Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The North Pillar Sit Start

A year prior to my arrival in El Chalten, Scott Bennett and Blake Herrington spotted a possible new traverse on the Fitz Roy Massif. Blake couldn’t make it down to Patagonia this year, so Scott ended up taking me on the longest route of my life. It was difficult to comprehend the possibility of climbing an enormous route that would include 500 meters of new terrain, and a net vertical gain of 2000 meters.

Scott and I began climbing The North West Ridge of Aguja Mermoz into The North Pillar of Cerro Fitz Roy. We free climbed up to 5.11, and used points of aid, pendulums, and rappels to navigate through the tricky ridges along with wet and icy cracks. 

With limited experience in the Alpine realm, I learned the true meaning of climbing ‘light and fast’. Attempts to cut weight included sharing a single sleeping bag, bivy sack, and toothbrush. Climbing in Yosemite Valley years prior opened my eyes to the possibilities of this style, and provided me with the confidence I needed to go big in Patagonia. 

Steady and efficient climbing on the gorgeous splitter pitches along with the dangerously loose ones was essential.  After 2 plush bivies, our third and final night wouldn't be as forgiving. We were allowed two freezing hours of sleep before climbing the final icy headwall. As soon as I managed to stop my body from uncontrollably shivering, I led one of the most dangerous ice pitches I had ever climbed. After a few hundred meters of wet and icy cracks, Scott and I found ourselves on the summit of Fitz Roy. We successfully completed the wild idea to climb one of the longest link-ups in El Chalten.