From a direct route up the north face of Cerro Torre to a new Patagonian traverse, American alpinist Colin Haley, 30, and Canadian Marc-André Leclerc, 22, have been tearing it up in Patagonia this season.
On Facebook, Haley posted, “I’ve been taking advantage of the rare and valuable moments when all the most important factors coincide: A great partner, an abundance of motivation, good weather and good conditions.”
Patagonian climbing is notorious for its terrible weather and strong winds. The best climbing season is November through March, although, you can climb there year round. In an interview with Rock and Ice, Haley commented that November and December were worse than average this year, but that this past month, the conditions have been “extremely good.”
Haley is in the middle of his 12th Patagonian climbing trip, having first visited the Chaltén Massif in 2003.
“In my opinion, they are the most spectacular mountains on Earth,” says Haley. “In addition to their visual allure, the climbing on these peaks is as high-quality as alpine climbing ever gets: Extreme technical difficulty, big scale, amazingly good rock and truly unique ice climbing features.”
Haley and Leclerc met while bouldering in Squamish, BC. Aside from bouldering, and a short route on The Chief, La Travesía del Oso Buda was their first climb together.
La Travesía del Oso Buda (1,200m, 5.10, A1, M5, WI 5-6)
On January 18, Haley and Leclerc, starting from the Col de Esperanza, traversed the three Torre peaks—Cerro Torre (10,170’), Torre Egger (9,350’) and Aguja Standhardt (8,858’)—from south to north. They began up the Ragni Route on Cerro Torre and finished two and a half days later with El Caracol on Aguja Standhardt, dubbing the climb La Travesía del Oso Buda.
This was Haley’s second attempt at the traverse; the first was with Jon Walsh in 2012, but they were shut down by a storm.
“This route is a testament to the vision and immense optimism that Bjørn-Eivind Årtun possessed,” posted Haley.
Haley and Leclerc named the traverse in remembrance of Bjørn-Eivind Årtun and Chad Kellogg, who envisioned the route and made the first attempt in 2012. Two weeks after the attempt, Årtun was killed by rockfall in Norway. Kellogg suffered the same fate a year later on Cerro Chaltén.
Haley wrote, “They were both amazing, inspiring climbers and wonderful people, and I wish I could tell them that Bjørn’s dream has come true.”
Directa de la Mentira (1,200m, 5.10, A1, WI 4-5)
On February 2-3, Haley and Leclerc climbed a new variation to El Arca de los Vientos (5.10d, VI) on the north face of Cerro Torre. The first bottom-to-top ascent of the north face of Cerro Torre, their line followed El Arca de los Vientos up to the Col de la Mentira, then continued directly up the face for six new pitches to the left of the north ridge, until it joined back with El Arca for its last four pitches, reaching the Ragni Route to the summit. They named the new route Directa de la Mentira.
Before climbing Directa de la Mentira, the team made an attempt on Cerro Torre’s southeast ridge, taking a single rest day before hiking back into the Torre Valley, and not long after climbing Traversia del Oso Buddha.
On January 28, Haley and Leclerc attempted a “fair means” ascent of the Cerro Torre headwall on the southeast ridge but were thwarted by icy cracks high on the route.
On Facebook, Leclerc wrote: “We attempted the [route] by fair means, without the insane bolt ladders drilled by Cesare Maestri in 1970. We made it quite high on the route but were shut down a few pitches from the top.”
In response to the retreat, Haley says, “Oh well, part of the game. It felt like we put in a good effort up to here!”
As for what’s next, Haley says, “I have TONS of ideas of things I would like to climb down here. Another attempt at the southeast ridge of Cerro Torre is just one of many.”