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The fearsome threesome: Jvan Tresch, Ben Bransby and Bean Bowers in Rio Blanco Camp, February 7, 2004, after their forty-eight-hour Chalt?n-to-Chalt?n first free ascent of Fitz Roy?s Slovak Route (VI 5.10d, 2300m). The trio made the second ascent of Aguja Desmochada via the new route El Fac?n (V+ 5.12a A1, 16 pitches) six days later. Tresch noted that the rock on El Fac?n was better than that on El Capitan?s Golden Gate, which he freed in October, 2003. [Photo] Jonathon Copp

My seven-week trip to Patagonia didn’t start all that well. In fact, after four weeks of high winds, long hikes, tendonitis, knackered knees and heavy rucksacks it really wasn’t looking like the best idea in the world.
Jvan Tresch, Bean Bowers and I were in the Torre Valley to attempt a traverse from Cerro Standhardt to Torre Egger, but warm conditions and our small necks forced us to move over to Polacos Camp and try a bit of rock climbing. Toward the end of January, Bean needed a holiday from his holiday, and headed to Bariloche for a week’s climbing. His departure triggered what turned out to be an eight-day spell of good weather. On January 29, Jvan and I headed up to Poincenot and simul-soloed up a new ramp below the Carrington-Rouse (V 5.10c 65 degrees, 800m, 1977) and above Southern Cross (V 5.11 A1, 950m, Copp-Taylor, 2002). We joined the Fonrouge Route (V, 1200m, Fonrouge-Rosasco, 1968) and climbed another 200 meters before the threat of bad weather forced us to retreat down the south face.

January 31 dawned fine so we approached St. Exupery to try a new line close to the Brooks-Crouch attempt (1999). The first five pitches, which entailed pleasant corner and chimney climbing, led to the loose vein that crosses the lower west face. Climbing through this vein–a scary and committing pitch, from which a fall could have resulted in serious injury–proved to be the crux of the route. Luckily, the slab climbing just above was a relatively amenable 5.11X. I had spent most of last summer climbing on the excellent, esoteric and rather friable crags of the Lleyn Peninsula in Wales, and am rather partial to kicking steps up sandy grooves and laybacking creaking flakes, so I thoroughly enjoyed myself (especially in retrospect).

Once again, the golden granite was reached, and more cracks, ramps and flakes led us to the south ridge and a junction with the Austrian Route (V 5.10b A1, 700m, Barnthaler-Lidl, 1987), five pitches from the summit. We climbed the rather snowy upper section of the route free. Jvan’s anger with each unnecessary bolt and peg that we passed increased exponentially until one bolt, shockingly placed next to a perfect crack, turned him into climbing’s own Incredible Hulk and he removed the hanger with his bare hands. We reached the top mid-afternoon, and descended down the northwest face.

On February 2 we attempted to return to the Poincenot line, this time aiming to reach the summit. Unfortunately, by daybreak, our incompetence at route finding in the dark found us not only 500 meters below the start of the climbing, but also under the wrong mountain. Deciding that things were obviously not meant to be, we headed up to the smaller, less serious Aguja Innominata. An hour later, while climbing up the snow to the base, the early morning sunlight lit up the south face of Poincenot just above us, and we changed our minds yet again.

Climbing extremely light we managed a free ascent of the Fonrouge Route at about 5.11. The crux pitch was a forty-five-degree ice slope, which Jvan crimped and smeared up in rock boots and chalk. We were back in Polacos after a twenty-four-hour roundtrip.

— Ben Bransby, Leeds, United Kingdom