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Patagonia Sees Few Sends as Poor Conditions Continue

Patagonia has had a busy few years with a number of big sends and first ascents going down. The 2016/17 season has yet to kick off despite mid-January nearing. Over the past few weeks, Austin Siadak and friends have climbed some classics, such as Supercanaleta, and made ascents of off piste routes, like Colin Haley’s newish El Dragón.

Santa delivered a very White Christmas indeed here in El Chaltén. @chrismutzel casts off into the world of rime ice that characterizes the route Exocet on Aguja Stanhardt. @jimmyvoorhis and I held our breath as he inched his way up this runout ice-covered slab, facing an ankle-breaking plunge back into the colouir. Thankfully Chris dispatched the pitch with calm poise and we headed up into the white world above. I'd seen photos and heard stories about this route for a long time, and was psyched at the opportunity to finally experience it firsthand. We got the full Torres package complete with technical mixed climbing, fusillades of falling rime, incredible steep ice pitches, screaming barfies, and an all-night descent by headlamp. When shit got real and we endured wave after wave of spindrift avalanches, we joked about how our families were all probably enjoying a wonderful Christmas dinner right that moment. In the end we bailed from high in the upper chimney of the route due to a number of factors, but we all felt pretty damn stoked just to have made the most of a short and marginal weather window. Hasta la próxima.

A photo posted by Austin Siadak (@austin_siadak) on

Patagonia Vertical’s Facebook page stated on Jan. 6: “Bad weather and bad conditions so far this season. NOAA predicted this months ago – above average precipitation for most of the season, so it should not come as a surprise. The Supercanaleta has been climbed a few times. Thirty meter falls were taken in it, and someone walked away with severe frostbite.

Blake Herrington following yet another wild pitch of rime encrusted granite yesterday on Fitz Roy's Supercanaleta. Though this may be the "easiest" line on the mountain, its 5,300ft height and wintry conditions made this route a full value experience. Most of the upper rock pitches would have been trivial with rock shoes and dry conditions, but we found them covered in snow and rime by recent storms, and every crack was choked with ice. As a result we climbed the whole route in gloves, boots and crampons, making every pitch quite a bit more engaging and thought-provoking. It was certainly one of the better days of climbing I've ever had anywhere. Pretty mindblowing to think how ahead of their time Carlos Comesaña and José Luis Fonrouge were when they climbed the route in alpine style way back in 1965, becoming only the second team to ever climb the mountain. We are not worthy!

A photo posted by Austin Siadak (@austin_siadak) on

“It is unfortunate the level of recklessness shown by some visitors. Exocet was also climbed a few times, Super Domo and the east face of Piergiorgio too. Cerro Torre has yet to see an ascent this season. February should be slightly drier, but don’t expect the kind of rock climbing conditions we have seen the last few seasons.”

In other parts of South America, Brette Harrington, Drew Smith and Mayan Smith-Gobat are in the Torre del Paine group attempting to free some big rock. It sounds like the weather is similar to that in Patagonia.