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zealotnoob


Mar 12, 2008, 6:46 PM
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The word from Patagonia
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(taken from an email to friends and family while on a two month climbing tirp in Patagonia)

I wanted to take the opportunity to clean up the email list. Some of you should already have the messages below. If not, then I just corrected my error with the thought that you may be interested in some exploits. Scroll to the bottom for the beginning, otherwise start at the top for the ¨Momento¨ style redition.

........................................................................


Life at basecamp in Paine was simple. When we slept, it was a deep recovery sleep from carrying loads or a long alpine day. When we carried loads, or climbed, it was in celebration that the forces of Patagonia were letting us pass. When we ate, we savored every crumb and had no doubt that every nutrient would be blundered by our ravenous bodies. Social interaction with climbers was pure and uncomplicated. Across various language barriers and with the rigors of our day, there was only reason to share good feelings. Occassionally we´d get to regale passing trekkers with our exploits and feel like pioneers of the human experience.

Our brief return to civilization has created a mix of feelings. All of a sudden the myriad of casual wants have found their voice and demand satisfaction. But the satisfaction is short lived and mostly feels like indigestion.

We must have all developed impressive filters to thrive in modern culture. It would be nice to return and have new insight on how to recraft my filter...

Right now we´re in El Chalten, Argentina, looking up at the Fitzroy massif. It is surreal to see the range first hand, having been staring at its image and dreaming for the past few months.

El Chalten has a distinctively different flavor than civilization at the base of Paine. In Paine we felt like part of a rare and strange breed, being climbers. Here, climbers seem to be a dime a dozen.

Today Dave and I will begin to carry our gear up to base camp. Our first objective will be a peak called Aguja del la S and afterward we will go for Poincenot. I must say, I am looking forward to the work and life at basecamp.

In my last email I mentioned that there was a 1000´ of technical climbing on the north tower of Paine. This should have read 2000´.

I hope all are well! Until soon,

Dan


On 2/2/08, Daniel Ressler <daniel.ressler@gmail.com> wrote:
Around a month ago my partner Dave and I came to Patagonia with absolutely no idea what, if anything, we´d be able to accomplish. Information on climbing here is scarce and the accounts we had seen are from world-class alpinists, with whom we struggle to relate. Since then, I am happy to say, we have come a long way.

Our first goal was to climb the Monzino Route V 5.10, which follows the south ridge to the summit of the north tower of Paine (google ¨torre norte paine¨ for pėcs).

For many days we would wake at 2am to check the weather. Often, the sky was cloudy and the winds violent, so we would roll over and go back to sleep. Other occassions we´d wake to find starkly bright stars piercing the protective canopy of our Lengua Forest and we´d embark on our climb, only to be turned back by harsh conditions higher up in the mountains.

One such day, as we picked our way through the loose talus of glacial moraine, the wind had the effect of punching us from varying directions. Prolonged gusts would suck the wind out of your lungs. There is something about being relentlessly shoved and denied breath that is seriously demoralizing.

But each time we ventured to the base of our climb, we cached more gear. So, finally we were in position to make the trip completely unencumbered.

One day we realized that the barometric pressure was the highest it had been yet and that the upward trend spanned several days. ¨Tomorrow is the day¨ we said with renewed confidence.

That phrase had been uttered every day for the last week by a columbian team who shared our camp. Every day they went to the base of the route, regardless of the apparent weather, only to come back, the weather having failed to yield. We noticed this barometric event on their last night at the park.

At 2am we found stars and scant wind. Buzzing with energy, we wolfed down our breakfast and were on the move by 3am.

For two hours we ascended wooded trails, steep scree slopes and glacial moraine. At our gear cache, just as it was about to be light, the weather remained calm. We hadn´t been further than this point and I had to fight to keep keep my heartrate low to preserve my energy, in spite of my excitement.

The next two hours we ascended the 2000´ talus slope at the base of the tower. With every step up we gained a more breathtaking view of the Patagonian peaks around us.

Finally, at the base of the sheer west face of the tower, we traversed and pėcked our way into a gully that leads to the col inbetween the lofty central tower and north tower. From there we simulclimbed for six rope-lengths on easy, but icy, rock, mixed with patches of snow.

Once we gained the Col, we had an intimate view of the 7000´drop on the other side. Since I lead the first six pitches, Dave took the next two, which were the two most diffucult (5.10) on the route. I was incredulous that he could climb at all, given the cold and wind in the notch. When I followed the pitches, I paused to warm my hands on the back of my neck numerous times.

From there I took the lead and we raced another 6 pitches of moderate rock to the top.

