Aguja Guillaumet, Patagonia
The North Ridge of Aguja Guillaumet (2579m) in the Fitz Roy massif in Patagonia was first climbed in 1981 by the Argentines Eduardo Brenner and Eduardo Moschioni. Damiano Barabino, Sergio De Leo and Marcello Sanguineti repeated the route on 8 December 2011 and finished up the Amy route.
Established in 1981 by the Argentine climbers Eduardo Brenner and Eduardo Moschioni, the North Ridge route is also known as "Espolón Brenner" or "Espolón Dorado" thanks to the quality of its rock and the elegant line. Three years after this ascent, Brenner went on to establish the "Argentine" route on Fitz Roy which, in sharing the first three pitches of the 1952 French route, became the classic "Franco-Argentine".
After having climbed Supercanaleta we decided to grant ourselves a "Patagonia plaisir" route: read breathtaking surroundings, excellent granite, climbing never trivial but at the same time never extreme. Obviously "plaisir" climbs in Patagonia includes wind and long approaches, but these are part of the greater game…
The usual stressful analysis of the weather charts suggested a "ventana", a weather window, around Thursday 8 December. We opted for the Brenner-Moschioni route up the North Ridge of Aguja Guillaumet, combined with the final pitches of the Amy route to reach the summit. The approach can either be carried out via Paso Superior or Piedra del Fraile and we chose the latter which, apart from being slightly quicker, meant we could recuperate some of the gear we had stashed at Piedra Negra while descending from Supercanaleta.
We set off from El Chaltén for the bridge at Rio Eléctrico with a "remise"; the driver, a friendly Argenine with Italian Calabria origins, was determined to talk to us about his son Fabricio's football skills. Then, thinking he was doing us a favour, he stopped to take a photo of Fity Roy as it appeared from behind the curve. He told us she was a "capricious" mountain and that he couldn't understand why some alpinists travelled from so far afield to attempt to climb her. We smiled and tried to explain that "we'd already given our share". He failed to understand why we didn't want to stop for the photo but pressed ahead nevertheless, foot on the accelerator, examining us with a mix of curiosity, awe and, perhaps, compassion.
From the Rio Eléctrico bridge we continued on to Rifugio Los Troncos at Piedra del Fraile. With clever phrasing the wife of the warden extorted 75 pesos per person for the second time for the "right to cross the land", seeing that according to her the path is located on private land. Her point of view was debatable but Patagonia has been generous with us this year and we didn't feel like opposing… We resigned ourselves to paying, suspecting we'd been switched, and strode up to Piedra Negra and pitched our tent.
We woke at 4.00am the next morning, had breakfast and set off. Weather conditions were good, even if the wind blew onto the west face. Fortunately though the route, despite climbing up the spur, is slightly exposed to the East and consequently relatively protected.
After a couple of fun pitches along came the crux which can be climbed via one of the three cracks which split their way down the face, with difficulties varying from 6b to 6c. We opted for the "off-width" crack which offerred some great jams and easily accepted the Camalot #4's we had taken along with us up this pleasure trip. The route then continued via some interesting pitches which included a "splitter crack" with elegant and beautiful moves through a roof to reach the crest, which we followed to the summit via the Amy route.
The granite alternates cracks and curving features, offers incredible friction and is somewhat reminiscent of that found at Joshua Tree in California. The difference being that instead of climbing on enormous boulders littered amongst the unusual, tree-like Yucca plants, here you climb with Fitz Roy and the Hielo Continental in the background…
We returned to our tents and enjoyed the sunset which blazed the granite of Guillaumet and Fitz a reddish-orange. We knew this good weather wouldn't last for much longer: Manuel, a "local" camped nearby with some friends, assured us that a few days of "rechoto" were about to set in. We didn't know the word, but gathered it promised nothing good…
Damiano, Marcello and Sergio
Thanks to Trango World, Grivel and Alpstation Montura in Aosta.