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Patagonia Bad Weather Halts Riders on the Storm Attempt

Mayan Smith-Gobat and Brette Harrington spent a number of weeks in Patagonia hoping to make the first free ascent of Riders on the Storm up the Central Tower of Paine. Bad weather forced the strong team to head home with no good weather windows.

The route was first climbed in the 1990/91 season by Norbert Batz, Peter Dittrich, Kurt Albert, Bernd Arnold and Wolfgang Gullich. In 2006, Nico Favresse, Olivier Favresse, Sean Villanueva, Philippe Ceulemans and Mike Lecomte attempted a free ascent and send up to 5.12+ and A2. In 2016, Ines Papert and Smith-Gobat put in a strong effort and sent up to 5.13a, but did not send the entire routes.

Returning to the world of travel, internet and lots of people feels like a shock at the moment after spending 6 weeks surrounded by the power of nature… It's been a hard trip of battling terrible weather and conditions. @bretteharrington and I had to fight for every inch and in the end only had 3 days to try the crux pitches of Riders on the Storm. But we kept fighting and laughing till the bitter end. I still found it sad to leave the Torres del Paine and am more motivated than ever to return. Thanks @drewsplan for capturing the ups and downs of this intense trip! Stay posted for more insights! #livewithoutlimits #accesstheinaccessible #bigwall #teamwork #torresdelpaine @adidasterrex @petzl_official @lasportivagram @lyofood @jetboil @goalzero @emspowercookies @bigagnes_

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Smith-Gobat and Harrington were joined by Drew Smith, along to take photos. Smith-Gobat reported after their attempt: As Brette Harrington and I approached Torre Central our hearts sank, the lower slabs were fully covered in ice and ice snow, unrecognizable from last season or anything we had expected. Our determination was still high as we battled through the snow covered and unprotectable low angle terrain.

“However, on reaching the more technical slabs, large amounts of verglas slowed our going and free-climbing became impossible. We were forced to use every technique we knew to get through the ice covered and often run out climbing. Our goal then changed to just making it through the first half of Riders on the Storm in any style possible.

“After nearly four weeks of battling through terrible conditions Brette and I, accompanied by photographer Drew Smith, finally reached our objective – the crux pitches of the free variation Ines Papert and I had discovered last season. Still the weather remained extremely unstable and though at several points we were ready to leave, Brette’s steadfast determination matched mine and we fought on for the entire six weeks in Torres del Paine. Though the trip did not go to plan at all, we all learnt a lot and in our final days Brette and I confirmed that the crux pitches go free for sure and are planning to return next season.”

Harrington mentioned that a key foothold broke on the second crux pitch. She explored around a found a new variation up a “beautiful stemming corner (perfect for me) and it goes. I had to equip the start because its a bouldery slab traverse into the hanging corner.”

Sometimes things don't go as planed. @mayanclimbs and I came prepared with our winter climbing gear but never would have thought we would be mixed climbing our way up Riders on the Storm. What was meant to be a big wall free climbing project turned out to be a test of our mental fortitude as we faced the storms and pushed up the East Face of Torre Central with open minds. This climb required every skill I have gained in the mountains and has provided us with new and unforeseeable knowledge. With only 1.5 days of decent weather to climb the crux pitches we are now certain that they will go free. Thanks to @drewsplan for hanging in there and living this experience alongside. 📷@drewsplan @arcteryx @goalzero @lasportivana @julbousa @petzl_official @liquidiv @lyofood #explore #patagonia #torresdelpaine #alpineclimbing

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