"Aste Route" North Ridge 5.11 (org. VI- A1), 800 m, J. Ajazzi, Armando Aste, Castati, Nando Nusdeo, Vasco Taldo, 1963
Write Up By: Amy Ness
"Oh no!" Myles proclaimed. I turned to look back at him, but he had blended into the dark night. It only took me a second to realize the problem, his headlamp was dead. As if that wasn't bad enough, mine flickered to the end of it's life within a minute or two afterwards. That's what you get for having rechargeable headlamps on an expedition that don't take batteries or when some ones boyfriend neglects to recharge them. We were lost, and not only was it dark, now, it was really dark. We had no choice but to lie down exactly where we were and endure the cold and windy Patagonian night...with only the clothes on our backs. This was to be my first unplanned bivouac, and I was miserable!
My only driving force to keep going after climbing the Aste Route on Torre Sur, was to get back to our cave and into my sleeping bag. I didn't care about food or water, just being warm. So you can imagine my extreme disappointment while shivering the night away. Luckily, the 23 pitches of climbing had exhausted us enough that we were able to sleep, a little bit anyway. We had climbed the route in a little over 8 1/2 hours, yet with the tedious rappels and unknown valley we were still benighted. We wanted to summit the South Tower in order to complete the trifecta- having climbed the North and Central Towers via the east faces. After spending 46 days total on the other two towers, we just wanted to romp up the South, taking one rope (the rappels were set for 35m), a double rack, and simul-climbing the last 17 pitches from the shoulder to the summit. We actually felt a bit cheated by the experience...it didn't fight us at all! By dawn the next morning, I felt the dehydration, exhaustion, and hunger that I've come to know down here in Patagonia as, "Tasting the Paine".
Looking back now, after sleep, food, and rest, it almost seems comical. The climbing was a bit loose, but well worth the effort once we reached the shoulder. It reminded me of the rock on Charlotte Dome back home in the Eastern Sierras, but with breath-taking views on every side: snow-covered mountains stretching through infinity, and a view of the Central Tower sweeping up from the glacier and standing proudly just on our other side. Simuling, basically, without stopping, it went by much more quickly than the lower pitches which were much more difficult in grade (5.11 protected by old pins), and much too delicate to move quickly on.
The Paine seems to always be teaching us something new: put your portaledge under a roof, bring a baby-sized broom to sweep out snow, always pack extra food, and this time, carry an emergency foil bivy sack when you get on a 3000' wall, because finding a cave in a moraine field is about as likely as finding a needle in a haystack!