Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Old, but New... The full stories from down South with Video! Hope wemake it down for expedition 2015

 Here are the write ups that we wrote for the American Alpine Journal for the North and Central Tower of Torres del Paine. Some of the Plate Tectonics article was shortened and the Central Tower just had a small blurb in the Journal. So here are the full versions.... Try to watch the videos as well, I know they are a bit lengthy. But with that Length, you get a good idea of the dynamics of the situation. 

  Laters! And Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I'm sorry, but the videos will only play on a PC. No mobile devices... It's the music I used in the videos. So when you get home, grab a seat and watch a vid! Thxs

Plate Tectonics VI, 5.12 C1- East Face of the North Tower of Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Jan. 9-23, 2013
21 Pitches, 3000ft, 15 days capsule style
F.A. - Amy Ness, Myles Moser

Amy Ness and I began climbing the East Face of the North Tower of Torres del Paine on January 9th. We planned for 12 days on wall for an all free, capsule-style ascent. What we encountered during our 15 days vertical, was the most grueling, fatiguing and mentally exhausting climbing we have experienced, thus far. Ten days of fantastic weather shined on us, but with good weather comes rock-fall, ice-fall, mini avalanches, and things that want to be pushed out of memory: the chopping of ropes, meteor showers of rocks, head shots from above and the slow destruction of our portaledge.

The climbing was a wyde variety of techniques and features. It starts at the toe of the buttress with a seahorse-shaped flake 30 meters above the glacier (just to the right of a giant left-facing corner, capped by a dark roof). From here, the wandering climbing begins. The route asks you to traverse dikes, slam splitters, pull on crystal pods, climb delicately and at times crank-down. The quality of rock transforms the entire way; from great, to terrible, to unreal, to bullet-hard  and sharp. 

We rode pillars that were earth bound, dodged ice chunks, dropped some rock on one-another, cleaned, flailed, whipped and discovered travelers from the past. We found a  Chilean Route named "Hasta Chonchi" by Francisco Parada, Felipe Gonzales Donoso. It was attempted twice by the same team where terrible weather plagued their first attempt, and illness ground-struck their second. We know "Plate Tectonics" crossed their route twice and linked into it for a pitch and a half. At our pitch eleven, they called 5.9 C1, we free climbed at 5.12 and for half of our pitch twelve, which we free climbed at 5.10.  From pitch 13 onward, the climbing gets wild! We cut hard right out of an always dripping, seeping, giant alcove, bee-lining it straight for the headwall. 

We worked the "Gateway Pitch" (13) for a day and a half, placing three bolts and fixing three pitons.  We set our high camp here for the rest of the journey and battled the pitch. This 45 meter section consists of 5.11, 5.9, 5.12, 5.11, 5.12 and 5.11 climbing. Once completed, hanging on the anchor we stretched our heads back and gazed up at the headwall. The coarse, slammer, overhanging cracks that were about to make our hands bleed, loomed above.

Day 12, pitch 14, had us in the middle of the headwall. Supplies were low and the rationing had begun far below this point. We talked about how much time the "Gateway Pitch" had cost us, but we knew we had to be close to the cumbre. Pitch 14 went at 5.11 C1, two meters of horizontal C1, that we know will go free on the "Golden Rail" just under the crystal pods; a perfect transfer into a .75" splitter that cuts through a roof. The summit at this point had become more important than working the pitch, so we decided to press on. We talked about freeing this section on our descent, but we had no idea what kind of work may lie ahead. We fixed 70 meters up a fantastic 5.11 off-width, a  gem of a pitch with all kinds of surprises. We descended into the jet-black night down our fixed lines. No headlamps to help guide us, as we twirled and spun down the overhanging wall, only to collide into the anchor once the rope ran short.

An early rise had us jugging 160 meters of fixed line above our camp, for our final summit push from pitch 15. Of our six remaining pitches to the summit, the first two were 65 meter rope stretchers with constant 5.10 climbing. The next four pitches were a sea of never-ending summit blocks that meandered around to the south-side of the prow to the final summit cube. By pitch 18 we had dumped all nonessential gear at the belay and begun simul-climbing (pitons mark belays). We toped out in a full-blown whiteout. The camera flashed red, one photo was taken, then it died.

