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Photo by arch. M. Bernasconi, F. Salini

Photo by Marcello Cominetti
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Cerro Torre Ragni route for Bernasconi and Salini

07.12.2008 by Planetmountain.com

On 2 December the Italians Matteo Bernasconi and Fabio Salini carried out a fast ascent of the Via dei Ragni on the West Face of Cerro Torre, Patagonia. This route was also climbed the previous day by Rolando Garibotti and Co.

Cumbre! All turned out for the best and even better then we'd expected. The logistics, weather, the team, conditions on the wall, everything. On Tuesday 24 November we were in Milan, on Tuesday 2 December at 14.30 we were on top Cerro Torre's summit mushroom, having climbed the Ragni route. We were in paradise for a week, it was a real party!

We left El Chalten in terrible weather conditions and in two windy days entered the Circo del los Altares. We were initially accompanied by two Argentines up to Passo Marconi on our first day and they transported 15 kilos of provisions. We carried 20 kilos each, a nightmare!. The next day we were on our own and had to get to Circo de los Altares with 35 kg each ... thank God we were a lightweight expedition! We'd brought skis from home and the sledges we'd hired at El Chalten proved fundamental in covering the 12 km that separated us from Marconi and the Cirque.

The weather was still bad but we were determined and we reached the Cirque in just two days. A grandiose scenario unfolded in front of us on Sunday. We were in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and in that moment it was quite simply the most beautiful of all! After the first few moments hurriedly taken photos, filming and shouting about in excitement, we suddenly got worried that we hadn't made the most of the fantastic weather to climb. But we wouldn't have been able to move our bodies, we were exhausted, the two days had left their toll.

On 1 December at 4.00am the star filled sky above the Hielo Continental and the windless night were encouraging signs for our attempt, "intentar" as they say here. Our aim was to bivy on Helmo, the ice mushroom above Col of Hope, but it was warm and discharges forced us to seek a more protected shelter 300m beneath the col.

The wait on the west face was nerve wracking, snow continued to hurtle down, the Torre seemed to be losing its ice armour and we shat ourselves at the thought of having to abandon our attempt. We decided to set off nevertheless during the night. No sun, no falling ice, we hoped for the best... Before sunset the outline of Cerro Torre was fixed in our minds in all its details, we easily identified a figure climbing the final pitch up the mushroom before disappearing into one of the many tunnels which form (or which people dig out) to exit though the overhanging snow and ice.

At 2.30 am things hadn't calmed down completely, but the discharges had reduced considerably and shortly afterwards we reached Helmo. We had climbed quickly and our partnership was perfecta! A few pitches higher and we met Rolando Garibotti descending from the summit. He told us that with a group of friends he had climbed via the west, they had spent four hours digging the tunnel to climb through the ice mushroom. If we were to meet him in Chalten we'd definitely offer him a beer... Thanks Rollo!

After 11 unforgettable hours climbing non stop we were in the only place in the world where we wanted to be: on the summit of Cerro Torre! Crazy! A thought went out to the Ragni and to all those who had made the first ascent; true visionaries who carried out the successful climb at the start of the 70's. Hats off! We then had to descend carefully, we were tired and dazed, but well aware of our predicament. All went perfectly, the weather remained stable and there was no pressure on us except for the falling ice which "forced" us to spend another night in our camp. Descending the final slopes was out of the question, it would have been suicidal and we wanted to keep this day etched in out mind for a while... We climbed down the final slopes at night, without wind obviously, by now we were used to this.

We reached our tent at dawn, incredulous that Patagonia, an ungenerous land, had conceded these windless days of high pressure. A dream! We returned to El Chalten, departing from the Circo de Los Altares at night, 12 hours on foot with an exaggerated "mochilla", but our load was made lighter by the successful summit. We'd done it. We celebrated with two painkillers each and set off into the night at El Chalten.


Fabio Salini. 38 years old, from Valtellina, Salini is a Mountain Guide and Mountain Guide Instructor. He works and spends all his free time in the mountains. Salini enjoys ski touring, winter and spring ascents. He climbs crest and rock faces all year round, is fascinated by classic routes and enjoys himself on modern testpieces. In winter he climbs plenty of icefalls.

Matteo Bernasconi. 26 years old from Villaguardia. Bernasconi is a member of the Ragno di Lecco and an aspiring Mountain Guide. He carried out the first ascent of San Lorenzo (Patagonia) together with Giovanni Ongaro, Hervè Barmasse and Lorenzo Lanfranchi. He attempted Cerro Piergiorgio in 2006.<

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