Cerro Torre solo winter attempt, Markus Pucher stops 40 meters below summit
Climbing along the Ragni route, on 3 September 2016 Austrian alpinist Markus Pucher climbed to within 40m of the summit of Cerro Torre during his attempt to carry out the first winter solo ascent of this iconic mountain in Patagonia.
40 meters. A mere 40, damned meters separated him from the summit of Cerro Torre, but on Saturday, September 3, that last pitch was simply too difficult. Too much snow, too much rime ice, so he turned back. This is the epilogue of the most recent attempt along the Ragni Route, carried out by Austria’s talented Markus Pucher who has continued to doggedly pursue his dream of standing on top of the beautiful and difficult summit mushroom of this legendary Patagonian peak, alone and in winter.
Pucher has been touting with the chimera of the first solo winter ascent for a while, and he has been preparing meticulously for this undertaking. At the start of 2013 Pucher hit it big with the fast first completely free solo ascent of the Ragni Route, and at the end of 2014 - once again during the austral summer therefore - the mountaineering world was caught off guard with his daring solo ascent of the Via dei Ragni during a ferocious storm, on a day when all the other climbers stayed sheltered. He did so simply to see whether it was possible to climb this route through those inhospitable conditions. And also to begin to fathom the feasibility of a possible winter ascent.
The details, provided as usual by Rolando Garibotti’s Patagonia Vertical are as follows: start on 1 September and night spent on the Ice Cap, an hour beyond Paso Marconi, helped in part by a friend. The night of 2 September was spent in the bivouac at Filo Rosso, from where he set off at 5:00 on 3 September. He was not completely alone on the mountain, in fact he passed three Czech mountaineers, Jidřich Hudeček, Michal Brunner and Radar, who had spent the night below Col de la Esperanza, the Col of Hope. Climbing past the Elmo proved difficult due to the copious amounts of rime ice, while the headwall proved challenging due to the extremely hard ice that prevented good ice-axe placements. Climbing with just an 80m half rope, four ice-screws and some slings he self-belayed only one pitch on the Headwall, while all the rest of the route was climbed free solo. He turned back below the summit due to the deep rime ice and increasing winds. The descent ran relatively smoothly, except for the Elmo section once again where he struggled to find decent abseil anchors in the rotten rime ice. He returned to the safety of his tent at Filo Rosso at 10.00pm, on 4 September he walked out to Piedra del Fraile and returned to El Chaltén on 5 September.
Exactly a year ago Pucher travelled on his own to El Chalten, the starting point for climbing in the Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy groups, but at the time conditions proved so prohibitive that he turned back 300m below the summit. Last Saturday he had whittled those down to 40. He’ll be back.
01/01/2015 - Markus Pucher solos Cerro Torre in raging storm
21/02/2013 - Markus Pucher and his solo ascent of the Cerro Torre Via dei Ragni