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Colin Haley Solos Huge Patagonia Route Goretta Pillar

This is the first alpine-style solo ascent of the 1,200-metre line on Cerro Chaltén

In January 1979, Italian Renato Casarotto made the first ascent of the Goretta Pillar up the north pillar of Cerro Chaltén (Fitz Roy). It was one of the most difficult alpine routes climbed at the time climbed by one of the world’s best alpinists. This week, veteran alpine climber Colin Haley repeated the classic route alone, using rope-solo techniques he practiced last year in Chamonix. Unlike Casarotto, who also rope-soloed, Haley didn’t use fixed ropes.

After his ascent, Haley said, ” I started up the route just before 9 a.m. on the 17th, and reached the summit of Cerro Chaltén just after midnight on the 19th. While I have done a lot of solo alpinism in the past, it has almost always been without bivouacs, so this climb was a different style than I am accustomed to. Also, except for the last 200m of easier terrain to the summit of Cerro Chaltén, I self-belayed about 97% of the roughly 1200m route. While I avoided the psychological intensity of free-soloing, the physical toll of so much self belaying was massive, compounded by the large weight of equipment that I carried up the mountain by myself.”

After Casarotto’s first ascent, he wrote a report for the American Alpine Journal, in which he said, “In going over these notes, I cannot avoid comparing technical considerations with personal ones. From a strictly mountaineering point of view, I can say that in ten active years I had never lived through such a total experience. On this wall I had to overcome extreme technical difficulties under the most continuous foul weather. The equipment and food I had were what is usually used on Alpine climbs, but I also had impermeable Gore-Tex clothing. This adventure confirmed in my mind that to succeed in ascents of noteworthy difficulty it is indispensable to integrate oneself into the surroundings. That is to say that one must know how to determine the most propitious conditions for the ascent so that one’s physical and psychological energies are not dissipated in long waits.’

Haley has several impressive ascents to his name, including a solo of the Infinite Spur and the fastest time up Cassin Ridge. In September 2022, Haley made the first solo winter ascent of the classic Supercanaleta on the same peak, read more about it here.

Casarotto died in 1986 while attempting to solo the then still unclimbed south-southwest ridge of K2. After descending, he fell around 40 metres into a crevasse. A report about the accident in the American Alpine Journal, included this: ‘He whispered, ‘Goretta, I am dying in a crevasse near Base Camp.’ She organized a search party from the Italian, British and German expeditions nearby, including their doctors. Very soon they found him in the bottom of the crevasse, still alive. After lifting him to the surface, all efforts of the doctors were useless and he died soon afterwards. Following the wishes of his wife, his body was placed back to rest in the crevasse.”

Renatto Casarotto and the Goretta Pillar