Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll recently left Patagonia after spending several months there with a group of friends. He was able to accomplish quite a bit, from sending projects at the Piedra Parada during the Petzl RocTrip to new alpine experiences on the Cerro Torre and Torres del Paine. Below, Sean recounts his recent adventures.
I travelled to Patagonia in the beginning of November for the Petzl RocTrip at Piedra Parada. Once there I thought -since I’m here, I might as well stay there the whole season and enjoy the mountains too.
In Piedra Parada I was really happy to climb my route Balrog, a six pitch route I had put up in March during the bolting trip and which had been haunting my dreams ever since. It was a great challenge for me and it was fun to share the experience with Marcos Costa, Dani Andrada, Jorg Verhoeven (who did the first ascent), Aymeric Clouet and Stephane Hanssens.
After this I headed to El Chalten, and after hanging out and waiting for a decent weather window Stephane Hanssens and I climbed the mythical Cerro Torre via the Ragni route. It was very special for us because we have little ice climbing experience and it was amazing to climb on those psychedelic ice mushrooms with all of the weird shapes and tunnels. We couldn’t believe it when we were standing on the summit of Cerro Torre!
Next Stephane Hanssens, Merlin Didier (a friend from Belgium) and I headed to Torres del Paine where we had an amazing time!We spent a month (14 jan –12 feb) in the French Valley, living in a cave and climbing. We did not see anybody except for the one day we went down to the ranger station to ask for a weather forecast, the rest of the time it was just the three of us in the upper valley. We didn't have any weather forecast, so it was exciting trying to guess what the weather was going to do and try and listen to your instinct and decide if you should climb or not... There were definitely days were we got shot down by the weather.
We free climbed two routes of exceptional quality!!! It was magical! The first free ascent of the east face of Cerro Catedral (1000m, 7c+) finishing off a project called Los Fabulosos Dos, a variation of Escoba de Dios, which was attempted by our friends Mason Earl, Peter Rhodes and George Ullrich, and which inspired us to go try it when we saw a video of theirs on the internet, all credit goes to them for envisioning this line, unfortunately they were really unlucky with the weather and had to bail.
We fixed ropes for two days before spending a week on the wall capsule style. The weather was exceptional! We only had two days of bad weather during this ascent! There were days we had to wait for the shade because it was too warm for some of the more technical climbing! I never thought this would be necessary in Patagonia!
The second route was the first free ascent of the east face of Cota 2000 (500m, 7c+), the big rock face left of Catedral. At first we thought it was a new line but we found bolts and pitons and now after some research it turns out to be the 1993 Italian route from Canzan, Moredo, Panciera, Raccanelo, Valmassoi. On this route, without prefixing, we spent a week on the wall. The weather was really bad this time, we only had two days of ok weather, so many days were spent just hanging in our portaledge. We just needed one day of decent weather to go to the summit, with almost no food left we got our day, climbed to the summit, and walked out of the valley with no food left.
Both lines had perfect cracks and dream dihedrals!!!
We also had some really bad weather and extremely strong wind. It was really a lot of fun.
After the Paine we headed to El Chalten again (we were there in December when we climbed the Ragni route on Cerro Torre). On our three last days a very good weather window appeared... so we headed up the hill for a last time (Stephane Hanssens and I), we went to the North West face of Fitz and had a great time! We climbed new ground to the Grand Hotel and then we finished up El Flaco con domingo. So much fun and some great crack climbing! 1800 meters, 900 of them new, difficulties to 7b+, onsighting every pitch but one, on which we lowered back down to redpoint. We climbed non-stop, climbing through the night, 31h Base Camp (BC) to summit and 46h BC to BC, a quick 1h sleep and then we had to run down to El Chalten to hurry to Rio Gallegos to catch our plane!!! It was hectic! Absolutely amazing adventure.
30m of no holds! Pure friction! A true calf killer!
Petzl was able to get a few words from Peter Rhodes about their adventure on the east face of Cerro Catedral opening the Los Fabulosos Dos.
Peter kindly allowed us to link the video that they produced on that occasion.
For me that wall was the pinnacle of everything is learnt in climbing. It's so far from the road that just the effort to get ready for the climb is amazing. We never had tempertures above freezing and it snowed every day. The final storm that broke our portaledge was one of the wildest times I will ever experience. Being on that attempt with those two awesome guys was just epic. Sean and crew are above and beyond. Their motivation constantly astounds me.