When we reached the top, we noticed that there was a large, apparently unclimbable, boulder that stood fifty feet higher than our stance. ¨Perhaps we should go check that out,¨I suggested to Dave.

Around that time, a team from Spain joined us at our stance. ¨This is the summit,¨they asserted. So we relaxed and enjoyed the gobsmacking view from the top.

On the east we could peered down 10,000´ to the flat green steppe, or pampas, that extend to the horizon. On the west we looked down upon the sheer 3000´faces of Escudo, Fortulessa and Tridente on the opposite side of the valley. Beyond we could see black needles shrouded by glacier, and then a vast icecap, with a covering of cloud. Even on such a calm day, the wind in high places is made evident by lenticular clouds, stretched across parts of the sky.

Seeking an advantage in our pooled resources, we joined with the Spanish team for the decent. 4 hours and 12 or so rappells later and we were at the base of the tower, and a catatonic four hours of down-scrambling got us back to our tent.

In 22 hours we had ascended and decended around 7000´, 1000´of which was technical climbing, and covered over 10 miles of ground. As we lay down to sleep, our alarm from the morning sounded. What a long day!

The next day we celebrated with pasta and a bottle of wine we had dragged to basecamp. Later in the evening we made a fire and chatted with a team from South Africa, who had been successful on the central tower the day before.

¨Did you climb the summit boulder,¨ one of them asked us. ¨No!¨ we told him and explained the circumstances. Arrg! It turns out you can climb the summit boulder, and it isn´t even that hard (5.8)--you just have to get close to see the features.

In the turbulenįe of mood that inevitably follows the obtaining of a large goal and extreme physical endevor, the fact of the missed summit boulder nagged at us. Perhaps we weren´t fit for Patagonia after all.

Having completed, at least to some degree, the Monzino route we were suddenly for want of a goal. Should we just head out and continue our jouney elsewhere?

Amidst our indesicion, we reached news that an 11 day weather window of favorable weather was coming to the area. This is unheard of in Patagonia. We simply had to do something.

One possibility was a route called Taller del Sol V 5.10+. This route was also on the north tower, but instead of following the ridge, it goes straight up the sheer west face for over ten vertical pitches at our climbing limit and a couple easier ones. It was a long shot. But how amazing would it be to have another shot at that summit boulder, and via such a sustained and direct line!

We would need every possible advantage, so we moved much of our gear to an advanced basecamp at the base of the talus slope at the base of the tower. Our new home was a dubiously propped up multi-ton boulder atop a moraine. We had just enough room for the two of us to wriggle in, but once in, it was quite cozy.

After a few days of bad weather and carrying of more gear up to our advanced site, we had our chance.

Dave started our climb, but we were still unsure which crack system we were supposed to take. Two pitches up, we called down to some of our new Chilean friends who were passing below, on their way to do the Monzino route. They told us they thought our route was further to the right, but they weren´t sure. We aimed to continue from where we were, but trend right if we could. Soon after we saw the Dutch team we had been hanging out with at basecamp, also on their way to the Monzino route. One of the Dutch had attempted Taller del Sol on a previous exbidition, so we knew he could set us straight. Īt´s over to the right, around this pillar,¨he called to us. Damn! We had to retreat. Not just because we off-route, but also because we had reached a point on our own route that we could not climb past.

During the rappel to the base, one of our lines became stuck. How could this day get worse?

Back on solid ground, I thrust all my weight into the rope and it finally came free. With the minor victory I pulled myself of out the funk of feeling the waste of the day and racked up to climb Taller del Sol, of whose location we were now sure.

Where success was a long shot before, now it was just about impossible. Either way, we would get to enjoy some climbing.

Right off the base, the climbing was difficult, and often sopping wet, but, even so, it was some of the most beaultiful climbing I had ever experienced. Several times I stopped and felt amazement that I was actually climbing at my limit in such a beautiful environment.

After three pėtches, Dave took the lead. His first pitch was a 5.10+ offwidth crack about 6¨wide, which took great energy to follow. His second pitch was an easier (for this route) 5.9 chimney that continued for 150´.

In the chimney you could lock your back up against one side with an outstretched leg. Then you´d press your other foot under your but to make upward progress, in the perfect position to stare down in the growing exposure. I was looking down around 1000´ to the base of the route, at this point, and about 4000´to the bottom of the valley.

Afterward, I took the rack for another 5.10+ pitch. This grade is truely at my limit, and here I was, cramping and fatigued from around 12 hours of exersion. My movements were made with less hesitation than ever before, but my footwork was getting a little less precise.

