According to Patagonia Vertical, Austrian alpinist Markus Pucher has made the first winter solo ascent of Aguja Guillaumet (2579m) in Patagonia via the Amy-Vidailhet Couloir. Markus has returned to the Patagonian mountains with the aim of completing unfinished business from 2016. Last winter, Markus was forced to turn back 40m from the summit whilst soloing Cerro Torre and was 300m short of realising his goal to solo Cerro Fitz Roy due to adverse weather; a solo of Cerro Torre in winter is an unprecedented feat, and the Fitz Roy winter solo has only been achieved once before by Yasushi Yamanoi in the 90s. Markus' consolation prize last year was a nonetheless impressive first winter solo ascent of Cerro Pollone (UKC interview).
Markus' solo ascent of Aguja Guillaumet last week came about in fortuitous circumstances. A snow storm early in the day made any climbing seem unlikely. Markus told us:
'At 4 o'clock in the morning we left the Fraile camp in the valley and a short time later it began to snow. First of all it was not so bad, but the snowfall became stronger and soon we found ourselves in a real snow storm - I thought about returning, but I said to myself: "Ok, let's go to the Paso Guillaumet and then return." On the ascent we met Ines [Papert] and Paolo, who were not enthusiastic about so much snow.'
It took Markus and his accompanying filmmakers about five hours to reach the pass, which they almost missed due to poor visibility:
'After a few minutes of freezing in the cold, the wind whistled and we searched for shelter behind a few boulders. It was still snowing and in my head I was already turning back. But my gut instinct told me to wait a bit, I don't know why, but the weather report (from Rolando Garibotti of Patagonia Vertical) said that the snowfall would stop in the course of the day and that it should get nice. So we waited.'
After an hour, the group noticed the skies brightening and the snowfall reducing. The time was right for Markus:
'I don't know exactly why I started walking; my instinct told me it was right. Hans was filming me as I faded away into the distance. I said to him, "Look, if it's not OK, I'll come back, if it's OK, I will also come back, just a little later!" And then I was alone. The snow was really deep, metre by metre I fought up the mountain. It was really a fight against the snow; it had much less to do with climbing. The route, which is normally rated 5 in difficulty, was really hard, if not super hard! But it could also be that I was just stupid. I secured myself in a few places, because I honestly sh*t my pants. The cracks and dihedrals were anything but easy, and I really had to use all my skills to get up there.'
On 8th September, just before 4pm, Markus stood on top of the Aguja Guillaumet. He commented:
'If I think about that moment, I could scream again with joy. The weather was really nice, and when I stood up there the clouds ripped open and the sun laughed in my face. I stood at the highest point of the summit, gave a smile back to the sun and felt like a winner! A winner against the snow storm, a winner against myself. I did not want to go down anymore, but I had to...my two friends were waiting for me and I wanted to tell them how nice it was up there. After a few steps in the deep snow, I turned around, said goodbye to the summit and felt like a winner.'
'I would never have believed in the morning that on the same day I would be standing on a summit!'
Markus descended via the Guillot-Conqueugniot route. A few days earlier, an attempt at a solo ascent of Fitz Roy was aborted due to high winds. Markus is in Patagonia until 22nd September and may attempt another solo of Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy if better weather prevails.
Visit Markus' website.