Sunday, November 10, 2013

Poincenot and Guillaumet

Phil and Ollie low down on the Whillans' Ramp at dawn.
We arrived in El Chalten, the small, thriving town nestled beneath the Fitzroy and Torre mountains exhausted after four days of traveling. It was cold and windy and there wasn't a mountain in sight. After four days of disjointed sleep on planes, buses and the floors of airports we decided to forgo frugality and treat ourselves to a night in a B and B.

Unfortuanately for us the Patagonian weather gods had decided to be kind for the next couple of days. Although we were still tired from traveling this was too good an opptunity let pass. We enlisted Phil Wesseler - an American spending the season down here, who we'd met in Yosemite - packed our bags and started the long slog to Paso Superior. After a freezing night of man spooning we awoke at four and headed towards Poincenot. We climbed the Whillans' Ramp, which I thought was a great alpine route and not quite as difficult as the guidebook suggests. We had the whole mountain to ourselves too, which was amazing. The views in Patagonia do not disappoint.

The descent took a while but was uneventful apart from a jammed rope and the large piece of bergshund I dislodged. Soon we were back at Paso Superior tired and dehydrated. We set off back towards town. Endless postholing lead us back to the snow line, where we donned trainers and kept slogging through the night. After twenty two hours on the go and with no food left the shelter next to the path was too great a temptation. We put our sleeping bags on the picnic table and dropped straight to sleep. The next morning we awoke to light rain and walked back into Chalten. It was longer than I remembered and I was glad we'd stopped for the night.

After two days of R and R a short weather window appeared in the forecast. Ollie, Phil and I packed up again and headed towards Piedra Negra our sights set on the Amy-Vidailhet on Agjuga Guillaumet. The route was great: a commiting bergshrund led to a fun ice gully, which was followed by a rocky ridge and then the summit snow slopes. On the summit we caught up with another pair climbers. We sat in the sunshine and melted some water, before descending. The descent was straightforward and we were soon back at our bivi. We got back to the road just after dark and managed to hitch back to El Chalten in the third car that passed us, which a relief as I was expecting to spend the night by the side of the road with no food. Cheers guys. Back in town Ollie and I rewarded ourselves with the best steak either of us have ever eaten.