El Mocho

With about 48 hours left in Patagonia, and a very sore knee, I was resigned to spending my last days in town before hopping on the bus to the airport. However, an 18-20 hour window of stable weather appeared on the forecast, scheduled to hit the area the day before my plane ride. I didn't want to pass up my last chance.

I hooked up with Jon Gleason from Yosemite (originally a native of North-Central Washington) and we headed into the Torre Valley to try and climb El Mocho, a flat-topped satellite peak to Cerro Torre.

The plan was to hike in on the afternoon and evening on Wednesday, in order to climb and hike out Thursday. The base camp on the glacier below El Mocho is called Nipo Nino, and getting there requires about 15 miles of travel over various terrain from the town.

The glacier has changed significantly in the last year, and we spent a lot of time trying to avoid all the streams and ice canyons that crossed our path.

Here are some friends negotiating the Tyrolean traverse (heading back toward town). On the day before, one of these guys had base-jumped off El Mocho for a production of 'Sender Films' and the two guys who descended El Mocho the normal way got stuck in an storm, got 2 ropes stuck on the rappels, and didn't make it back to the base until 2AM!

After leaving Chalten at 4:30pm we made it to the camp just as darkness fell. I was happy to have left my bivy bag and sleeping pad at home, because i found a cache of foam pads under a rock, and comandeered an old Argentine waterproof mail sack to use as an extra layer. There were a few other parties in camp, including the Belgian/American climbing team and musical trio that I had befriended in town. They would climb a different route on El Mocho on Thursday.

We woke up to clear weather on Thursday and after a delicious breakfast of Gu and powerbars, soon found ourselves at the baseof the peak. The route went great, with pitch after pitch of beautifully clean granite. The total length was aroun 500 meters, with most pitches 5.10, and a 5.11 crux. There was a pendulum move rated A2, but it was definitely more like A0.

Jon tops out on the crux pitch

The weather was amazing, but we could see moisture accumulating and noticed some high clouds blowing in as we finished the last few pitches. Here is a low-quality video taken high on the climb.

Here are Nico, Sean, and Mason across the way on a second El Mocho route. We had a blast hooting and hollering to these guys all day.

The summit of El Mocho is a big snowy slope, and Cerro Torre rises up another 700m or so from the far side. As I had to be back in town in 12 hours from the summit, we quickly began the descent.

We soon made it down the route, and bootiedtwo stuck ropes from the party the day before. As we pulled our last rope the wind began in earnest, and after 15 minutes more we were getting blown around and soaked from waterfall spray, rain, and the sudden gales.

The hike out must have been in world-record time, as the wind assisted out skittering back along 5 miles of ice and I ran to keep up with Jon. We arrived utterly soaked and exhausted in Chalten just in time for late-night dinner and a short nap before my ride to the airport!

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