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BrettS

[TR] Aguja Guillaumet (Chalten Massif, Patagonia) - Comesana-Fonrouge 2/2/2015

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Trip: Aguja Guillaumet (Chalten Massif, Patagonia) - Comesana-Fonrouge

 

Date: 2/2/2015

 

Trip Report:

Trip: Aguja Guillaumet via Comesana-Fonrouge (Patagonia)

Date: 2/2/2015

 

Trip Report:

My wife and I recently returned from a 3 week trip to the Chalten massif in Southern Patagonia. It was an amazing trip, and we were lucky enough to have good weather for the majority of our trip. The area is amazing, and is definitely worthy of all the hype!

 

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We successfully summited our main climbing objective, Aguja Guillaumet (The northernmost peak of the Fitzroy skyline) via the Comesana-Fonrouge, our intended route of ascent. It was an amazing experience including beautiful scenery, perfect granite, interesting company, lucky weather, a few mistakes, and a very long summit day!

 

Our first attempt at the climb came a few days earlier, and can only be described as a complete and utter failure. We frantically tried to catch a weather window that was developing as soon as we arrived in El Chalten, and managed to forget a good chunk of necessary gear in our jet lagged state. Fortunately a few days later, things were looking good again. We packed up in a much more civilized fashion, made sure that we had all, and not more than we needed, and caught a ride in the morning to begin the approach to basecamp.

 

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The hike begins just before a bridge that crosses Rio Electrico, so named due to booming sound that emanates from the valley from the strong winds, reminiscent of thunder. The first four miles of the trail follow the river valley in a gentle and pleasant path through beach forests and green grass. The river, with its blueish green hue from glacial sediment, is never far away, and provides scenic views. After four miles, the work begins. a steep trail ascends straight up alongside a cascading creek. We were happy to take the packs off and set up camp when we finally arrived at our destination, Piedra Negra.

 

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The basecamp at Piedra Negra (named after the black rock in the vicinity) was very nice with a clean source of water, flat terrain, and some nice tent spots to choose from. It sits right below Giullaumet, and we were able to check out our climbing route and strategize for the coming day. We chose our home for the next few days, and set up shop. We had a friendly Argentinean neighbor (Santiago or "Santi" for short) who had climbed our route before and readily gave us his thoughts and advice. We ate copious amounts of freeze-dried food, and went to bed early for the long day to come.

 

The alarm went off bright and early at 2:30 am, but I was already awake, anxious for the day to come. I opened the tent door, tense with what I would see outside. Relief and excitement came as I saw Guillaumet in front of me bathed in moonlight, only thin high clouds, and very little wind. It was go time!

 

The climb starts with a relatively short traverse on a low angle glacier with only a few easily avoided crevasses. We made short work of the glacier, and then began the next and less enjoyable challenge of ascending a steep, long and loose scree field. I am fairly confident that we found the most challenging way up the scree prior to encountering the final obstacle prior to the roped rock climbing, a long and steep snow field that cut across the north face of the mountain.

 

We strapped on our crampons, pulled out our ice axes, and started traversing the lower snow slopes. Approximately halfway across, we decided that we were tired of traversing, and started climbing straight up the middle of the steep snow, front pointing with our crampons, and swinging our ice axes. The snow was in great condition for cramponing, and we climbed relatively quickly, but we were a bit surprised as the angle continued to increase.

 

The snow reached about 45-50 degrees, and we were approximately 3/4 of the way up when the sun began to rise. I can say without a doubt that it was the most spectacular sunrise I have ever seen. The sky was a cool turquoise, and the circling lower clouds were vibrant pink. The east horizon was fiery red and orange, and the snow we clung to glowed in a reflection of the sky above. It was truly amazing, and something that will never be forgotten.

 

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We reached the top of the snow slope, and realized that we would have to descend to the start of the roped climbing route. We made a single rappel to a nice ledge, changed into rock climbing gear, and began up the route. At this point, there were several other climbing parties below us, and we wanted to stay ahead of them, so we climbed as quickly and efficiently as possible. The initial rock pitches were easy (in the 5.6 range) and we moved upwards rapidly. Soon the lower parties were out of sight and earshot.

 

The Chalten massif is known for it's golden granite, and the rock is truly amazing. Clean cracks split the rock that made for very enjoyable climbing. After about 5 pitches we made it to the crux of the climbing route, an incredible (5.10b/c) crack that begins the harder portion of the rock climb. I started off well, climbing free but quickly found that my heavy pack was going to make this pitch a challenge. After taking a short fall, I decided that it was time to go to aid mode. The pitch didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked, but Soraya made quick work of it, and we got past the crux able to continue our climb.

