Fitz Roy, Patagonia: new climb by Michal Sabovčík and Ján Smoleň
On 30-31/01/2016 the Slovak alpinists Michal Sabovčík and Ján Smolen made the first ascent of Asado (665m, 7a+, M8, A2), a new climb up the South Face of Fitz Roy in Patagonia.
On 30 and 31 January 2016 the Slovaks Michal Sabovčík and Ján Smoleň climbed a new route up the South Face of Cerro Fitz Roy, to the left of the Canadian Route, which they joined after 13 pitches. Called Asado, the 665m line breaches difficulties up to M8 7a+ and A2 aid and was climbed alpine style, with one bivy on top of pitch eight and one at the summit.
INTERVIEW with Jan Smolen by Miloš Kaláb and Mišo Žilka
Jan, did everything go smoothly this year or did you have any complications?
Quite a few! Right in the beginning we missed out on the first week of good weather because of stomach problems. We’d probably eaten something that had gone off. We started hiking towards the mountains but we didn't get anywhere, so we lost a few days of good weather and strength as well. Luckily this didn't last for long and after a few days we hit the road again. Another story is about a set of Camelots which we forgot in El Chalten. But otherwise the trip ran smoothly.
How come Fitz Roy?
Fitz Roy was actually our backup. We went to Patagonia to try climbing a new route up Cerro Torre, but because of the intense heat and the danger of falling seracs and snow mushrooms immediately above the line we decided to try climbing Fitz Roy. A year ago we climbed on Poincenot and while sitting on the summit we noticed a significant line on the South Face of Fitz Roy. On close inspection we realized that this line offered hard looking offwidths, so we picked another one line further to the right which looked a little bit easier.
How were conditions?
We had a hard times on the first four pitches which were full of ice. They slowed us down and we got really cold. But Michal Sabovcik is an awesome winter climber, he pushed hard and climbed the hardest sections. After that it was beautiful, clean but cold rock and I took over the lead. I led the rest of the pitches to the summit ridge. It's great to have a partner who complements you, resulting in a perfect team game.
How long did the route take?
Two days. On the first day we climbed eight pitches, then we spent the night sitting by uncomfortable eighth belay (but thank God - it was better than hanging at the slings!) The next day we made it to the top. The weather forecast was good for the next day as well, so we abandoned an idea of abseiling in the dark and enjoyed a comfortable night and awesome sunrise on the summit. In the morning we made breakfast and rappelled down.
What about style and protection?
We left circa six pitons and some slings. We didn’t have any bolts with us. What was possible we climbed free, what was too hard or too dangerous we aided. The leader climbed light and fast while the second jumared and hauled. The free pitches were climbed on-sight.
Were you sorry you didn’t climb the route free?
No, not over there. We just rushed up. Some pitches would be really difficult climbed free. You have frozen hands and feet and in some overhanging offwidths I’d have had to fight like crazy for hours and it would have cost us too much time. Only now, after much time has passed, do I sometimes think that maybe I could have fought a little bit more.
Any fear, stress?
Nothing dramatic. The quality of rock was perfect, so we didn’t have to think about loose rock, falling ice or so. Mišo is a great climbing partner you can always rely on and he always carries good vibes, so climbing together was perfect.
Why is climbing in Patagonia so unique?
Beautiful scenery, good rock, awesome peaks, long approaches, no helicopters, no mountain rescue or signal and of course the famous Patagonian weather. All of these things make it the adventure I love!
How is life in the town of El Chalten, and what was the atmosphere like?
It’s not great fun sitting around all the week waiting for good weather. But when you can make the time more pleasant with barbecues and friends, bouldering, running, swimming in the river, biking, trips in the area, then you can have the perfect holidays there. There is a strong community of climbers from all around the world, so there is always plenty of fun, things to talk about and things to do.
Is this how the route got its name, Asado?
The literal translation is “baked” (meat roasted at a high temperature in a oven or grill). When we were up in the mountains we kept looking forward to the next barbecue with Alexis and Gael, our friends from Chalten. While climbing the route we continued to talk about a huge “Asado” we’d do after completing the route, with plenty of meat, wine, beer and above all lots of friends. Our best time in Chalten was in our friend’s garden, so the route couldn’t have been named differently. And in the end the “Asado” we ate was exactly as we had dreamt up in the mountains. Thank you friends!
Talking about dreams... what about future climbing dreams?
I have plenty of dreams, at the moment though I just don’t know which one will be the next...
Sponsors: TILAK, TENDON, CLIMBING TECHNOLOGY