I have returned to El Chalten, in Argentine Patagonia, for hopefully some more great climbing in the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre massifs. As seems to be my un-breakable curse, I arrived just a bit too late to take full advantage of a weather window. Fortunately, at least this year the weather window that I missed was not as spectacular as the ones I missed the past few years.
I hiked into the Torre Valley on the best weather day, Monday, Nov. 7, and on Tuesday made an attempt on Cerro Pollone, via its original South Face route. The route was first climbed by an Argentine team in February 1949, and in the 62 years since it has not been repeated (at least as far as Patagonia climbing historian Rolando Garibotti is aware). Cerro Pollone itself did not even see a second ascent until last February, when Blake Herrington and Scott Bennett reached the summit via the West Pillar.
The South Face route on Cerro Pollone is not difficult however (at least until the last 30 meters), and I figured that even alone it would make a nice mellow warm-up for the Patagonia climbing season. I left the Niponino bivouac at 4:30 am on Tuesday, and with pretty good snow conditions, made good time up the icefall at the head of the Torre Valley to the base of Cerro Pollone’s South Face.
The south aspect of Cerro Pollone, from down in the Torre Valley, with the Filo del Hombre Sentado in the right foreground, showing the line I attempted. On the lower part I climbed to the right of the rock buttress, while the original route went to the left, simply because it looked easy and made the approach shorter.
Looking up Cerro Pollone from below the bergschrund. The mellow ice flow on the right was a totally contrived variation, but was fun to climb anyways, mostly just because I hadn’t done any ice climbing in several months:
Nice, plastic water ice:
Most of Cerro Pollone’s South Face is a mix of low-angle ice climbing and navigation around crevasses and bergschrunds. The last 30m summit tower, however, is the crux of the climb:
After climbing 30 meters of moderate mixed terrain, I was turned around 2 meters below Cerro Pollone’s summit! The final summit block seemed to be blank rock, covered with too much rime to see any crimps, and too little rime to climb the rime itself. In any event, trying to surmount it seemed too sketchy to properly try with a minimalistic self-belay system. I’ve been turned around near the tops of mountains before, but I have never before reached my ice tool to 40cm below the summit without being able to actually get on top of it!
Despite not being able to complete the ascent, it was nonetheless a nice warm-up, and climbing on Cerro Pollone provided some cool views and difference perspectives than I have normally seen in the Torre Valley. The view to the south, with the Torres on the left in a cloudcap, and Cerre Piergiorgio, with its fantastic west wall in profile, on the right:
The view to the east, with an awesome perspective on the Fitz Roy massif, Cerro Pollone’s lower east summit in center, and Aguja Tito Carrasco in the lower left.