Last Saturday was an eventful one for me. It began like so many other casual weekend mornings. Pink bunny slippers, oatmeal, a nice hot cup of tea, then a pleasant excursion around the neighborhood. And while I may have just been dreaming about bunny slippers, the scenery and location of the neighborhood certainly compensated for any lack of foot comfort. Our Friday bivy spot had been adjacent to a spring a small moraine pond, underneath the west faces of Guillamet, Mermoz, and Fitzroy (on the left).
We´d drifted off the previous evening eyeing those peaks, as well as the Cerro Torre and Cerro Pollone groups, to the West and South.
And after finishing our morning routine of soy lattes and coupon-clipping from the newspaper, David and I roused ourselves out of the ultra-classic ´table bivy´and crossed the North Fitz Glacier to the toe of Guillamet´s NW ridge.
We hope others enjoy our alpine architectural work. The specialty of the house here is Tang and instant mashed ´papas´.
For us the climb began 600´vertical feet below the standard start, following an ascethetic crest of mostly easy climbing (up to 5.9) to where the ridge steepens and blends into the NW face of the mountain. The rock quality was as good as anywhere, with a complete lack of any dirt or vegetation in the cracks. The weather proved challenging but climbable.
We were accompanied by 10-20MPH winds, frequent sunbursts, occasional fog-bound climbing, and a couple memorable sections featuring weather of all four seasons in one pitch. I led the traditional crux of the route, a 5.10+ steep corner with twin cracks, but David found a strenuous 5.11 roof variation on one of his leads as well,
though I harbor suspicions that it all may have been a ploy to hand over the backpack to me for a while.
On the summit we met an Argentine team who had come up the North Ridge, and so combined forces to rappel their route of ascent. The descent went smoothly with so many ropes, as the first person to rappel would take an extra rope with them and leapfrog ahead, with someone was always setting up the next rappel while the prior rope was being pulled.
From the base of the climb we descended again to our table bivy and were quickly asleep under clear and cold skies, looking forward to another day of nice weather.
Instead we only had about 6 more hours of decent weather, as the clear and cold void overhead was filled with charcoal grey of moisture laden clouds and precipitation. Spurred by light snow, heavy winds, and increased longing for those slippers, we packed up in a hurry and hurried our packs up and over Paso Cuadrado. The descent back to road and trail soon had us out of the snow, and down into good old rain.
At the trailhead we immediately thumbed a ride back to town with a middle-aged Chilean couple. Though to put it accurately, it was the Chilean husband who pulled over with a grin and motioned to the back seat. Meanwhile, his wife´s nervous eyes maintained their constant vigil peering at me over the rim of designer sunglasses. Perhaps it was the unsavory idea of having a scruffy, unemployed, unwashed, foreign, 22-year-old in her back seat, armed with an ice axe crampons. But as she quickly reached to roll down her window I realized the threat of an ice axe and crampons was of little concern compared with the suddenly prolific foot smell emanating from our collective 6 pairs of sweat-marinated shoes. David and I soon followed suit with our backseat windows, and the husband, seeking to minimize any forthcoming tongue-lashing from his passenger seat, made the 9-mile drive back to Chalten in record time. Today it is absolutely storming, even here is town, so my pink bunny slippers are getting some use after all.
The only other major news is that my friends Mike, Kate, and Dana climbed most of the California Route on Fitzroy, with a couple nights on the route and one sleeping bag for the three. It is usually a rock climb, but they basically did the whole thing in boots and with tools or at least gloves. Nobody has summited Fitzroy or Cerro Torre since we have been here...