|Derek topping out the second pitch on the Pillar Route|
Sunday was a nice day and at 10 a.m. I took Sheri out for the Condores Climbing Cliff Loop. The start of this loop is very steep and very sustained. It makes Sanitas look moderate. The angle wasn’t Sheri’s favorite, but once on top we enjoyed some great views. We could see all of Poincenot, but Fitz Roy remained in the clouds a bit. We knew it was going to out to play, though. We were headed into those mountains the next day.
We completed the loop and then walked around town a bit more, even going off Main Street! We went down to the bus terminal and I found three flyers for taxi drivers. We needed a taxi to take us 10 miles north of town to the Rio Electrico trailhead. Prices looked to be either $1500AR or $2000AR — $25-$30US.
Later that afternoon Derek and I went to climb the Pillar Route (6c — about 11a). Sheri came along too and watched us do the first three pitches. We didn’t much about this route. We had a photo marked with the route and we knew where the start was and the rating, but didn’t know the pitch breakdown at all. Derek had been leading the first pitch up to now, so I took the sharp end here. I combined the first two pitches into a 55-meter monster, using all 16 of my draws. I had trouble piecing together the route in two spots. I didn’t want to commit to the wrong sequence and fall off. Once I backed down off one option on the right and then traversed a bit to the left and up that way. All this wandering around made the pitches seem pretty hard to me, though there were many places to shake out an recovery. Derek made these pitches look pretty easy and didn’t hesitate much. We guessed the ratings at 10b and 10a.
|The Pillar Route|
Derek took the next pitch, which looked interesting. It traversed strongly to the left on a vertical or better wall, just above a smooth ramp. It didn’t look too bad until a blank-is section between the fourth and fifth bolts. Sure enough, Derek cruised up to the fourth bolt, which was a difficult clip, and then backed down a bit. He climbed up once or twice and felt out the holds and backed down to semi-comfortable stance, though still vertical and not a great rest. Then he committed and made a long reach off two bad pockets to a black dike. He pinched it and then grabbed the top. He was grunting hard now and found a good foothold in a scoop he had used for his hand earlier, though it was now a blind placement due to the overhanging nature. He tried to clip, but couldn’t reach it. He grunted some more and made another big reach higher, with his feet now just smearing. He made the clip and moved on a bit higher to the next bolt, where he could finally shake out. I cheered him on, but would find out on my turn just how hard this was.
Derek climbed the rest of the pitch without any other trouble, but it remained steep and he was pumped from the crux. After pulling out more than half the rope, he got the belay. My turn. I immediately found that the going wasn’t as easy as I had thought it would be or as Derek made it look. Still, I got up to the fourth bolt okay, unclipped, and backed down to rest. I then executed Derek’s sequence, thinking I had at least a 50% chance of falling moving off the two bad pockets. I got the dike, hoping I was done with the crux, but it wasn’t that good. I got my foot in the scoop, but the wall was steep enough where this wasn’t great relief. I got the top of the dike, hoping for a jug, and was quite disappointed. I was going to fall, but the draw might be within reach. I deadpointed to it and got it. I pulled up on it and got some footholds. Hey, we were training for alpine climbing, where anything goes.
|Derek starting up the crux pitch. The route goes up and left above the ramp to the left.|
The next pitch was easy, maybe 5.7, but circuitous. I found the belay at a nice ledge. I briefly thought about linking in the last, low-angle pitch, but figured I’d have too much drag. This was a good decision, as the pitch was longer and harder than it looked. Derek styled it, climbing really well, but I found two very thin, delicate slab moves that I’d rate 5.9. He used 12 draws on the pitch, so there was no way I’d have made it. Or been able to pull those slab moves with any drag at all. We hiked down to the south and back to the apartment.
|Derek leading the final slab pitch. He's just done one of the crux moves. This pitch is harder than it looks.|
|Dog swimming the river. Couldn't rotate it, so turn your head to watch.|