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Cerro Torre – “An Impossible Mountain”

The compressor that started it all, hanging from the side of Cerro Torre. [Photo] Doerte Pietron [Photo] Doerte Pietron

In 1952, after making the first ascent of Cerro Fitz Roy, Frenchman Lionel Terray

described the nearby Cerro Torre as “an impossible mountain,” a phrase that described

well the ice-capped, mile-high granite needle. In early 1968 an Anglo-Argentine team

composed of Martin Boysen, Mick Burke, Pete Crew, Jose Luis Fonrouge and Dougal

Haston attempted the southeast ridge of Cerro Torre, managing to climb 450 meters

above the Col of Patience without placing any bolts. In December of 1970 Italians Ezio

Alimonta, Carlo Claus and Cesare Maestri climbed to within 60 meters of the summit,

turning around while still on vertical ground, having placed upwards of 300 bolts with the

help of a gas-powered air compressor. Courtesy of the use of the compressor, the

“impossible mountain” was no more. In January of 1979 Americans Jim Bridwell and

Steve Brewer completed Alimonta, Claus and Maestri’s near miss, finishing the so-called

Compressor Route. In January of 2012 American Hayden Kennedy and Canadian Jason

Kruk climbed the southeast ridge without using any of Maestri’s bolts for protection and

during the descent chopped 120 of his bolts. A few days later, David Lama and Peter Ortner free climbed the southeast ridge without using Maestris’ bolts for protection.

We, some of the many climbers who have devoted much energy over the last

decades to climbing in the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre massifs, shaping the region’s

climbing history, are in full support of the bolt removal:

Jorge Ackermann, Tomy Aguilo, Conrad Anker, Bjorn-Eivind Artun, Trym Atle Saeland,

Scott Backes, Scott Bennett, Bjarte Bo, Carlos Botazzi, Martin Boysen, John Bragg, Ben

Bransby, Chris Brazeau, Phil Burke, Tommy Caldwell, Ramiro Calvo, Ben Campbell-

Kelly, Rab Carrington, Dave Carman, Robert Caspersen, Andy Cave, Yvon Chouinard,

Carlos Comesana, Kelly Cordes, Inaki Coussirat, Pete Crew, Sebastian De la Cruz,

Alejandro Di Paola, Leo Dickinson, Ben Ditto, Jim Donini, Martin Donovan, Dana

Drummond, Magnus Eriksson, Gabriel Fava, Nico Favresse, Silvia Fitzpatrick, Ralf

Gantzhorn, Rolando Garibotti, Stefan Gatt, Chris Geisler, Jon Gleason, Gustavo

Glickman, Milena Gomez, Colin Haley, Brian Hall, Kennan Harvey, Jorge Insua, Peter

Janschek, Hans Johnstone, Neil Kauffman, Joel Kauffman, Hayden Kennedy, Michael

Kennedy, Andy Kirkpatrick, Jason Kruk, Ole Lied, Whit Magro, Klemen Mali, Carlitos

Molina, Marius Morstad, Avo Naccachian, Fermin Olaechea, Marius Olsen, Ian Parnell,

Luciano Pera, Korra Pesce, Doerte Pietron, Michal Pitelka, Kate Rutherford, Mikey

Schaefer, Stephan Siegrist, Pedro Skvarca, Zack Smith, Bruno Sourzac, Rick Sylvester,

Jim Toman, Doug Tompkins, Jvan Tresch, Roberto Treu, Sean Villanueva, Adam

Wainwright, Eamon Walsh, Jon Walsh, Josh Wharton, Andres Zegers

We also support the removal of the Compressor Route bolts:

Vince Anderson, Chris Bonington, Mick Fowler, Steve House, Heinz Mariacher, Reinhold

Messner, Paul Pritchard, Sonnie Trotter, Mark Twight


The many climbers in the first list have made important contributions to alpinism in the

Chalten area including ascents such as the ones listed below. This list is meant to

indicate their love for climbing in the Chalten Massif, their connection to the place, and a

level of devotion that has helped shape its history. The ascents are in no particular

order, and range from 1963 to 2012:

* The first attempts to climb Supercanaleta (1963 and 64), the first ascent of

Supercanaleta (second ascent of Fitz Roy), the first ascent of the California route (third

ascent of Fitz Roy), the first attempt on the southeast ridge of Cerro Torre, the second

ascent of Cerro Torre, and an impressive near miss on the east and north faces of Cerro


