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Rock Climbing in Patagonia with Josh Smith

Tue, 2019-11-19

The South American region of Patagonia is home to storied granite spires that tower thousands
of feet above vast and convoluted glaciers, and even during the summer these remote summits
are blasted with ice and snow by storms that first fetch over a vast expanse of the far Southern
Ocean and then whistle across the great Patagonia Ice Cap before slamming into the Cerro
Torre range. Despite the long and dangerous approaches, active glaciers, and what is
demonstrably the worst weather on the planet, climbers have long found these mountains
irresistible. Each year both escalarati and weekend-warriors come from across the globe to rub-
elbows in the town of El Chalten at the foot of the Fitzroy range, where they wait impatiently, a
beer in one hand and an empanada in the other, for the infrequent good-weather windows that
will allow them to rush into the mountains and test their strength on the best rock on the
In January of 2019, we, Josh Smith and Aaron Miller, joined this seasonal migration for a short
while. Any attempt to climb in Patagonia is a gamble governed by the notoriously mercurial
and brutal weather, but we had incredible luck and experienced two good weather windows
during our three-and-a-half week stay. During the first, we made an attempt on Cerro Fitzroy
via the Franco-Argentine route (5.11) during the warmest weather window in local memory.
We were turned around part way up by waterfalls generated by the uncanny heat but counted
the 4-day attempt as one of our most extraordinary mountain experiences to date. During the
second window we completed a climb of the mountain St. Exupery via a route called Chiaro de
Luna (2200 feet, 5.11). For such a short stay, our trip was remarkably successful; however, it
was not unmarked by drama. The 2018/19 season saw one of the highest accident rates ever in
the Fitzroy and Cerro Torre ranges, partly because of the abnormally warm weather, and partly
because of the increasing number of climbers attempting the mountains there.
Join us for a short reprise of the trip, a description of the logistics of climbing and hiking in
Patagonia, and some thoughts on risk and reward in the mountains.

The month meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday of each month in the planetarium of the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC)  2600 Canyon Rd, Los Alamos, NM 87544

Social at 6:45.  Reports of recent and upcoming trips at 7:05pm.   Program to follow.

Visitors are always welcome!  Free refreshments!

Trip Location: 
United States
49° 17' 10.1724" S, 73° 2' 16.8" W

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