The pitch started with a thin finger layback to a slopy mantle on a slopy ledge. From there there was more laybacking on a large detached flake that rang like a bell when tapped. Once atop the ¨chopping block¨flake, as it is dubbed on our topo, there lay ahead of me a thin finger crack, followed by a jug.

Ä few hard moves and I get that jug to hang on?¨I thought to myself. No problem. I checked the micro cam I had placed at chest level and committed to the moves. I pulled on my fingers slotted in the crack and pushed with my feet, smearing on the granite. One move, two...big reach to the jug. But it wasn´t a jug! It was a marginal pinch. I started to reverse the moves to regain my last solid stance. The image of the last cam I placed flashed in my mind, but before it could fruit into a coherent thought, my world began to accellerate. And then it slowed and I came to a very soft stop.

When I fell, my last piece of protection was a little below my feet, but, since I was at the end of our rope, I fell 25´ with rope stretch. Dave barely even felt the catch on his belay.

Ī´m good,¨I called down to Dave, Ī´m goign to batman up now.¨ So I proceeded to climb back up to my last piece by pulling on the rope. Experiencing an uncontrollable surge of adrenalin, my forearms cramped solid. The pinky of my left hand contracted around the rope, without my ability to release the action. I jammed the offending finger in my mouth and set it straight again.

I had lost confidence in my motion, so I pulled on gear to finish off the pitch.

Ī think it´s time we rappel now,¨Dave called up. No! I cried inwardly. We had completed the most difficult pitches of the route and only had 4 more pitches left! Alas, it was beginning to get dark, and I was fried. We could push into the dark. Damn...we needed to be fitter and more experienced and we needed not to start the day off-route.

Down we went.

When climbing, you´re mind is occupied in controlling the many variables around you. As you decend, there is only quiet and the rolling of the dice every time you pull your rope after a rappel. Will it get stuck? Will we get down? This is when questions of life and purpose flood the mind, you think of family and your girlfriend and you feel intense want for the simple things.

What waited for us back at camp was a dwindling food supply. Chances were, this was our last fouray in Paine.

We woke the next morning, under our boulder, to Voyteck, one of the South African team, poking his head in our hole sa˙ing, ¨wake up Americans, we´re going to climb Taller del Sol!¨

Voytech´s team, in the recent slew of good-weather days had amazingly reached the summit of all three towers. With such success, the rest of his team left. Having been displeased by the aid climbing and poor stone on the other routes, Voytech wanted one last hurrah.

¨But we don´t have any more food,¨we replied.

Ī have left-overs from the rest of the team,¨he explained to us.

We were dumbfounded. Already we had experience similar generosity from the Dutch team, who pitched in some pasta and chocolate when they heard we were getting short on food, and now Voytech aimed to keep us here another four days.

A rest day passed, as we needed to repair ourselve from our first attempt, and then we ascended the talus in bad weather to see how the day would turn out.

Wind buffetted us and snow and rain blurred our vision. But we wanted to at least get a start on the route, so I lead the first pitch. Voytech led the second.

As I belayed Voytech, amidst the fury of Patagonian weather, an explosion rocked the valley. A few hundred meters to our right, multiple tons of rock fell from a 1000´up, off the central tower. Time slowed as I watched the air fill with pųlverized granite and spinning boulders.

¨Yeeehaw,¨I yelled into the aftermath to shake off the shock of what I had just seen.

At the end of the second pitch, the weather obviously wasn´t going to give way, so we fixed the ropes in place and left our gear hanging from the anchor so we could have a head start the next day.

Back down we went and spent the rest of the days eating and rehydrating.

The next morning was perfect. We climbed the talus, climbed our ropes and pretty soon had reclimbed the rest of the pitches Dave and I had seen on our previous attempt. Almost at sunset we reached the summit--the true summit.

The following days, as Dave and I moved our gear down from advanced basecamp, there was much happiness at basecamp, as many teams had had success during the good weather. What struck me the most was the enthusiasm other teams had for Dave and my success.

Yesterday we moved the last of our gear to the base of the park and jumped onto a bus to argentina, where I am catching up to you now.

The quality of connection here isn´t great, so I´m going to hold off on sending pictures.

I apologize for the incompleteness of this mailing list. Please forward this to whomever might may be interested.

I hope everyone is well. I miss you all.

Dan




On 1/13/08, Daniel Ressler <daniel.ressler@gmail.com> wrote:
Sorry to have been out of contact. Connection is limited out here to the outside world. Right now I´m on a satellite internet connection, which is expensive, so this will be brief.

