The German professional alpinist Michael Wohlleben traveled together with Walter Hungerbühler for about a month to the paradise of every alpinist: Patagonia, Argentina. We asked Michi if he could send us a few lines about his experiences from El Chalten. He did that. And not just a few lines. In two parts Michi tells you about his encounter with kiffenden alpinists, fat beats in the wall, long tours and well-deserved rest days.
An experience report by Michi Wohlleben - part 1
On the first day after our arrival we wanted to leave for the "Piedra del Freile" to climb the "Brenner" route at the Aguja Guillamet. It did not matter, however, as our luggage did not arrive. Even a nightly two-hour bike ride through El Chalten in search of the little white bus from "Las Lengas" did not help. So we went to sleep the next morning involuntarily.
12 Meter Runout by Offwidth Crack
We postponed our idea by 24 hours knowing that we only had good weather for half a day, but that still worked well: Instead of "Piedra del Freile", we started at 2 a.m. by taxi to El Pillar, got in About 5 hours to Passo Guillamet and started climbing. Beautiful pitches led us to the "famous" Brenner crack, which was, however, icy. Therefore we only had the wide off-width to the right. As an experienced Indian Creek climber, Wält was not particularly keen on the lead, but was not shy and conjured up with a technique that I had never seen before. The 12 meter runout without the matching Camelot made itself felt by a short, questioning, very doubtful look down.
Butterflies in the stomach?
When I arrived at the Offwidth, Wält called to me: "Michi, have you ever done butterflys?" I thought a little sarcastically of something like butterflies in my stomach ... I had the last time 8 years ago. After a brief explanation, I understood what it was about. Namely, to make a big jam in the crack out of two hand clamps in order to somehow choke up the crack. We continued to climb quickly and quickly reached the summit, where Patagonia finally showed its windier side. Less than two hours later we were back in Passo Guillamet. The wind whipped over the ridges so violently that we could hear the legendary popping noises with our own ears for the first time: As if a jet jet breaks the sound barrier! To my amusement, the wind knocked over the little old (53) Swiss Wält, who, by the way, has a fist behind his ears, twice on the descent. We jumped for a few hours (Swiss German: senseless hiking, hatching) through the Patagonian Mountains before we got back to El Pillar on the main road.
Switzerland - France 1-0
16 hours on our feet was enough for us: So hitchhiking! However, there was competition: two pretty trekkers from France also stood on the road. We were lucky. Two minutes later - 1: 0 Equipo Suiza, father and son as they said - a car stopped and we went to Chalten, where Bife de Chorizo and a cold beer were waiting for us. A well-deserved rest day follows, on which we went bouldering with Luca Schiera from the Ragni di Lecco. I was surprised by the really great lines in Chalten and enjoyed two or three projects that I saved for the coming days of bad weather. Five days passed by in a flash.
In search of the slip-through
When the next, short weather window announced, we wanted to go to the Torre Valley. Aim: to do something nice on St. Exupery, Mocho, Medialuna or De la S to climb. Since we - to be honest - were too lazy to carry all the camping equipment to the Niponino, we spent the night comfortably in the Angostini Camp.
Get up at 2 in the morning and head towards Torre Glacier.
Soon we reached the moraine. Without info, we ran the path we knew from previous years, and after 30 minutes were down by the lake, gazing in pitch dark night on a 70 ° steep moraine, which ended in the water. "I will not go through here!" All further attempts to cross the moraine deep ended in steep terrain. It would have been Harakiri. So all the way back up and looking for a slip over the moraine. It was getting light as we finally found a way through this labyrinth.
Patagonia struggled with hands and feet
The motivation was in the basement when we finally put our feet on the Torre Glacier after three to four hours. Walt's comment: "Patagonia defends itself again with hands and feet." When we finally arrived in Niponino after six hours, it was raining. It was also really windy. New decision: go to the mocho! But the weather was against us: drizzle soaked our pants. In short, it was disgusting. Sit down. Think.
Change of plan: Change the valley side. Two hours later we were sitting in Campo Polacos. When the sun showed, we decided to leave for Aguja de la S. Of course, we did not know how far we would get without proper crampons and pimples, so we only took one 50m single rope with us.
Tracked by bad luck: Three hangers in three pitches
The long traverse under the Aguja St. Exupery was very beautiful. We had a great view of the Torre group and had to find out again that the weather at Cerro Torre is always worse than at Fitz Roy. We quickly climbed into “Die Brecha de los Austriacos”. This action strongly reminded me of climbing Mönch Nollens with my friend Ueli Steck: in sneakers and ice ax, without rope, in running pants, without a down jacket ... the storm that caught us unexpectedly in the summit area could also have ended badly. I have long known how quickly the situation can change. But no situation should overturn here and now. We had great weather and climbed the Aguja de la S. When abseiling the 50m rope was already impractical. Three dead ends on the first three pitches are not a good result, but that's how it is sometimes.
We climbed and roped off the couloir and headed back to Niponino, where we met friends against 17.30 Watch who kindly gave us a few bars. After that, it was about 4,5 hours back to our tent. On the following morning the mountains were again covered in clouds and so we went back to our Chalten.
After actions of this kind, I am always looking forward to rest days and do not want to know anything about the mountains.
The village of El Chalten - base for many alpinists in Patagonia
Credits: picture and text Michi Wohlleben