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Coveted Torre Traverse Sent by Garibotti, Haley

Editor’s Note: In the November 27, 2007 Newswire, Alpinist reported on two teams’ attempts on the Torre Traverse, one of the world’s most iconic, unclimbed lines. One of those teams included Rolando Garibotti, who then completed the traverse with Colin Haley on January 24, 2008. Garibotti and Haley were kind enough to provide some history and a complete report below.

Rolando Garibotti and Colin Haley followed the Torre Traverse from north to south by starting up on Cerro Standhardt via Exocet, descending to the Col dei Sogni, climbing up Spigolo dei Bimbi on Punta Herron, descending to the Col de Lux, climbing up Torre Egger via the Huber-Schnarf 2005 route, descending to the Col of
Conquest via Torre Egger’s south face, up Cerro Torre via the upper portion of El Arca de los Vientos to join the Ferrari West Face route, and finished by descending via the Compressor route. They had a vertical gain of approximately 2200 meters. [Photo] Rolando Garibotti

The Torre Traverse climbs from north to south the skyline comprised by Aguja Standhardt, Punta Herron, Torre Egger and Cerro Torre, with approximately 2200 meters of vertical gain.

This traverse, on the Chalten Massif of Argentine Patagonia, is the brainchild of Italians Andrea Sarchi, Maurizio Giarolli, Elio Orlandi and Ermanno Salvaterra, who tried it on several occasions in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1991 Salvaterra, together with Adriano Cavallaro and Ferruccio Vidi managed to climb to Punta Herron, completing what is likely the first ascent of the peak. Salvaterra climbed Herron via a new route on the north ridge, the aesthetic Spigolo dei Bimbi.

In early 2005, German Thomas Huber, together with the Swiss Andi Schnarf completed the Standhardt to Egger traverse. Having only intended to climb Standhardt via Festerville, they decided on the summit to continue on toward Egger, and moving light and fast completed this section of the traverse in thirty-eight hours round trip, and descended via Egger’s Titanic route on the east ridge.

In late 2005, Salvaterra, together with Alessandro Beltrami and Rolando Garibotti, solved the last remaining puzzle of the traverse when they climbed Cerro Torre from the north via a new route, El Arca de los Vientos. With a route finally completed from the Col of Conquest to Cerro Torre’s summit, Salvaterra returned in 2006 with Beltrami and Garibotti to try the traverse yet again, but bad weather prevented him from getting further than Standhardt. Unfazed, Salvaterra returned in late 2007 with Beltrami, Mirko Masse and Fabio Salvodei. On this attempt they climbed Standhardt via Salvaterra’s own Otra Vez and continued on to climb Herron and Egger. They descended to the south, to the Col of Conquest, and climbed one pitch on Cerro Torre before retreating. During that same period of good weather, Garibotti, together with Hans Johnstone, began the traverse on Standhardt’s Festerville. They climbed Herron and Egger, and continued past the Col of Conquest, completing half of the upper portion of Cerro Torre’s El Arca before being turned back by a rime mushroom.

Garibotti, having now done all the pieces of the traverse, decided to stay in Chalten for the reminder of the season to give the traverse another try. He teamed up with a number of other partners including Bruce Miller and Bean Bowers, but it was not until he teamed up with Colin Haley that another good weather window provided opportunity for another attempt. Haley, who put off a semester of university studies to stay in Patagonia longer, had the year before completed the much tried first link up of Cerro Torre’s A la Recherch du Temps Perdu with the upper West Face route, with Kelly Cordes.

Haley following Spigolo dei Bimbi on Punta Herron’s north ridge in poor conditions during the first day on the traverse. Severely iced up rock forced the two to climb several variations in that section. [Photo] Rolando Garibotti

Around mid January 2008 Alex and Thomas Huber, together with Swiss Stephan Siegrist arrived in Chalten, also with hopes of trying the traverse. On January 21st, in less than ideal weather and conditions, Haley and Garibotti began the traverse while the Hubers and Siegrist decided that conditions and weather were not suitable.

