some time in giving back. I am curious if you know if there is anything in the works regarding waste management. I’d be willing to write a grant for funding or help with an existing project.”

    Above: Descending from Cerro Fitz Roy we can see Laguna Capri in the center-right portion of the photo. The team chose to build their wilderness latrine at Laguna Capri because of its popularity with hikers and relatively close proximity to El Chaltén. Patagonia, Argentina. Photo: Dörte Pietron

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    The Vida Patagonia

    By Rolando “Rolo” Garibotti

    Rolo and a handful of stoked Patagonia ambassadors and friends will be sharing images and stories of their adventures throughout the Patagonia climbing season. Follow along at patagonia.com/vidapatagonia. If you’re planning to make a climbing trip to the area, tag your photos with #VidaPatagonia to appear on the page.

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    The peaks of the Chaltén Massif are some of the most iconic in the world: jagged spires that shoot toward the sky. They offer everything a climber could desire, from excellent quality granite to uniquely wild rime formations. All this is set in a dramatic environment, with the endless Patagonian steppe to the east and the broad expanse of the Ice Cap, an enormous network of glaciers that drops into Pacific Ocean fjords, to the west.

    The weather in the massif is notoriously challenging and short-tempered, receiving the wrath of the “Roaring Forties,” strong westerly winds that sweep across the southern Pacific. While the region’s fierce reputation deters many, others find it inspiring. During the southern hemisphere summer, climbers from all over the globe convene in El Chaltén for a dose of some of the most fantastic, most intense and most fun alpine climbing on the planet.

    Above: Patagonia 2015. Photo: Mikey Schaefer

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    Unraveling

    By Austin Siadak

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    The pig squeals and groans in protest as I wrestle it back onto my sweaty body. I groan even louder. Seventy pounds of ropes, cams, pins, beaks, portaledges, tents, food, fuel and everything else for a month-long big-wall expedition bulge from my haul bag, digging deep into my spine. I’ve already carried two of these loads more than 15 miles into our base camp. All of us wobble around granite blocks, exhausted, knees buckling under the loads on our backs.

    “Look at this place!” someone shouts excitedly. The Patagonian big walls of Torres del Paine thrust upward from rocky moraines into a cloudless blue, a skyline as jagged as shark’s teeth. Three thousand feet of granite and snow loom steeply on all sides, beckoning in the bright sun. We whoop in joy and disbelief. These walls have consumed our thoughts for more than a year, and to finally stand beneath them is a dream made real. Now we get to climb.

    Above: A year of obsession and planning results in getting here and seeing this. On the road to El Chaltén, Argentina. Patagonia. Photo: Matthew Van Biene

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    #VidaPatagonia – Blockbuster, a new route on the west face of Mojon Rojo

    By Luka Krajnc

    MojonRojo1r, Foto;Tadej Kritelj

    Coming to Patagonia with big goals can be an unpredictable thing. 

    Tadej Krišelj and I found ourselves at the wrong place below the triangular snowfield on Cerro Torres’ east face surrounded by snowflakes, spindrift and the first signs of avalanches. Backing off was more of a lesson than a failure and a few hours later we were squeezing under a dripping boulder bivy surprised by the snowy outcome of the relatively good forecast. The Patagonian weather had lived up to its reputation. 

    The next morning the sun welcomed us with its warmth which was perfect for drying the soaked equipment and regaining some climbing motivation. It became obvious that the good weather window hadn’t disappeared, it just came later than we expected. Walking back to Chaltén in such weather would have been a crime, so we took a rest day at Niponino and switched to backup plan mode.

    Above photo: Tadej Krišelj

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    #VidaPatagonia – Hunger Games at Cerro San Lorenzo

    By Colin Haley

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    After years of climbing exclusively in the Chalten Massif, I have finally exposed myself to another location in the Patagonian Andes. I spent most of November underneath Cerro San Lorenzo, Patagonia’s second-highest peak, with my longtime friend Rob Smith. While El Chalten becomes a bit more like Chamonix every year, the rest of the Patagonian Andes maintain a similar climbing experience as twenty years ago, except that now one can get weather information via satellite phone.

    Editor’s note: Patagonia climbers will once again be sharing photos and stories for the duration of the climbing season in Patagonia. See it all on the Vida Patagonia trip page at Patagonia.com or follow #VidaPatagonia on Instagram.

    On November 10th we hired a pickup truck ride from Gobernador Gregores into Perito Moreno National Park and got dropped off at the end of the road. It took three trips over three days to haul all our gear and food into basecamp—an old hut, known as Puesto San Lorenzo. For the entirety of our three-week stay we did not see a single other human, although we did see tons of guanacos, and saw fresh puma tracks nearly every day that we hiked in the lowlands.