We arrived at the southern tip of south america at Punta Arenas, Chile, over a week ago. The town had a makeshift quality, with all the buidlings made of corrigated iron fand were doubtful of our abilities.or wind sturniness, that gave it a sort of outpost feel. We spent our first night reconoitering various stores we`d need to visit and getting dinner. The next day we bought food and fuel for two to three weeks and our bus tickets for getting to the Torres del Paine park the next day. Tavelling with around 350 lbs of gear and food, we made it to the park the following day and checked in with park administration to validate our climbing permit. Our first night there was surreal. The massif towered over the perfectly quiet campground and horses wandered in between the tents, chewing grass lazily. The next few days we spent transporting our loads of gear around 8 miles to the climbers camp, deep in a valley that penetrates the massif. These were exhausting days. The weather in these more lush parts of the park range from partly cloudy and breezey to rainy or snowy and harshly windy all within minutes. After a day of a rest we met with our mountain guide and went for an attempt on climbing the north tower of Paine at two in the morning. By the time we arrived at the base of the tower, the weather had deteriorated to a full tempest. Aborting, we spend the day familiarizing ourselves with our crampons and ice axes. Our supposed good weather day having been spent, we changed plans for the next couple days, to attempt a circumnavigation of the south tower, which would involve the full gambit of mountain travel, from mixed climbing to glacier travel and rappels. We left early in the morning, climbed slabs of granite in a windless ampitheatre of phantasmagorical proportions, continued through a snow field and then into a col after endless talus. Dropping down on the other side, we decended a steep couliour in the next valley. Seven pitches of climbing through developing snow and rain brought us to the top of a another col, where we realized we weren´t on the intended route, in fact we had just put up a first accent. A rappel down the other side and we sought a place to bivvuac. We fortinfied the side of a large boulder the best we could and bedding for the night, which saw gale force winds, rain and snow. Oddly, I had a great night sleep. The next morning we found more high winds, which would prevent the completion of our circumnavigation so we retreated down the valley, which took 6 hours to put us in a camp clear on the other side of the park as our basecamp. That´s we where are now, taking a couple rest days before good realatively good weather is supposed to roll in in a couple days. I´m pretty sure I´ve already dropped about ten pounds and it has only been a week! I´m not sure if I´ve ever worked this hard, physically. It feels great though. Sorry, no pics for now. Hopefully I can put together something more complete later. Ciao!


(This post was edited by zealotnoob on Mar 12, 2008, 7:33 PM)


zealotnoob


Mar 12, 2008, 7:39 PM
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The peak on the right in the north tower as seen from the east side.


rangerrob


Mar 13, 2008, 11:04 PM
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Sigh. I need to go back. Those damned Calafate berries are working their magic


zealotnoob


Mar 13, 2008, 11:14 PM
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Smile I feel you. Delicious, those berries. We made jam out of them when we were running out of food.


zealotnoob


Mar 14, 2008, 1:25 PM
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...nevermind, it was the chowra (sp?) berries we made jam of...though the calefate were delicious as well.


rangerrob


Mar 14, 2008, 8:41 PM
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You know what happens when you eat the Calafate berry don't you?


zealotnoob


Mar 14, 2008, 8:51 PM
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You are destined to return!


zealotnoob


Mar 23, 2008, 4:48 AM
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The pics!

Climbing the North Tower via Monzino:

http://picasaweb.google.com/...werViaMonzino10a650m


Attempt on North Tower via Taller del Sol:

http://picasaweb.google.com/...nTallerDelSol510600m


Climbing the North Tower via Taller del Sol:

http://picasaweb.google.com/...aTallerDelSol510600m

Climbing Aguja de la S:

http://picasaweb.google.com/...09ClimbingAgujaDeLaS


The rest, with many from Frey:

http://picasaweb.google.com/daniel.ressler


rangerrob


Mar 23, 2008, 4:32 PM
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sweet pics of De La S dude. I remember that yawner of a crevasse traversing over to the base. We actually belly crawled across the bridge. Nice climb man

RR


nickolaz


Jul 24, 2008, 4:02 AM
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Hey man!
Look like you had an awesome trip out there!
I'm thinking of heading down there next december/january.
I'm mostly looking for route infos/topos.
Any websites/books/personnal experience you could recommend?

Cheers


zealotnoob


Jul 24, 2008, 12:42 PM
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http://www.andeshandbook.cl/ is one website that was helpful.

Print out and bring every topo and photo (especially ones that have a good view of the approach) and tidbit of information you can find. Downtime in the climbers camps will often be occupied by going over every known detail between climbers.

Where are you going, what do you have in mind?


nickolaz


Jul 25, 2008, 3:49 AM
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Cheers for that!
Thinking about the Monzino Route, Taller del Sol, Aguja de la S, La espalda Torre...


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