Photos by Luka Lindič, Luka Krajnc and Piotr Drożdż
Patagonia is a land where good weather is as precious and rare as water in Sahara.
Jim Bridwell “Cerro Torre – Alpine Style”
“Being in Patagonia for the first time I realized that there, if anywhere, you can’t really plan your climbing. On the other hand, it’s actually a perfect place to learn how to make the most of small windows of good weather and tricky conditions”, said Luka Lindic after his first visit to “the granite at end of the world”.
As Luka’s partner wasn’t able to accompany him because of his recent paragliding accident, he was happy to join a Slovenian duo, Luka Krajnc and Tadej Krišelj. Their original plan was to climb a new route on Cerro Torre. No wonder that Lindic was happy to ‘jump into their train’.
Before Lindic’s arrival at El Chalten, his friends had already attempted the new line but had to retreat due to heavy rainfall on the first day. Then, they climbed a nice route on a very interesting but rarely visited Morón Rojo.
After less than a week, the team of three was back trying Cerro Torre. “Since style is what matters most for all of us, there were no discussions over how we would approach it. No fixed ropes, jumars and other similar techniques that make climbing easier. Minimalistic alpine style was the only way for us, even though we knew that it increased the likelihood of failure, however it was also a guarantee of better experience”, writes Luka.
“Knowing that the weather window was supposed to be shorter than needed for the planned climb, we decided to go as light as possible and climb the first part during the night. Our progress was steady over the night but we soon realized that it would not work out given the time and conditions we had. A bit disappointed, we rappelled and returned to Chalten the following day.”
As the temperatures seemed to be too low for rock climbing, the Slovenians turned their attention to nearby Aguja Standhardt to climb an extremely popular ice climb called Exocet. “When we reached Col Standhardt with the first light, it was much warmer than we expected but we hoped the crux ice chimney would be climbable. Below the ice pitches, we met an American team that had just started rappelling due to dangerously warm conditions. We were a bit more optimistic and climbed on for three more pitches, however in the middle of the ice chimney we realized it would be too dangerous to continue because of falling ice and rocks. Totally wet, we retreated again. It seemed that so far, nothing had been going right for us on that trip, but somehow we stayed positive and open for all ideas.”
The final one was born at the Niponino camp at the end of their trip. Given the unstable weather, the Slovenian team opted for the traverse of the Adelas summits and continuing it via the Ragni route to the summit of Cerro Torre. The Adele traverse was first done by an Argentinean team consisting of Eduardo Brenner and Silvia Fitzpatrick in 1988. It’s a long climb of a moderate difficulty and with the magnificent scenery in the background and connecting it with beautiful Ragni, now considered to be the normal Cerro Torre route, seemed to be a good plan, possible when the weather is that fickle.
“In the afternoon we started from Niponino and scrambled to the plateau below Col Trento. In the late evening we broke trail in deep snow, which was a bit scary at some points because of the wind slabs, and then used a good bivy place under a small serac just below the col. After only four hours of rest we continued to Adela Sur. Then, we followed the ridge over Adela Central and North in very good conditions. As we’d expected, the crux of that part was the descent from Adela Sur, where we navigated around giant snow mushrooms, to the Col de la Esperanza. From the col we climbed to El Elmo that offers a perfect bivy place on the Ragni route, where we dug a snow cave. We met Caroline North and Christina Huber that became the first female team to climb the Ragni route.
The snow cave proved a good idea as we were without a tent and almost 5 cm of snow fell during the night. However, the following day we continued in good ice conditions to the summit of Cerro Torre. We rappelled down the southeast ridge, where we met Marc-Andre Leclerc , who was also descending after his impressive solo ascent of the Corkscrew link-up. We spent a night together in the crevasse on the Col de la Paciencia and then returned to Chalten. We ended our trip with a totally different climb than planned. The views from the Adela ridge took our breath away and climbing all the crazy ice formations on Ragni was simply fantastic. We can´t really complain.”
Luka Lindič was recently nominated for the Piolets D’Or 2015. The international award committee selected Luka and his Slovenian partners Aleš Česen and Marko Prezelj for opening a new route on the 1350m north face of Hagshu (6657m). The 23rd edition of the prestigious mountaineering awards event happens at Courmayer and Chamonix April 9 – 12.