The Canadian Route, Fitz Roy

February 3, 2016

Rather than write myself I thought you could read the fantastic email Chris wrote to everyone at home:

 

Quentin and I got back yesterday from 5 days of effort that took us to the top of fitzroy via its south (read: cold) face.  At the moment I’m actually feeling a bit flat, I think perhaps the after effect of the elation of yesterday and the collective expenditure of 5 days on the go. The comedown I suspect...  But recollecting my feelings of yesterday this is one of the finest achievements of my life.  Certainly I have never put more effort into climbing a mountain.  The logistics of so much variable terrain, the distance required and the time and consequent weight we had to carry made it really hard. And, being the ambitious (read: dumb!) guys that we are we decided to not climb one of the normal routes (still massive undertakings themselves) but instead we did the 3rd ascent of the Canadian route, which takes a direct line up the steep 500m south face.  

 

 

So a brief description of the five days… with some attempt to make it interesting ;)

 

We left Chalten on Thursday at noon, hitching a ride with two really nice German tourists for 25km to the far north end of the Fitzroy massif.  From there we hiked about 10km gaining 1000m elevation to Piedre Negra, a decent camp in the moraines below Guillemet.  This is not the best way to approach the south end of fitz (from the north end!) but we had cached gear up there and therefore had no choice! The downside of this was that on thursday we slept for a few hours, got up at 1230am and gained paso Guillemet , then traversed the east side of Guillemet, Mermoz, and Fitzroy…. in a storm.  So finally at about 5am in the morning we decide to sleep for a bit in a sheltered bit of glacier until it was both light and not snowing, which took until about 7. We then climbed 400m of 60-70 degree ice to Breche de los Italianos, a saddle on the south side of fitz. From this position you have Poincenot to your left, fitz to your right, Desmonchada in front of you behind which is the entire Cerro Torre massif, and behind that the ice field and then pacific ocean!!! As I’ve said, this is by far the most beautiful mountain range i’ve ever seen. The scale is impossible to understand….

 

 

So anyway, we got up there on Friday around 12 hours after leaving early that morning and spent the day drinking water and eating and sleeping. The next morning we had a nice casual 4am start to the day, climbing another couple hundred meters to an ice slope which we crossed to gain the bottom of the south face. We then climbed for about 13 hours through - warning, some climber jargon to follow ;) - some of the most sandbagged terrain I’ve seen! John Walsh put the line up in 2005 and graded it 6b C1 (10d) but we climbed numerous pitches of overhanging corner cracks most of which were green and yellow aliens, with one 60 m pitch of almost entirely purple and green camalots.  Pitches of immaculate rock that would be world class with queues before them if they were in Squamish… oddly enough we were the 3rd group of people up it instead ;) It was pretty cold however, and we were far to weak too climb this terrain on the 3rd day out at 2800m with backpacks on so we had to aid many, many pitches.  Consequently it was pretty slow going and we made the top of the wall at dusk.  We were really stoked to find the ultimate bivi ledge - sheltered on 3 sides with an overhang above and facing east (sheltered from the winds) and spent a rather cold night out with just one of those emergency tarps and each other for warmth!! Much vigorous man cuddling and shivering got us through to the morning and the most glorious sun rise I’ve seen.  

 

A don’t know how much we actually slept but it must have been a little bit because the emotional low point was waking with much confusion from a great dream I was having where my mom was preparing me non-stop every food I like…. Quite the shock to realize you’re not in a warm kitchen eating Yorkshire pudding with gravy but instead are shivering at 3000m having eaten half a stick of salami for dinner, 1.5 L of water in the last 24 hours and have a half a cliff bar to look forward to for breakfast! Anyway, following said breakfast, we climbed a few more moderate pitches, dropped the ropes and rack off to where we were to descend and strolled to the summit!!! We made the summit of Fitz at 9am and spent a glorious hour in still air - what a rare treat for Patagonia!! Unbelievable! 

 

 

It took us about 10 hours to rappel the Franco-argentine route back to our tent where we drank and drank and drank and then slept like rocks until 2am.  At 3am we were beginning the descent to the glacier from La Brecha and by 10am were safely back below the glaciers at Laguna des los Tres eating a packaged meal and changing into running shoes for the last casual 10km back to town.  The ensuing beers were without doubt the finest I have ever tasted!!! We got back to town 5 days to the minute after leaving, feeling elated, proud, and accomplished.  The beauty of this place is surpassed, I think, only by its scale. Climbing Fitz from town involves 3 vertical kilometres of elevation gain over around 12-15 km of horizontal distance.  I have never learnt more in a given period of time than over these days climbing in the Chalten massif, which beyond the fulfillment of climbing mountains has made it a really meaningful experience.

 

That’s all for now. I’m off to eat my third breakfast of the morning! 

 

Much love to you all and will see you in a month!

 

-Chris

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