BD Ambassador Luka Krajnc recently spent six weeks in Patagonia with his partner Luka Lindič. During the trip, the Slovenian duo commited to climbing one of the steepest alpine walls either of them had ever attempted. Once on the wall above the daunting and difficult overhangs of the route, they knew the only way off the mountain was up.
Luka Lindič and myself arrived in El Chalten in the middle of January and planned for a six week visit. Since we both visited Patagonia a few times already, we knew that there is no point of having fixed goals as mother nature sets the rules anyway. We decided it's better to approach the walls with good ideas, strong motivation and open minds.
Since the Torre valley looked crowded and the walls covered with snow we found our goal on the St. Exupery SE face, where in 1998 Marcelo Galghera and Horacio Gratton attempted a new line, retreating after 6 pitches. On the first try at the end of January we climbed nine pitches and found a good bivy ledge to spend the night. The next day we climbed another traversing pitch before deciding it didn’t feel right to continue. Continuing on the overhanging traverse with minimum equipment, without the option of retreating, felt too committing for the level of risk that we were prepared to take, so we rapped back down and took all the gear with us to the valley.
At that moment we realized, why almost no one climbs these kind of steep walls in alpine style and most first ascents of this magnitude use the rope-fixing tactics that provide the security and retreat options at any time. After a few rest days the muscles got refueled but the mind couldn't give up on the thought of the passage that we sensed in those overhangs, but didn't dare to commit to. The fact that with the right gear and the knowledge of the wall that we now had, the story could unwind differently, and that didn't let us sleep in peace.
Curiosity got the best of us, so we borrowed more equipment from our friends in the valley. Charged with fresh energy, a positive mindset and a good weather forecast we walked back to the wall in the middle of February. Our goal was to have fun and give it our best. The climbing result would be just a consequence of the actions taken to reach that goal. We felt like we were in our own bubble, since there was no one else on the wall. We could enjoy our challenge in peace, which is becoming a more and more important factor for the quality of our experiences in the mountains.
The first day went by without many problems. The weather was warmer as on the previous attempt and knowing the pitches made climbing more fluid and less stressful. We enjoyed the good bivy and faced our reality check the next day. The wall leaned backward and we slowly moved upward not knowing what to expect but accepting whatever will be offered. At first we left rope attached on the overhanging crux pitch, but after climbing above, we sensed a passage through the last part of the overhang and decided to take it out. It felt committing but liberating at the same time, as from that moment on we knew, the only way off is up.
Luck accompanies the brave we thought, when we discovered that the passage we sensed before, proved to be the only crack that led out of the overhanging terrain. That evening we found ourselves tired but happy bivying on a small snow field where our route joined the Petit Prince route. The third day we enjoyed the good climbing on that route that led us to the col and then to the summit of St. Exupery. We rappelled the Italian route and found ourselves back below the wall at sunset. We climbed the steepest alpine wall of our lives in good style and had an amazing time … what more could we ask for?
We named the route Mir (500m, 6c+, A3, 70’ of new terrain, (7a+, A3, 70´, 700m all together )), which means »Peace« in Slovene and strongly connects to the inner and outer experience we encountered during and after our climb.
-BD Ambassador Luka Krajnc