The east and northeast faces of Fitz Roy, showing Linea di Eleganza (VI 5.11b A3 90? M7, 1250m), the new route by the Italo-Argentine team of Horacio Cod?, Lucas Fava and Elio Orlandi. (Italian Fabio Giacomelli participated in the climb as well.) Orlandi believes the line will go free in good conditions. A complete description of routes on Fitz Roy may be found in Alpinist Issue 5, Pages 20?39. [Photo] Rolando Garibotti
In 2001, Fabio Leoni, Rolando Larcher and I ventured 500 meters up onto the steep flanks of Fitz Roy’s lower northeast face. We spent six long, painful nights in our portaledge, only to be undeservingly chased away by avalanches in one of the most brutal storms I can ever remember. I returned to the northeast face two more times, both without success. In December 2003 I returned yet again, this time accompanied by the joyful enthusiasm of Fabio “Giac” Giacomelli, who was in Patagonia for the first time, as well as by Horacio Codo and Lucas Fava, both of whom live in El Chalten and had cut their teeth on minor ascents in the area.
The weather conditions during the second half of December and most of January did not allow us much progress, and I started to feel that my overpowering curiosity had perhaps tricked me again. In spite of the winter-like conditions, we surmounted the lower 600 meters, climbing cracks and dihedrals filled with ice as well as difficult verglassed slabs. Because of the conditions, and mostly for safety reasons, we decided to fix ropes to a comfortable ledge halfway up that we christened “Gran Hotel Patagonicus.” This ledge was a godsend, for it allowed us to equip the crucial slabs of the upper half of the route without returning to the ground.
In the first days of January, Giac’s vacation time came to an end and he returned to Italy rather heartbroken. Horacio, Luca and I went back to the snow cave in Paso Superior, where we waited patiently for a few more days.
It rarely happens that the wind subsides, but I think that after so much waiting the Torre god understood our simplicity and took pity on us with that dreamy blue so seldom seen in Patagonia. Under these auspicious skies we walked incredulously toward the wall, tiptoeing as if not to disturb the stillness.
We continued to climb the elusive and never-ending slabs of the upper section, returning at the end of every day to rest in the Gran Hotel Patagonicus under the auspices of a moon that grew ever bigger. Then, just like all stories with a happy ending, after six nights on the wall (including one very cold one not far from the summit) and seven days immersed in a dream, on February 7 we woke up suddenly, holding our breath as we watched Patagonia from above, from the infinite lookout of Fitz Roy’s summit.
Our only sorrow was a solitary falling stone that hit and broke my hand the morning after we descended back to our comfortable ledge, while we were retrieving the ropes that we had not been able to recover the evening before.
As I descended with my broken hand toward the glacier, I could not help but cringe upon seeing the rock, free of snow and ice after eight days of perfect weather. During our entire ascent we had found rather difficult conditions–at first, snow in the lower wall, then, during the first four days in the upper portion, cracks and dihedrals filled with ice, as well as continuous avalanches while the wall cleaned itself off. We believe that in better conditions it would be possible to climb this entire route free. Looking at the perfectly clean granite, I wished I could redo our climb free… but my good luck had tricked me, sending me home with a somewhat bitter souvenir.
We dedicate our route, Linea di Eleganza (VI 5.11b A3 90 degrees M7, 1250m), to Gino Buscaini, for his tireless passion for Patagonia, which in turn inspired an enthusiasm and free spirit for the land within me.
— Elio Orlandi, Italy (translated by Rolando Garibotti)