    Above: The main summit of Cerro San Lorenzo. The right skyline is roughly the South African route. Photo: Colin Haley

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    An Excerpt from The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre by Kelly Cordes

    By Kelly Cordes

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    At the wind-scoured southern tip of Argentina, between the vast ice cap and the rolling estepas of Patagonia, rises a 10,262-foot tower of ice and rock named Cerro Torre. Considered by many the most beautiful and compelling mountain in the world, it draws the finest and most devoted technical alpinists from around the globe. Reinhold Messner, the greatest mountaineer in history, called it “a shriek turned to stone.”

    I began work on my book in spring 2012, after the Compressor Route de-bolting controversy. On a broad level, I’d gained a glimpse into Cerro Torre’s complex and layered history during my dozen years as an editor for the American Alpine Journal. On a personal level, I’d grown familiar with the spectacular mountain in January 2007, during my climb with Colin Haley. But once I began my book research, I became intrigued by how the intertwined stories of Cerro Torre—this wholly uncaring, inanimate object—seemed to reflect the best and worst of human ambition, and how often our actions are fueled by the power of belief. My notes and threads related to the main stories could fill several volumes.

    Continue reading "An Excerpt from The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre by Kelly Cordes" »

    FORCE – The story of Mikey Schaefer [Update: Watch the full film]

    By Fitz Cahall


    Update 4/1/15: Previously shown at Patagonia retail stores and film festivals, we’re happy to share the full film with you online. Warning: Contains expletives.

    I’m a homebody. My friend Mikey Schaefer is not. I made a conscious choice to develop a lifelong relationship with my local ranges and the urban environment right out my front door. A climber and photographer by trade, Mikey travels the world and he, much like I did, found a landscape that left its mark on him. It was 15,000 miles away, but, hey, when a place speaks to you, you listen.

    “Patagonia chose me, as much as I chose Patagonia,” Mikey will tell you if you ask. I’d say the same thing about the Sierra and the Cascades.

    Continue reading "FORCE – The story of Mikey Schaefer [Update: Watch the full film]" »

    Here We Go... Another Climbing Season in Patagonia

    By Colin Haley

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    "See you down there, f***er!" writes Ole Lied – a gigantic, hard-drinking, Norwegian party animal. He dresses in dark Scandinavian leather, stuffs his mouth with snus (little tea-bags of chewing tobacco, quite popular in northern Europe), and every now and then works himself into a berserker rage, attacking big, steep mountains, and returning home with beautiful routes as his trophies (such as "Venas Azules" on Torre Egger). Every November, I convene with Ole, some other Norwegian alpinists, and all the other Patagoniacs in El Chalten, Argentina, for another dose of pretty much the most technical, most fantastic, most intense and most fun alpine climbing on the planet – Patagonia's Chalten Massif.

    Editor's note: Colin wrote this piece just before leaving for El Chalten. He’s been down there three weeks now and already has a handful climbs under his belt. Visit patagonia.com/vidapatagonia to keep up with Colin, Mikey Schaefer, Kate Rutherford and more of our friends and ambassadors down in Patagonia. We’ll have live feeds to their Instagram accounts, tweets and blog posts throughout the season.      

    Why does Norway, a country with the population of Washington State, have such a big presence in Patagonian alpinism? Admittedly, the mountains of Patagonia are very difficult, the weather is often very foul, and they certainly have a large amount of dormant Viking badassness in their genes, but I think the real truth is where Ole and his countrymen are coming from.

    [Above: The Torres with Aguja Desmochada in the foreground. All photos by Colin Haley]

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    Climbing Season in Patagonia – Patagonia Vertical, the book

    By Kelly Cordes

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    Guidebooks come in all forms. The kind that I like the most are more than mere guidebooks; they have bits of history, interesting information and stunning photos. They inspire me. By necessity, they can only be written by a true expert. They don’t hold my hand, but they have the essential info, the things you need to know, while giving you the credit of assuming that – in the case of alpine climbing, anyway – you already possess a basic level of competence. Which, seems to me, is fair enough for an alpine climbing destination like the Chaltén Massif in southern Patagonia, Argentina.

    The massif is home to so many stories, so many legends, so much vision from such great climbers from around the globe; some from previous eras, some still active, some just getting started.

    One of Patagonia’s greats is Rolando Garibotti, who grew up in Bariloche, Argentina. He first visited the Chaltén Massif in the mid-80s – back then, El Chaltén had a single house. Garibotti was 15 years old, and he and a friend climbed Aguja Guillaumet. His passion had been ignited, and it’s been burning ever since.

    [Above: One of the last pitches of Cerro Fitz Roy’s Supercanaleta. The summit can be seen in the upper left. Photo: Rolando Garibotti]

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