At the end of July, Andy Kirkpatrick and I (U.K.) spent three days battling through chest-deep snow, typical Patagonian winds, and mini-avalanches to reach the snow caves of Paso Superior. With a clear dawn, we dashed over to Fitz Roy hoping to make the second ascent of the Devil’s Deidre in alpine style. After a day of slow progress and extreme intimidation swimming up powder snow over eighty-five-degree rock interspersed with tricky mixed climbing, the weather began to deteriorate, which gave us a splendid excuse to run away.
After we spent a further few days cowering in the snow hole, the weather cleared and we turned our attention to Andy Parkin’s superb solo route Vol de Nuit on Mermoz. We started at midday. Our ascent, the route’s second, required two bivies–the first a fine tent perch, the second a truly miserable half-arsed ice scoop each. At midnight on the third day, we hit the summit ridge, where to our knowledge Parkin finished. From what we could see in the dark any continuation to the summit would be a time-consuming affair requiring a fair amount of aid.
The climbing was of excellent quality and a real tribute to the talents of Parkin. Particularly memorable was a six-inch-wide goulotte, with ice at times half an inch thick, on which we were forced to simulclimb a significant section due to the lack of protection for a belay. Of Parkin’s two A2 sections, we found one pitch of A1; the other went at Scottish VII with two points of aid. As we completed our abseil of the route the weather again broke, leaving us feeling privileged to have snatched such a fine climb in the middle of the Patagonian winter.
Editor’s Note: The main summit of the Mermoz has not been ascended in winter.
— Ian Parnell, United Kingdom