[The following report was courteously provided by Rolando Garibotti. Please visit Pataclimb.com for more information about the 2013-2014 climbing season.–Ed.]
Between February 12 and 16, Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold completed the first ascent of the much discussed “Fitz Traverse,” climbing across the iconic ridgeline of Cerro Fitz Roy and its satellite peaks in southern Patagonia.
This ridgeline involves climbing Aguja Guillaumet, Aguja Mermoz, Cerro Fitz Roy, Aguja Poincenot, Aguja Rafael Juarez, Aguja Saint-Exupery and Aguja de l’S.
In all they climbed across more than five kilometers of ridge line, covering close to 4000 meters of vertical gain with difficulties to 7a (5.11d) C1 65 degrees. They simulclimbed much of the climb, dispatching 20-pitch sections such as Pilar Goretta in a mere three pitches.
They started at 9:45 a.m. on February 12, climbing the Brenner-Moschioni route in two pitches to reach the summit of Aguja Guillaumet by 12:15 p.m. They continued south, along the Cresta Sur to reach Aguja Mermoz, climbing the Argentina route to reach the summit by 5 p.m. Four hours later they decided to stop to bivy, placing their tent in the ridge leading to Aguja Val Biois.
On February 13, they started at 8:30 a.m., climbing past Aguja Val Biois to reach the col at the base of Pilar Goretta at 11:30 a.m. In three pitches they climbed the Casarotto route with the Kearney-Knight variation to reach the summit of the pillar and start up the final headwall at 7:45 p.m. Finding terrible conditions in the upper headwall, with way too much rime and ice in the cracks, they were forced to slow down, reaching the summit of Cerro Fitz Roy at 2:30 a.m.
On the morning of February 14, after a short night just below the summit they rappelled the Franco-Argentina, reaching La Silla at 12:45 p.m. and weaving their way through the various summits of Aguja Kakito to reach the base of the Potter-Davis route on Aguja Poincenot by 6 p.m. Short-fixing, they made quick work of it, reaching the summit by 9:15 p.m.
On the morning of February 15, they rappelled Judgment Day to reach the Col SUSAT by 11:30 a.m. At noon they started up the Piola-Anker route on Aguja Rafael Juarez, climbing it in two pitches to reach the summit at 2:15 p.m. By 4:30 p.m. they had traversed the ridge to Aguja Saint-Exupery and by 6:20 p.m. they were in the summit, having climbed it in a mere two pitches.
By this point their rope was reduced to 38 meters in length so they made an endless number of rappels down the Austriaca to reach the Col de los Austriacos, setting camp for the night in the boulder field at the base of the final climb, the north ridge of Aguja de l’S.
In the morning of February 16, they climbed that final section, doing a single pitch to reach the summit by 8:50 a.m., descending east to reach the glacier just after 10 a.m.
On this epic adventure they took:
-two backpacks (35 and 25 liters)
-one sleeping bag
-a BD First Light tent
-a stove and three gas canisters
-one ice tool
-two pairs of aluminum crampons
-one ice screw
-2 each Camalots to #2
-1 Camalot #3
-two sets of Stoppers
-a 60m 9.8mm lead line
-an 80m 6mm tag line
-three ascenders/locking pulleys (Petzl Micro-traxion, Kong Duck and Futura)
It should be noted that their success was in spite of very bad conditions, with much ice and snow in the cracks and on the ridges courtesy of one of the wettest summer seasons in many years.
Caldwell and Honnold wore rock shoes to climb Pilar Goretta and the north face of Aguja Poincenot but climbed everything else wearing approach shoes.
This was Honnold’s first climb in Patagonia. Over the years Caldwell has done a number of impressive ascents in the area, most notably the first free and onsight ascent of Linea de Eleganza on Cerro Fitz Roy.
Respect, respect and more respect.