Italian alpinist and guide Corrado 'Korra' Pesce recently made the much sought-after second ascent of Psycho Vertical (950m 6b A3 M8, 90° ice) on the south east face of Torre Egger in Patagonia, Argentina alongside Tomy Aguilo, Roland Striemitzer, Iñaki Coussirat and Carlitos Molina - 29 years after the first ascent in December 1986 by the Slovenians Janez Jeglič, Silvo Karo and Franček Knez.
Although initially arriving at the climb as two separate teams - Pesce, Striemitzer and Aguilo, and an Argentine team of Coussirat and Molina - the climbers decided to group together to complete the second ascent after meeting at the same point on the route.
We asked Korra some questions about Psycho Vertical and the decision to join forces with a 'competing' team...
(Following their ascent, Iñaki Coussirat sadly passed away on 21st January whilst climbing Cerro Fitz Roy, as reported on Planet Mountain.com.)
When and why did Psycho Vertical become an objective for you?
I have always raved about hard routes in the Torres. The sheer size of the walls, the legend surrounding some of these places and the influence of the first ascensionists made even just dreaming about these routes almost ludicrous.
Did you do any specific preparation for the climb?
Technically I brought my abilities to the level of Psycho Vertical over more than ten years of climbing routes as difficult as I could find in the Alps. Making fast ascents of the Jorasses and Drus' hardest routes generally free or with little aid and with a small pack made me feel ready for the routes. The rest was strategy, being at the right place at the right time and being surrounded by motivated climbers.
Can you briefly describe the line, pitches, grades, bivouacs etc?
The line is amazing and very obvious, basically a 900 + metre long series of vertical to overhanging corners.
27 pitches involving difficulties of F6b, 6c, A2 and 90 degree ice in the lower gully and mushrooms on the top, also some very hard mixed climbing to go past heavily iced cracks and corners around M8, and all was 5 stars.
"I thought "something's gonna happen right, we ain't climbing this freaking route!"
Who were your team members, and how easy was the decision to join up with the other team when you arrived at the same point on the climb?
Initially I teamed up with Tomi Aguilo, an Argentinian El Chaltén resident, who shared the same vision and objectives I had. Roli Striemitzer from Austria, a mountain guide I have known for some time, said he wanted to climb Egger - he had already bagged some nice peaks in Patagonia and was up to any task.
Incredibly at the bivy we found out that two young Argentines had the same goal - Carlitos Molina and Inaki Coussirat. We went ballistic organising everything to make sure we wouldn't have to climb under another team because I knew it would have been too dangerous. The guys didn't seem too bothered by the fact that we started ahead of them and I had bad feelings for rushing to the base of a climb just to be the first - it's something I would not have done under any other circumstances but we did not have other plans. We offered to join teams leaving us fixing their ropes on the many pitches requiring aid or with difficulties. This way we reduced the risk of hitting them with rocks while leading but it still was freaking dangerous to be so many!
What were the biggest challenges on the route?
A Patagonian big route is a real rollercoaster and you can always expect a sting in the tail at some point. Every time we climbed a hard pitch we thought "that's it, that was the crux!" and then another came, then another. I was almost surprised when we came up off the big corner and I thought "something's gonna happen right, we ain't climbing this freaking route!"
What else have you climbed during this latest trip to Patagonia?
My 40 day trip started with a lot of bad weather and loads of snow. Weather was hard to predict, then it became surprisingly good for long stretches. With Tomi we climbed Aguja Rafael Juarez via the Piola-Anker, El Mocho via another Piola route. Then after Torre Egger we climbed the magnificent Red Pillar on Aguja Mermoz, a route from Kurt Albert and Bernd Arnold and at the end of the trip we did Golden Eagle on Aguja Desmochada, a route from A.Huber and S.Siegrist.
What makes Patagonia special for you?
This place is just incredible - wherever I look I see faces and routes I would like to climb one day.
What's your next goal, in Patagonia or elsewhere?
I can tell you over a pint of beer...
Korra Pesce is a UIAGM Mountain Guide based in Chamonix
You can follow him on Instagram at korra_pesce