We began our descent in a howling wind, bolting and pitoning the rappel anchors.  The interesting thing about the towers is that the summit is only halfway...the descent, as always, is the most dangerous part of the climb.  While driving a piton and waiting for Amy to rappel from 70 meters above, the rock let loose. I had been yelling intermittently " Off Belay!!!" while setting the anchor. Rocks the size of cars filled the low glow of the sky, exploding into smaller pieces. I sucked myself against the wall for protection, only to get a direct shot in the helmet by a football-sized rock.  "Amy!...Amy!...Amy!!!" I start yelling with no response. I quickly fixed one end of the double rope rappel and began jugging the fastest seventy meters I have ever ascended in my life. Screaming for Amy, while jugging, a multitude of thoughts were rushing through my mind. Just under the ledge, by thirty feet, still yelling for Ames...I hear it... "Myles!!!" I see her face, she is not hurt... My body begins to dry heave, wanting to expel the terrible thoughts that drifted in those seventy meters.

Luckily, she hadn't been able to hear my calls of "off belay". She was sitting in a ball at the anchor below the overhang when the first colossal block exploded just in front of her...where she could have been rappelling.  She had called down to me with no response, and then saw the knot between the ropes begin to move back and forth...The lack of water and food over the last several days, made her think it was an illusion, a dream. She got up quickly and started moving in order to gain her wits.  That's when I came up, and explained that it was real...and that the wall was angry.

By the time we arrived at the fixed lines, once again we had been overcome by darkness and cold. At our last double rope rappel, we pulled and pulled as night fell upon us... the ropes were stuck. We descended the fixies to our camp without touching the wall, knowing that one of us would have to return to finish pulling the lines. 

Day 14, the clouds had dropped and consumed our portaledge.  We were stranded 2,200ft above the ground in another day's whiteout.  With a break in the clouds I ascended three pitches, to retrieve our stuck lines, rappelling and pulling, leaving nothing behind. Our last remaining food a "Sopa para Uno" packet and a handful of instant potatoes were stewed with a raspberry tea bag. The constant, obnoxious drip that leaked over the shrapnel-protecting roof of our bivouac, finally gave life. The cold had frozen the drip into thick sheets of ice that coated our portaledge. We melted ice-sheets for liquid and stomached a terrible stew for dinner. 

The next morning, the sun was  shining just enough to make us move. We packed the bags, soft goods into one, hard goods into the other. Then, we let the pig fly! Escorting the hard goods down with the first person, we slowly began our descent. We made a total of 19 rappels, the top half on Plate Tectonics before switching to the existing rap route set by the Chilean Team. Finally reaching the ground, the glacier looked like a war zone with granite chunks and shards all over. We moved our exhausted bodies and equipment as quickly as possible to escape the area of impact.

We came to find out that a record heat wave had swept over Patagonia, many successful ascents were seen  from the Fitzroy Region, to Valle Cochamo, along with Valle del Frances and Valle Silencio of Torres del Paine. We were fortunate enough to be part of the weather window in Valle Ascensio, we just happen to feel the tower shift and  move the entire time.

We fixed 12 pitons and drilled 18 bolts. Only the handful of pins and bolts along with cord and rappel rings were left in our wake. The end of pitch 6 could use another anchor bolt or piton, if anyone dares to go up there...

Going for a Wander- The East Face of the Central Tower

Torres del Paine, Patagonia

February 27- March 11, 2013

Amy Ness and Myles Moser

As I write this, snow falls onto our portaledge for the eighth straight day. The wind sounds like a locomotive as it rips over the crest and bends around the wall, relentless and bone-chilling. Snow flurries from hundreds of feet above break free from the four-thousand foot Goliath and slam upon our golden pyramid at all hours of the night. Our tiny capsule which sits, open and exposed on "The Shattered Pillar" is slowly being buried by the snow, forcing an early rise each day to begin the excavation process. In these eight days of sitting and waiting for a break in the weather, we have seen the sun for just two hours. Each rise of temperature and glow of heat, we crack the frozen zipper of our tattered, tapped and glued rainfly, shoving our heads out to check the sky, only to be disappointed. Like clock work, by late afternoon, the storm hides as the nonexistent sun shifts to the westside of the cirque, leaving us in the frigid shadow waiting for what's to come. The upper dihedrals begin to thaw with the remaining light, dropping sheets of verglas which turn to daggers as they explode, whizzing past us to the left and right, somehow missing the one spot we chose to hang. The weather from the Central Tower attacks with a vengeance as it tries to rid us from its flanks... We are caught in the worst storm of the season.

