Jonny Simms and Tony Richardson have made a 32-hour return-trip from Chalten and freed an old aid route in bad weather.
Simms and Richardson are two of Canada’s most experienced alpine climbers. For the past few weeks they have been hunkered down in El Chalten, Patagonia. They first climbed Super Domo, the new must-climb mixed route, then they climbed a new line, El Busca Jesus, before making the first ascent of an aesthetic icy chimney, the Richard-Simmons.
In a correspondence with Gripped, Simms told the story of the pair’s stormy Aguja Standhardt adventure. They freed the route Tomohawk, which was first climbed on December 25, 1994 by Conrad Anker and Steve Gerberding. The route climbs an ice-encased chimney and joins Exocet after 400 metres. Exocet is the classic of the East Face of Aguja Standhardt, first climbed by Jim Bridwell, Greg Smith and Jay Smith in 1988. Anker and Gerberding did not climb to the summit of Standhardt on the first ascent of Tomohawk, but in 1997 Laurence Monnoyeur and Bruno Sourzac linked Tomohawk to Exocet and to the summit, the first complete ascent which took two days. In 2002, Canadians Martin Boiteau and Claude-Andre Nadon made the first winter ascent of Tomahawk.
Tomahawk by Jonny Simms
We climbed the route from Chalten in a 32-hour return push. Leaving Chalten at 12 p.m., we started the climb by 9:30 p.m. There was a small weather window, our intention was to climb Tomahawk and continue up Exoset to the Standhardt summit. I climbed the first pitch at M7, which previously was aided. The second pitch, we believe, was the start of the grade six curtain which we also freed at M7+ through an outrageous chimney that almost shut me down due to an anorexic rack and hard ass moves. Luckily I found a stubby in some thin ice and eventually found a good cam in the back of the overhanging wall of the chinmey. The crack in the wall turned out to be the miracle crack. We climbed the first two pitches very short due to wrong rack beta. We only had a single set to gold. A double set to gold with one blue would have been the correct rack.
“I was a little worried at first that he could potentially rip the belay if he blew it.”
Richardson continued up the third pitch which was noted as an icy grade six pitch. We climbed it at 5.11R, a spicy mixed pitch with mank gear. It was a good lead on Richardson’s part, I was a little worried at first that he could potentially rip the belay if he blew it. He didnt blow it. From the top of the third pitch, we climbed grade four and five ice until the upper snow fields to the Scud descent.
“I kind of tweaked my ankle, but what’s alpine climbing without a little rough housing. Sparks and slabs.”
With Standhardt in a continual cloud, we experienced continual slough conditions after 1 a.m. It was not that pleasant. Hoping the weather was going to break, we had our morning coffee planned for the base of Exoset. The weather didn’t break, but worsened. When crossing the upper snow-field to the Scud descent, the slough started to turn into small avalanches. It was time to go. The debate whether we freed Tomahawk is up to the community. At the middle of pitch one I was in the crux flake section and decided to try and step left into a shallow rotten ice corner. Which I got into and ripped both tools and took a good size whipper to a ledge a few metres above our belay, maybe 30-feet. I kind of tweaked my ankle, but what’s alpine climbing without a little rough housing. Sparks and slabs. From that ledge I sent the pitch. That was our only mistake. It was a great climb and I wish we could have continued up Exoset and to Standhardt summit. It hasn’t been the year for the high cumbres.
Sources: Pata Climb, Jonny Simms, Tony Richardson