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Patagonia Season 2015-16: Five Questions with Colin Haley

Aguja Desmochada (ca. 2550m) from the Italian Col. In the background left is El Mocho, the twin bladed granite wall at the base of Cerro Torre.

[Photo] Cameron M. Burns

On Jan 31, American alpinists Colin Haley and Alex Honnold completed the first one-day ascent of the Torres Traverse (5.11 A1, 2200m, Aguja Standhardt, Punta Herron, Torre Egger and Cerro Torre).

Then, on Feb 6, Haley and Honnold repeated the Wave Effect Direct (6c+ 40 degrees, 1900m), a traverse of towers on the southwestern side of the Fitz Roy massif. The route–which takes in Aguja Desmochada (via Golden Eagle; 7a+ (6b C2 to), 450m) and The Sound and the Fury (7a A0, 450m), Aguja de la Silla (via El Bastardo 6b A0, 500m) and Fitz Roy (3405m) itself (via the famed Californiana “Fun Hogs” route, 40 degrees 6a+, 400m)–was first done by Americans Whit Magro, Nate Opp and Josh Wharton in February 2011.

Since both the Torres Traverse and the Wave Effect were done within one week, Haley said this was his most successful period of climbing to date.

We caught up with Haley via email on February 9 and asked him about his most recent Patagonia outing with Honnold.

Alpinist: Why these towers?

Colin Haley: Actually, it’s a very natural and logical linkup; it’s just that there aren’t many photos that do it justice.

Alp: How does this compare to the Torres Traverse?

CH: The very big difference between the Wave Effect and the Torres Traverse is that the Torres Traverse is full-on alpine climbing, and the Wave Effect is pure alpine rock climbing. The Torres Traverse is about half ice and mixed climbing and half rock climbing–that meant that each of us brought a valuable unique skill set to the climb. Since the Wave Effect is pure rock it pretty much meant that Alex took us up, and I just tried to hang on for the ride. For the same reason I think that Alex found the Torres Traverse more intense than the Wave Effect, and I found the Wave Effect more intense than the Torres Traverse.

Alp: You freed the entire traverse?

CH: Yes. For Alex this is really no surprise, although for me it certainly is. We didn’t start out with free climbing as a goal. For me personally, free climbing is usually a fairly low-priority in the mountains. I usually am more into just a totally berserk anything-goes style for speed. However, when we arrived on the summit of Desmochada I had freed everything quite easily up until then without really trying, so I thought what the heck, I might as well try to free climb the rest. El Bastardo (the route we climbed on Aguja de la Silla) turned out to be significantly more difficult than Golden Eagle (the route we climbed on Aguja Desmochada), and in the end I only just barely managed to free everything with some pretty desperate moves in there. Anyway, my free climbing efforts in the end weren’t much of a compromise to our speed, because Alex only places pro about once every 20 meters, so pulling on gear would’ve only expedited one move every once in a long while.

While it is, of course, less surprising for Alex to free everything than me, there is a big difference because Alex was leading all the hardest parts of this link-up. I had the confidence to try desperate moves because if I fell I would’ve only fallen about three to five meters, whereas Alex was usually massively runout, and that changes the character of hard moves completely. In addition, despite being the one leading, Alex was carrying a heavier portion of group gear than I was–he’s simply so much stronger than me on steep granite that it makes sense.

“Alex Honnold starting the third simul-pitch of their Wave Effect linkup on Saturday, February 6, from the ‘Eagles Nest’ ledge to the summit of Aguja Desmochada,” Haley wrote on Instagram.

[Photo] Colin Haley

Alp: What problems did you experience?

CH: The only real “problems” was that the climbing on El Bastardo was unrelenting wide (fist cracks, off-widths, flares), and that our packs were heavy enough that all the steep climbing, both on Desmochada and Aguja de la Silla, was much more exhausting, physical and pumpy than it would’ve been otherwise.

Alp: What’s next?

CH: Alex is flying home in a couple days, which I don’t blame him for at all. The Torres Traverse in a day and the Wave Effect in a day were the two big goals that we set for ourselves this season, and we got them both done in a week. I may head home early as well, but I haven’t decided yet.

This story was updated on February 17 at 9:42 a.m.

Sources: Colin Haley, Rolando Garibotti, Alex Honnold,