BD athletes Whit Magro and Josh Wharton report on climbs in Fitz Roy massif, Argentine Patagonia
Black Diamond athlete Whit Magro flew down to Argentine Patagonia on February 10th for a quick 16-day trip and teamed up with fellow BD athlete Josh Wharton to pull off some great climbs in the Fitz Roy massif. Below is Magro’s trip report and photos from the climbs.
The last year has been all about short and potent climbing trips; with a nine month old son at home, it’s hard to be away too long. This winter I planned a 16-day roundtrip mission to Patagonia. This was my first experiment with a foreign destination while applying this new “daddy style”: basically, show up super fit and ready for action, planning on no rest. An important aspect in helping me to make this happen was my climbing partner, Josh Wharton.
As if it was fate, I arrived in early February and the weather broke for the first time since December. We shoved what we needed in our packs along with a healthy supply of empanadas (local goodness) and hiked into the Torre Valley the next morning. After a sound night sleep in our Lighthouse tent, Josh and I woke to a chilly but perfect bluebird day. We pounded up the gully for a few grand, racked up and then made the 4th ascent of Blood On The Tracks. It’s a proud free route that follows huge dihedrals up the north face of Rafael Juarez (aka, Innominata). The tower is small by Patagonia standards, but the climb offered excellent and steep crack climbing all the way to the top. We rappelled the route and made it back to camp the next morning feeling haggard. We made a proper cache and then hoofed it back to Chalten in the pouring rain.
Back in our dingy, concrete, one-and-a-half room apartment shared by one too many climbers, we logged onto the spotty Internet connection to check the forecast. We saw that little rest was to be had! We packed up and made our way back into the Torre Valley with ambitious hopes of doing a new free route on Desmochada. Desmochada is a 2000-foot tower that sits below Fitz Roy’s south face high out of the Torre Valley. Upon turning the corner we were surprised to find that the previous storm we hiked out in deposited more snow than we had hoped to find.
Up way too early, we were on the route soon after first light and battling icy cracks and snow. With my perpetual unrealistic optimism and Josh’s pessimistic New England approach our motivation met somewhere in the middle. Progress was slow but we managed to free climb 1500 feet of the route with frozen hands. With only our climbing shoes and rapidly approaching darkness we decided to bail before encountering an inevitable epic. Josh and I left a red tag and the draws hanging, we are planning to redpoint next year, figuratively speaking.
It was relentless—with three days left there was more good weather coming! Unfortunately Josh’s flight left a few days earlier than mine. With limited time I chose an objective that I could climb fast and still make it back to town in time to catch the bus home. In my good fortune I hooked up with a good Canadian climber named Jason Kruk. Our plan was a speed ascent of Poincenot’s Williams Route that climbs an ice ramp up the east face for 1000 feet, then wraps around the south side and into some rock climbing for another 1000 feet. We ended up free soloing the route except for one 60-meter section I belayed Jason through. In a perfect Patagonian high pressure, we topped out at 11am after climbing the route in three hours from the bergshrund, and then made it back to town that night in time for dinner.
Of the 12 days in El Chalten, I spent only two resting, making it one of the most active alpine trips I have ever had. I am beginning to believe that I’m onto something with this new “daddy style.”
— Whit Magro