In February 2020, the two professional climbers Roger Schäli and Jonas Schild traveled to Patagonia. Four peaks were climbed during their stay. Roger Schäli reports on the successful Patagonia trip below.
An experience report by Jonas Schild
For the eighth time I traveled with you at the end of January Jonas shield to El Chalten in Patagonia. The area with its stormy weather, its majestic granite peaks Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, is one of the most beautiful places in the world for me and keeps magically captivating me.
In October 2002, as a boy, I got thanks Stephan Siegrist, the first time to climb in Patagonia. The goal was set high with a walk on the Maestri / Egger at Cerro Torre. Despite our competent and versatile team of four with Ralf Weber and Alex Huber, we finally managed "only" to climb Cerro Standhardt.
First chance shortly after arriving in Patagonia
Jonas and I also had clear goals in mind, but also knew about the difficult weather conditions in southern Argentina. So it happened that until our arrival at the end of January, the weather was practically bad and no major tours could be undertaken.
Immediately after our arrival in El Chalten, we were given a first one-day weather window. A little tired but full of motivation, we started our first adventure together. We knew that the conditions would not be good after so much rainfall. During the march to Laguna Sucia we were already raining for the first time and we bivouacked further down than planned.
Options limited due to conditions
After a short night we headed towards Campo Suiza on the east side of the Aguja de l'S. First we wanted to check the conditions up close before we decided on a route. The pasted snow and the relatively warm temperatures left little room for maneuver. Finally we climbed the Austriaca on the Aguja de l'S. One day after arrival we were already on the first summit. One of the small mountains in Patagonia, in these conditions, certainly not to be underestimated.
Back in the valley, we were able to set up something and get used to the Chalten lifestyle. Meeting friends, drinking coffee, eating Assados, having good conversations, bouldering and very important: weather check. All these beautiful things made everyday bad weather relatively bearable.
Hope fulfilled: long fair weather window
Even before our departure, some weather models showed an increased likelihood of longer high-pressure weather in early February. Fortunately, this was confirmed. Shortly after our first tour we were already on the road again with the prospect of four to five days of good weather. An exception for Patagonia. At the same time, we knew about the snow from the previous day, so we waited one day.
On the first day the 20 km went into Campo Polacos opposite the Torre group. The following three days we crossed the three peaks Aguja de l'S, Aguja Saint-Exupéry and Aguja Rafael. At Saint-Exupéry we had to switch to the north-west wall, as there was still too much fresh snow on the shadow side and it was very cold. It was three incredible days with great climbing, beautiful bivouacs and wild abseiling. Unfortunately it was very cold and the large amount of snow made rapid progress in this exposure sometimes impossible. This was also the reason why we decided not to go into the mighty south wall of the Poincenot under these conditions.
Deserved break in El Chalten
After five days in the mountains we were happy in Chalten with a warm shower, good food and a few days of bad weather to relax. After such an extraordinary weather window, we were not sure whether we would get another chance for another good weather window. But we were lucky and another high pressure situation was forecast. That meant; Plan again and hope to choose the right tour at the right exposure and height. Compared to the last time, warmer temperatures were announced, but there was a lot of snow in the days before.
New tour at Torre Egger in sight
So we decided to try a new line on the east wall of Torre Egger, which gets a lot of sun and is also a bit more protected from the wind. But when we stood under the wall on the first day, we had to accept that the east side got significantly more snow than last time and that our actual project is not possible. In the short term, the mood was bad. On the descent we saw that the west side of the Fitz Roy Group looked significantly drier this time. In warm temperatures, climbing in the shade is certainly more pleasant. So we decided to continue driving the last time we started crossing.
Continuation of exceedance as plan B
The next morning we got into the 900 meter long Fonrouge Rosasco in the south wall of the Poincenot. After the first 100 meters we came to an intersection with a waterfall running down it. Great morning shower! With a cool head it went on in confusing terrain. Partly through classic fireplaces, partly perfect splinters. The steepest wall section in the upper part had a lot of snow in the intersections, which we had to avoid in uncomfortable climbing in brittle rocks, which made the whole thing much more demanding and slower. The upper part led in moderate climbing into the classic Whillans-Cochrane route, via which we reached the summit in two simultaneously climbed lengths.
Up to the hip in the soaked snow
What a feeling of being able to enjoy the sunset on this needle, with a view of the inland ice, the Torre group, the Fitzroy and El Chalten. Abseiling down at night, over the Whillans ramp went pretty quickly. The descent over the glacier down to Languna de los Tres was anything but pleasant; We constantly sank to the waist in the soaked snow. Finally, a 10 km march to Chalten was announced, where we enjoyed a fine schnitzel exactly 24 hours after boarding. Not at 7 a.m., of course.
"I am really happy that I have now been able to stand on all the peaks of Fitz Roy and the three Torre peaks!"Roger Schäli
All in all, we had a brilliant time in El Chalten. Unfortunately, the conditions did not allow what we actually intended, but from our point of view, we made the best of it and are well prepared to return next year. Thanks to the four peaks that Jonas I climbed this season, I was able to count on all my trips, meanwhile standing on all eight Fitz Roy and the three Torre peaks (Cerro Torre even twice), which I am very happy about. However, I realized that the big Patagonia peaks are sometimes easier to climb via the classic routes than the "smaller" peaks such as Aguja Saint-Exupéry and Aguja Rafael, which Jonas and I climbed this year. Or that after a few successful classic routes it will also be significantly more difficult to realize new and very complex dreams in Patagonia.
"I underestimated the small peaks."Jonas shield
To be honest, I underestimated these "small" peaks a bit and in our case it was even the case that Jonas, with significantly less "Patagonia experience", made a significant contribution to our success thanks to his respectful and well-prepared tour planning. So a big compliment to the young mountaineer and friend!
In addition to climbing and mountaineering, it was a wonderful trip. We were able to make many new friends, meet old friends again. We enjoyed the time in this motivating and strong environment. In particular, we would like to thank Rolando Garibotti, who has given us incredible support with important information and the weather forecast. In addition to climbing, it was enormously enriching to have conversations about God and the world with him, as with many others, which for me are as valuable memories as the experiences on the mountain.