AUTHOR: Thomas Huber
Six weeks in the land of storms, just missing my goal on Torres. We almost had it all... but then it snowed just before we wanted to set off and all our hopes were gone with the wind! But that is mountaineering; that's Patagonia. Success and defeat are so closely related in these mountains.
Mid-January we started in the middle of a fine weather period. David Lama managed to use this to his advantage and climbed redpoint the Compressor route, which had been made easier with some bolts set previously. The two young climbers from the USA who had done this overshadowed David's effort, at the same time as upgrading it! He managed it, and he did it without using the bolts. For our plans the weather was simply too good, too warm and as a result too dangerous.
Then followed three weeks of catastrophic weather, sometimes with snow down into the valley. Stop Patagonia! Mario and I trained in El Chaltèn, brooding and sauntering, most of the time with two climbers from Innsbruck/Austria — Hansjörg Auer and Mayr Much. They were also stranded in Patagonia with their plans dashed. But then everybody got excited: it rained right up to the summits and in three days' time the weather was forecast to stay fine for around 4 days. Were we really going to have dream conditions to fulfil our plans? That was a Friday. Monday we wanted to get started. But on Sunday morning we awoke to white mountains again after a cold front wedged its way in. The goalposts had been moved again; they were no longer in sight. Much and Hansjörg also decided to write off Patagonia. However, as always, the end of one story is the beginning of another.
Together the four of us decided to tackle another big wall, weather and conditions permitting (Silla west face, conditions good despite snow, 1,500 meters, virgin climb). The weather report is also OK, not ideal, but good enough to complete the adventure. Day one: 1,000 meters, climbing up to 7. We reached a comfortable bivouac. 500 meters of top rock above us up to the summit of Silla. Much and Mario sorted what were probably the two most difficult pitches. The weather was great. The night in the bivouac was also OK; a cloudless night. Around 5 o'clock in the morning it started snowing: "This can't be for real...". We ate our muesli wavering between frustration and optimism. It didn't stop snowing. We waited, we hoped, but the snowfall got heavier and heavier. The decision was unavoidable. Abort! The retreat was complicated. Eight hours later we were back at camp, no summit, no success. But we were happy and nobody had the feeling that we had failed. It was an adventure of a special kind. It was real mountaineering with friends. The best thing you can experience in the mountains... the end of one story is the beginning of another, and so life goes on...