Our goal was to establish the second free route on the east face of Torre Central, or as we like to say, "go for a wander". Fully equipped with battered lines, twenty days of rations, seventy pounds of water, a full El Cap rack and a portaledge hanging on hope, we stormed the Tower. We lived in our Advanced Base Camp for three days, three nights; our ledge hung four feet off the ground, 15 minutes from the wall on a small formation called the "Lunatic". By the second day we had climbed five pitches of fantastic free climbing allowing 300 meters of rope to be strung up the wall. By the third day we were committed, moving capsule-style. We established Camp One in an area which, by morning, we designated unsafe.  Moving one pitch higher under a giant roof, we created Camp Two. Staying there for two nights, we continued to fix lines to the top of the Shattered Pillar. Once again, finding great climbing with easy protection. 

Day four, we hauled to the Pillar's end and set Camp Three. The next morning (day 5) we awoke to a fire in the sky, the most impressive sunrise either of had ever seen. We were itching to rope up for what looked to be the first crux... The pitch was wild! Clean cracks to an airy, flowing traverse brought me to an extremely strong stemming operation with a classic RP finish. The bolt was dropped in and the piton was slammed, we called it 5.11. 

Amy immediately jumped in the portaledge for warmth. Her feet were frozen blocks from belaying. I guess I hadn't noticed the temperature change that occurred while climbing and swinging the hammer. Something was brewing, but we couldn't see it. Ames followed the pitch to the belay and jumped on the reins.  Ropes were stacked and she was on her way up the next killer looking section, pitch 13. That's when the ceiling dropped and the cold became quite present. The mud she was about to dig out of the seam was freezing and the snow had begun to fall. We decided it best to let the system pass. So, from sixty meters up, we headed back down to our high camp. By dark, to quote Steve Schnieder, "the Patagonia Tempest" was rocking our world. At first, the storm was a relief, as our water supply was running low. That would soon change.

Two, three, four days crept by. We would wait, we had the supplies and the excitement. By day six, we were captives of the Giant. We did the calculations and the rationing began. White-outs and blizzards all day and night were bombarding us. Several times the skies cleared and the stars were ablaze. We would tuck into our sleeping bags telling each other "Tomorrow we press on! It will be clear!" Then, as if it knew what we were thinking, it would hit us even harder. Day seven, a week. We managed to keep our heads, but the six foot by three foot portaledge was twisting our spines and the lethargicness was making us weak. It was time to make a move, we could not afford another storm higher on the wall.

With a break in the freeze I jugged to our high point to retrieve the equipment and pull our fixed line. Meanwhile, Amy shuffled items in the ledge for the pack job. Just like before, the Giant decided to keep us. For twenty hours the wind roared like we had not heard before and the flurries broke once again. We resumed our crammed positions for one more night. 

Day eight of the storm and the twelfth day on the wall, we cut open the frozen water jugs and sent the mondo ice chunks soaring. We sat waiting, with all the stuff-sacks packed, intermittently taking turns to do chores outside. By late afternoon we had our bags ready for the toss and watched as they flew to the glacier 1,500 feet below. One landed under a hanging serac, the other was safe, the portaledge... a direct shot into a crevasse. 

We did a total of six rappels to escape the tower, four of which were 300 footers. Each time, we dodged the frozen, steel cable of a rope as it came flying past. Once on the ground we recovered both haulbags and easily fished the ledge from the ice. No fixed lines were left and only pre-existing rappel anchors were maintained. Hastily crossing the terrible, crevassed glacier covered with false snow bridges, we returned to our Base Camp at Campamento Torres in the dark. We were greeted excitedly by the  Guadalaparques who had been watching the show and had become worried when the thermometer in camp dipped down to negative five degrees Celsius.

We were taught many things from this expedition- from tactics to equipment changes.  We now realize that March is a little late in the season for Torres del Paine and have come to respect the validity of the saying "Red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky in morn, sailors take warn!" We have also learned what it is like to have a vendetta with a Giant, making us climbers walk "A Fine Line of Insanity."

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