Corrado Korra Pesce perishes on Cerro Torre / The climb, accident and rescue attempt. By Matteo Della Bordella

The El Chalten mountain rescue has announced that there is no longer any hope of finding Corrado 'Korra' Pesce alive. The Italian mountain guide was hit by rock and ice high up on Cerro Torre along with his Argentine climbing partner Tomás Aguiló. Matteo Della Bordella (who with David Bacci and Matteo De Zaiacomo climbed another new route at the same time and who, together with his partners, shared the upper section of the route with Pesce and Aguiló) reports about the ascent, the accident, the rescue of Aguiló and the attempt to rescue Korra.
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Magnificent Cerro Torre in Patagonia
Matteo Della Bordella

30/01/2022 - Corrado Korra Pesce critically injured on Cerro Torre, rescue operation suspended

Tuesday 25th January. It is 11.30 am, David Bacci, Matteo De Zaiacomo "Giga", and I (Matteo Della Bordella) set off up the east face of Cerro Torre, via the route established by Cesare Maestri and Toni Egger in 1959, up to the triangular snowfield. From here we climb another 5 pitches past committing slabs to reach the so-called "English box". Nothing but a few crumpled sheets of metal remain of the box, and nowadays this provides no form of shelter of place to bivy. We’ve brought our portaledge and we fix it and settle in for the night. As we’d climbed we’d seen Thomas Aguilo "Tomy" and Corrado Pesce "Korra" fix the ropes on the first pitches of their line, about 150 meters from ours, before returning to their tent.

Wednesday 26th January. During what turns out to be an exhausting and long day we climb all the way up British Diedre, attempted in 1981 by Philip Burke and Tom Proctor. We breach some of the extremely tiring and difficult pitches, the face overhangs constantly and there isn't even the smallest of ledges to rest your feet at a belay. Absolutely wasted after the long day, we pitch our portal edge above the void, at the end of the corner. Throughout the day we watch Tomy and Korra climb their line and bivouack on a small ledge at the height of the box, about 50 meters further to the right.

Thursday 27th January. We exit the large corner and after a short traverse we manage to reach the north face of Cerro Torre. Here there’s a pleasant surprise: we encounter our friends Tomy and Korra forging their new route. At this point we’re about 300 meters below the summit and we decide to join forces for the final section. Korra is the freshest and the strongest and immediately takes the lead, Tomy seconds and we follow the pitches they’ve just established. It’s a huge psychological advantage being able to follow a "machine" such as Korra.

At 5 pm Tomy and Korra reach the top of Cerro Torre, they’ve just completed a grandiose route on the most beautiful mountain in the world. David, Giga and I join them on the summit half an hour later. We too have established a new route on legendary Cerro Torre; not only is this a huge dream that has just come true, but this is certainly the most beautiful, important and difficult route we have climbed, ever.

A few moments after congratulating each other, our paths separate. Tomy and Korra had planned to descend through the night (in order to minimise the risk of rockfall and avalanches) down the north face. We for our part had planned to bivouac on the summit and then descend the following day down the South East Ridge, along the so-called "Compressor route". Tomy and Korra try to convince us to descend with them, vice versa we try to convince them to descend with us, in the end though we all decide to follow our original plans.

Friday January 28th. Tomy and Korra descend in the dark down the north face and when they reach the place where they had left sleeping bags and bivouac gear they decide to rest for a couple of hours before continuing the long descent. During those two hours, while resting, they are struck by a huge volley of rock and ice that seriously injures Tomy and even more so Korra, who remains completely paralysed and is unable to move due to the extent of his injuries.

The mountain is huge and from the top of the Torre, where we are spend the night, we are completely unaware of what has just happened. In the morning we begin the long abseil descent via the Compressor Route. After about 30 rappels we finally set foot on the glacier at the base of Cerro Torre at 5 pm,

At that precise moment we suddenly realise that something has happened. We encounter a team of mountaineers who inform us about the accident. We are told that Tomy has managed to descend to circa 300 meters from the base, while Korra is seriously injured, that he’s not giving any signs of life and that his precise position is unclear.

Thanks to our drone we manage to pinpoint Tomy's precise location, but unfortunately we are unable to locate Korra. At about 6 pm we start the rescue operations for Tomy. Since I know the face well and despite being extremely tired after our ascent, I lead the rescue team. I’m followed by Swiss alpinist Roger Schäli, then Germany’s Thomas Huber, and finally Roberto Treu from Argentine. We climb the 7 pitches of our route up to the triangular snowfield in about 3 hours, then we traverse about 60 meters to reach Tomy. It’s midnight by the time we finish securing Tomy and start getting him off the mountain, accompanied by Thomas Huber and Roberto. A very strong wind picks up, the temperatures plummet. Roger and I are alone on the mountain with just one rope available; we try to call Korra, but we hear and see nothing. Tomy had told us that Korra was about 300 meters higher and in an extremely serious state, however neither with the drones nor through the binoculars, had anyone managed to locate him during the day.

Roger and I wait on the triangular snowfield until 3 am, it’s cold and windy as we hope for some positive news, which however doesn’t come. When my head starts spinning and I no longer feel my feet due to the cold and I start to hear some music in my head, I realise that it's time to get off the mountain, because in this state I can hardly look after myself. It’s a bitter decision, but unfortunately we’re way past our physical and psychological limits; we realise that Korra will remain on that mountain forever.

Later on we are informed by the medics of the rescue service that given his condition, any hope of finding Korra alive would have been in vain.

A huge thanks goes to all the mountaineers involved in the rescue operation, in particular to Thomas Huber, who with his clear thinking managed to coordinate the operations on the wall. And also to all the people who helped rescue Tomy, transporting him from the base of the wall to Niponino camp. The teamwork was incredible: more than 40 people were involved, from Argentina and many other nations, and after setting off from El Chalten they worked selflessly all night long, exposing themselves to huge risks, for 40 hours without sleeping, in order to get Tomy to safety. This is yet another great demonstration of solidarity in the mountaineering community.

We would like to name the route that David, Giga and I just climbed Brothers in arms, to honor Matteo Bernasconi, Matteo Pasquetto, Korra Pesce and all our brothers and sisters who have passed away in the mountains we love so much.

by Matteo Della Bordella

CROWDFUNDING
Friends have launched a crowdfunding campaign for Leia, Corrado Pesce's 13-year-old daugher. For anyone wishing to contribute, here's the link: www.leetchi.com/c/help-to-korras-pesce-daugther




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