Haley and Garibotti climbed Standhardt via Exocet, reaching the summit slightly past midday, then rappelled to the Col dei Sogni between Standhardt and Herron. Climbing up Spigolo dei Bimbi they found rime covered rock and were forced to climb variations to pitches 2, 3 and 4. Slowed down by the snowy conditions and windy weather they bivied below the Herron mushrooms. On January 22nd, in perfect weather but feeling unusually tired, likely due to carbon monoxide poisoning inside their bivy sack, they continued over Herron and Egger to reach Cerro Torre. On Egger’s north ridge they also were forced to climb some variations to avoid rime-covered rock.

Haley following more severely iced rock high on El Arca de los Vientos, Cerro Torre north face. [Photo] Rolando Garibotti

The good weather brought unusually high temperatures, so upon reaching the Col of Conquest they were forced to find a place to hide from the falling ice, and they stopped to bivy at around 5 p.m. under a prow of rock. The next morning, January 23rd, brought a pleasant surprise when they discovered that the rime mushroom, which had stopped Garibotti and Johnstone’s attempt two months before, had fallen off.

Haley and Garibotti found the upper Arca in worse conditions than Garibotti had encountered in 2005 and were forced to clean much ice from the cracks. Garibotti was forced to place one bolt at a crux pendulum to avoid yet another rime mushroom. Tired from the previous two days and slowed down by the conditions they reached the top of Cerro Torre’s north face at 5 p.m. and here joined the final pitches of the Ferrari route on the west ridge. They climbed two pitches through natural rime tunnels to reach the base of the last pitch, notorious for having turned many climbers around. Haley and Garibotti, both of whom had led this final pitch before, found it in more difficult condition that they had seen previously. This final pitch is climbed by laboriously digging vertical trenches through the rime, and since no other party had yet attempted it this season, they found the 50 meters of protection-less rime daunting. Haley attempted the pitch in the evening, digging 30 feet of half pipe in one hour before giving up for the day. Under a full moon they bivied one pitch below the Torre summit.

Haley leading the last pitch of the Ferrari route on Cerro Torre’s west ridge, which was the last summit on the traverse. Haley spent more than four hours digging first a half pipe and then a tunnel through the inconsistent rime. Haley is the black figure in the center and his rope can be seen in the half-pipe at the lower left. [Photo] Rolando Garibotti

“Rested” after a long night shivering, Haley attacked the pitch again, digging a tunnel from the top of his half pipe. He spent three hours completing a 20-meter tunnel inside the mushroom, and exited to finish in a naturally formed tunnel. At midday on January 24th they reached the summit of Cerro Torre, completing the first ascent of the much-fantasized Torre Traverse. After a short rest they descended the Compressor Route along Cerro Torre’s southeast ridge to reach the glacier below by evening.

For maximum efficiency, Haley and Garibotti divided the leads based on their differing skills, Haley leading the pure ice and rime pitches, and Garibotti leading the rock and rime-covered rock. The follower jumared with a heavy pack, and the leader either climbed with a pack or hauled it depending on the terrain. Because of bad conditions they climbed slower than expected and summited Cerro Torre with no food left. Under ideal weather and conditions, and with the final Ferrari pitch already excavated, they feel the traverse could be done significantly faster.

Although success on the Torre Traverse has been elusive because of strategy and weather difficulties Garibotti comments that it involves little extreme climbing, with difficulties never above 5.11 and A1. Other than the last Ferrari pitch there are no really committing leads. Garibotti feels that the future of Patagonia alpinism lies not in link-ups or traverses but perhaps in alpine style repeats of the immense routes of the ’80s, such as Silvo Karo and Janez Jeglic’s Cerro Torre South Face or their Devil’s Directissima on the East Face.

Garibotti (right) and Haley on the top of Cerro Torre, one descent away from completing the first ascent of the Torre Traverse. [Photo] Rolando Garibotti

Having felt partly responsible for delaying an academic career, Garibotti was relieved upon returning to their bivouac in the Torre valley to hear Haley exclaim, “The Torre Traverse is way better than mineralogy homework!”

A big thanks goes to “il Maestro,” to Ermanno Salvaterra, for the idea, for the inspiration, and for continuing, twenty years on, to show the way…