 

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The next two pitches were our favorite of the entire route. A traverse cut across the exposed west face of the mountain with impressive exposure below, and then a beautiful crack slanted back right. They were fun, exposed and had magnificent rock quality. This is why you climb in Patagonia!

 

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Another short pitch led to the Amy Col, where our route met several others. We managed to stay well ahead of other parties on our route, but here we reached a traffic jam with other parties coming up from the Brenner Route. This cost us some time as we were stuck behind several other climbers, but we had some good company with climbers from Oregon, California, Argentina, and Chile.

 

The climbing continued to be interesting and fun, the weather was beautiful, and the temperatures began to rise as the sun hit the rock. About 15-16 pitches into the climb we got to the final push to the summit, a relatively low angle (30 degree) snow slope to the summit block. By this point it was quite hot, and the sun hitting the snow intensified the heat. The snow was soft due to the temperatures, but the going remained easy as we climbed the last bit near the top.

 

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There it was, the tippy top! All we had to do was one more easy pitch. Soraya put me on belay and I made my way the last few meters up the wind-carved granite. I flopped over the summit rock, in a moment of sheer joy and exhaustion. Once I had the energy to look up, the view was stupendous. To the west were the fangs of the Torre range, smattered with wind-driven rime ice. Beyond was the immense ice sheet and the other countless glaciated peaks of southern Patagonia. To the east was the vast Argentinean steppe dotted by turquoise lakes of all shapes and sizes. The constant crash of falling seracs from the surrounding alpine glaciers punctuated the silence usually filled by the roaring wind. It was a moment of complete satisfaction, and immense beauty.

 

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But we only had a moment. The delays from the crux pitch and the traffic jam had put us a bit behind schedule, and we wanted to be off the rock before dark. We were only half way, as we had a long way to go down. We scurried down the snow, organized our gear for the descend and began rappelling.

 

And there were a lot of rappels! We chose to descend our climbing route, and it was a long route meaning many rappels. Many of them were double rope rappels, and we had to back up many of the rappel stations that were in dangerous disrepair. Some of the rappels were impressively exposed. Each time we pulled the rope we prayed that the rope would come down smoothly and not get stuck. Luckily, we had few rappelling problems and we descended relatively quickly all things considered. Regardless, I would definitely recommend descending the Amy Route instead of the Comesana-fonrouge as we did.

 

We reached the snow slope, and found other parties who had not made it to the summit starting a rappel down the snow. We realized that they were rappelling the correct climbing route, and that we had ascended a much harder snow slope in the morning than was necessary. We made four double rope rappels down the snow in the dark, but unfortunately the rope got stuck on one of them and I had to prussic up the snow and build a new anchor. We were relatively safe at this point, so it wasn't a big deal, but it was certainly exhausting!

 

We descended the scree slope and glacier much more easily than we climbed them thanks to some keen route finding from Soraya, and we made it back to the tent by 1:30 in the morning. We were too exhausted to make dinner, so we just high-fived for an awesome and successful climb, climbed in our sleeping bags and fell asleep.

 

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We slept in a bit in the morning. Soraya made me coffee and oatmeal in bed (what a wife)! We lazily packed up and headed down the steep trail to the river. The last four miles should have been easy, but somehow felt exhausting. We finally reached the end of the trail threw, our packs on the ground, and waited for someone to drive by and give us a ride back to El Chalten. We quickly got a ride into town. We took a shower, limped into town, and ate the saltiest, fattiest, and sugariest food we could find before hobbling back to bed.

 

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We also got to take our heavy bags for a walk up the Torre Valley. We intended to climb something, but it didn’t work out. I have a bunch of cool photos though. Enjoy!

 

 

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Gear Notes:

Doubles to #3 was good for me.

 

Approach Notes:

Find a trail on climbers left side of the scree field above the glacier, and stay to the far climbers right on the snow slope. Otherwise straightforward. Ask me about the Torre approach if you like, but it changes annually.

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fo'shiz, looks like something to remember until you can't remember fuck-all :)

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Damn Brett, that looks like an amazing trip!

 

I'm certainly jealous, looks like you hit the season for the ages. And you had fun with the wife, which is the most important part.

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