Waiting for Godot, Torres del Paine, Patagonia first ascent by Hansjörg Auer and Much Mayr
Diary extract and interview with Hansjörg Auer after the first ascent of Waiting for Godot, Central Tower Torres del Paine, Patagonia, carried out with Much Mayr from Austria.
In January 2010 the Austrians Hansjörg Auer and Much Mayr carried out the first ascent of Waiting for Godot (750m, 7b) up the East Face of Central Tower. The route takes a line to the Col which separates the Central and North Tower and is the result, according to Auer, of "one of the most intense experiences to date..." Published below is a short extract from Auer's expedition diary as well as a brief interview.
Waiting for Godot, in the Torres del Paine, Patagonia
diary extract days 5 & 6, Hansjörg Auer
We set the alarm for 6.00am. A waste of time. The sound of pouring rain woke us half an hour ago. You gotta be kidding. We've got to wait again. Wait for our last chance. Suddenly though, at around half past nine, the sun cuts through the clouds. We jump into our cold, wet shoes, off we go. We've got to be quick.
We use our fixed ropes to reach yesterday's highpoint at eleven o'clock. The next pitch looks very loose. Much leads. He disappears behind a small pillar, then I hear a scream. An enormous boulder hits the face just above him, explodes and a plate-sized lump hits his thigh. But he was lucky, he got away with ripped trouser and light bruises. I follow. An 80m high, slightly overhanging off-width crack system enables us to progress upwards. We hear a loud whistle, the various cubic meters of ice hit the lower belay. We can now make out the Col. But the terrain remains steep right to the end. Another four pitches, one of which 7b, which takes it all out of me during my on-sight. Steep cracks interrupted by ice mushrooms. Much leads the last pitch. He fights valiantly through the demanding, ice-filled crack and disappears onto the west face. We've done it. It's half past six, we savour the moment. The nearing snowstorm and strong wind can't do us anything. The evening mood is overwhelming.
We abseiled at last light and Much managed to redpoint the last 7b pitch we hadn't freed previously. Back in the portaledge we filled our empty stomachs and played cards deep into the night. We couldn't get to sleep. Our thoughts went haywire, what we'd just experienced was profound.
The next 24 hours demanded all we had. The weather worsened all of a sudden and we were situated right in the fall-line of a small waterfall. For hours on end the water poured down from high up on the wall down onto our portaledge. The waiting game, that acceptance of the external factors, enabled an insight into our psyche. We were overwhelmed by intense joy and this was followed by unbelievable moments of ecstasy. Late in the afternoon we agreed that we'd have to get out of there as quickly as possible. The portaledge we literally drowning in water. We packed our haulbags in the midst of the waterfall, unassembled the portaledge and abseiled off. We finally reached the glacier and dragged our gear to our high camp. We were tired, empty, wasted. The next day it started to snow again. We continued our descent, each walked each section twice and were happy when Hannes finally came to meet us. He had been worried, had spent the last couple of days in El Chalten and on his return no one knew where we were. Everyone thought we'd gone to Puerto Natales...
Hansjörg, why did you opt for that line in particular on Central Tower?
Our original plan had been to climb a new route up the right-hand side of the East Face. We'd identified the crack system to the right of "Una Fina Linea de Locura, (6b A3, 01/1993), but on closer inspection the cracks were substantially more closed than we had assumed. That's why we opted for a line on the extreme right, this had the advantage that despite the poor conditions at the start we managed to gain some height by doing some mixed climbing.
You mentioned unbelievable moments of ecstasy, one of the most intense moments to date...
Yes, this is something I've never experienced before, we both felt a sort of euphoria. Then, after five days on the wall, winter broke in full force during the night. All of a sudden our portaledge was slap in the middle of the fall-line of a small waterfall. We endured the noise of falling water for hours, packed our gear in this freezing shower, totally drenched, abseiled off, established belays, dragged ourselves into our high camp. It was intense...
Was Patagonia as you had expected it to be?
Before setting off we'd expected, in the month that we were there, at least a couple of good days of good weather. But conditions from mid December to mid January were always very bad. It was cold and windy and the East Face was plastered with lots of snow and ice. Climbing in these conditions was something new for the both of us.
The Auer – Mayr partnership seems to go from strength to strength.
We don't only complement each other, we also give each other more strength thanks to the fact that we have different attributes and characteristics. It's an ideal symbiosis. Hansjörg is the young wild one with boundless motivation, Much is the slightly older, more realistic, experienced Strategist... A a joint strength, which however can quickly transform into a severe weakness, is certainly our high tolerance to taking risks.
Conditions were terrible. Can you contemplate returning home empty-handed?
In my case I really have to experience, feel, that there's no sense in continuing upwards. Much is more relaxed about this.
Waiting for Godot
Central Tower / Torres del Paine, Patagonia
First ascent: Hansjörg Auer, Much Mayr 01/2010
Gear: 4 bolts along the route, 3 pegs, belays on the upper section equipped with bolts. Nuts and cams to size #6;