* The first ascents of Aguja Guillaumet, Torre Egger, Cerro Piergiorgio, Volcan Lautaro,

Aguja Mermoz, Aguja Rafael Juarez, Pollone East, Aguja Cuatro Dedos, Aguja Tito

Carrasco, Aguja Volonqui, Marconi Central, and the second ascent of Poincenot;

*Eight new routes on Fitz Roy, two new routes on Torre Egger, two new routes on

Standhardt, seven new routes on Poincenot, three new routes on Desmochada, six new

routes on Saint Exupery, three new routes on Mermoz, eight new routes on Guillaumet,

and new routes on Aguja Pollone, Domo Blanco, De la Silla, Aguja De l’S and Cuatro


*The first Argentine ascents of Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre, Torre Egger, Aguja Standhardt,

Punta Herron, Aguja Poincenot and the Ragni route on Cerro Torre;

*The first free ascents of Linea de Eleganza and of the Ferrari-Corazon combo, both on Fitz Roy’s east face;

*The first complete ascent of El Tiempo Perdido to the Ragni route on Cerro Torre, the

first ascent of the Corkscrew on Cerro Torre, the first ascent of the Torres Traverse, and

the first ascent of El Arca de los Vientos on Cerro Torre;

*The first winter ascents of Fitz Roy, Torre Egger, Poincenot and Guillaumet, the first

winter ascents of Vol de Nuit on Mermoz and the Ragni route on Cerro Torre.

*The first ascents of the Wave Effect, the Pollone Traverse, the North Pillar Sit Start, and

the first to fourth ascents of the Care Bear Traverse;

*The second female ascent of Fitz Roy, the second female-team ascent of Fitz Roy, and

the first female ascent of the Ragni route on Cerro Torre;

*The first ascent and solo of the East Face of Adela, the second solo ascent of

Supercanaleta on Fitz Roy, the first solo ascent of Standhardt, the second and third solo

ascents of Saint Exupery, the second and third solo ascents of Mermoz, and the first

solo ascents of Aguja Rafael Juarez and Guillaumet.

Other notable contributions include spearheading the successful repeal of the climbing

fee program that the National Park Administration (APN) attempted to pass in 2005;

donating significant funds towards building the climber display in the Park’s visitor

centre; successfully repealing the motion by the Provincial Land Administration to pass

to private control the area of Cerro Piergiorgio, Cerro Pollone and the north face of Fitz

Roy; bringing to fruition a trail restoration project that involved donating 4400 man hours

of work to the National Park; participating in a number of volunteer rescues; and creating

a free online resource database of all mountaineering activity in the area.

Links to the Thoughts of:

Yvon Chouinard

Kelly Cordes

Sebasti?n De La Cruz

Rolando Garibotti

Colin Haley

Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk

Doug Tompkins


Jorge Ackermann, “Now who had the right to take bolts out? The ones who climbed the

route without using the bolts had the right to take them out and Jason and Hayden chose

to do this and I respect their decision. They climbed the headwall beautifully and I

applauded them for it, this is a huge accomplishment in the world of climbing. A bit more

discretion would have helped to keep the scandal under wraps but now it is done. In the

end though, it is Cerro Torre that we are talking about and it seems that it is a mountain

that does not incite discretion.”

Martin Boysen, “About time!”

Pete Crew, “It is time that the Maestri nonsense was knocked in the head once and for


Ben Campbell-Kelly, “What could be better than having an iconic mountain with only

challenging routes to the top? No gimmicks and no via ferratas! It’s exciting to see how

the new generation is making its mark.”

Leo Dickinson, “The compressor route on Cerro Torre should never have been in

existence – nature did such a beautiful job at making Cerro Torre a world class

mountain. The bolt route has been a scar on the history of mountaineering for too long..”

Reinhold Messner, “Maestri was free to put the bolts in 1970, Jason and Hayden were

free to take the bolts out. Cesare demonstrated that CT was possible with the

compressor, Jason and Hayden demonstrated that it was possible without. They have all

my respect – for having liberated the Compressor route from the grips of conquest

alpinism, a style that we should finally get over with.”

Pedro Skvarca wrote, “Personally I believe that the bolts should have never been

placed. I was never in agreement with Maestri’s action, he made a grave mistake and

breached the ethics of mountaineering.”

Mark Twight , “Having grown up in the culture of climbing that I knew, and been

mentored by the men who inspired and educated me, I never thought I would see the
day that anyone would be ‘against’ chopping those bolts