Brits in Patagonia: Bad Weather and New Routesby Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor Jan/2014
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This season in Patagonia has seen poor weather and conditions. Several strong British teams have been down in El Chalten, but the poor conditions have certainly limited what they have been able to climb. Heavy snow and strong winds have pretty much curtailed all rock based alpine climbing, meaning that mixed routes have been the order of the day. After two seasons of great weather it seems that Patagonia has returned to its cold and serious self.
However a Brit that has added a great looking new route though is Trainee British Mountain Guide Dave Gladwin. Dave teamed up with Ben Erdmann from Alaska and Kim Ladiges from Tasmania and they climbed an amazing looking unclimbed pillar on the remote Marconi Sur glacier.
They named the pillar Punta Los Tres Mosqueteros and their new route is called D'Artagnan (400m 7a C1 M6).
How did you find your line?
Dave: "We went up there to climb another route on the North Face of Cerro Domo Blanco but we spotted an unclimbed unnamed pillar to the right on this photo.
Rolando's Patagonia Vertical guidebook has really opened up the area for exploration. I reckon loads of new stuff will get done in that cirque over next few months and I wish we could have been out there longer as there is so much to go at. Have you seen the west face of Piergiorgio.... it's insane, the size of El Capitan and 5 routes on it. One to go back for!"
And what about the name, what does it mean?
Dave: "We named the summit Los Tres Mousqueteros which is Spanish for The Three Musketeers as there are three obvious mini peaks which make up the summit. The face has been attempted by a local Argentinian climber and Eneko and Iker Pou of Spain, but they bailed just under half height. We named the route D'Artagnan after the 4th musketeer as we bailed on our first attempt and our partner couldn't join us on the second successful ascent because he had to go see about a girl..."
What was the climbing like?
Dave: "The climbing was sustained hand to finger cracks and corners which we followed to a ledge just below the summit. We did one section of C1 (Clean Aid grade) and one pendulum connecting a crack to a corner on pitch 8 then followed this to the ledge.
From here it was a great bit of Scottish climbing. It would probably get a nice Scottish grade of VI,7 or a totally out of condition M6, plus a bit of C1 anywhere else in the world as it was pouring with water.
Two of us summited and then after pouring water out of our boots and wringing out our clothes we spent the descent generally suffering in the cold slurring words and forgetting simple things. We arrived back at camp very relieved 19 hours after setting off!"
Also worth a quick mention is a small new variation added by Dave MacLeod and Calum Muskett, who are in Patagonia to try Cerro Torre. Weather so far for these two strong climbers hasn't played ball, so Cerro Torre is out of the question, but they have added a new section of mixed climbing to the right of the classic Amy-Vidailhet couloir line on Aguja Guillamet. This piece of excellent granite is accessed from the Piedra Negra bivy site in around an hour, and has many existing rock climbs on good rock leading to the summit ridge of Aguja Guillamet. According to Pataclimb the pair have climbed around 150m of new ground (More info on Calum's Blog).
And the best looking new route in Patagonia this year seems to be Super Domo on the East Face of Domo Blanco.
This mixed route has already proven popular and you can read more about the first ascent on Pataclimb.