In the mountains sometimes success finds you when you least expect it. When Matthew Tufts suggested I join him and Pedro Fina for the start of their icecap traverse so I said why not, knowing little about the actual objective the had in mind. There were several days of good weather on the forecast and they successfully lured me in with beer and the promise of climbing. Given my love for both of the aforementioned and the general scarcity if good weather in Patagonia I was not in a position to say no.
The plan was to climb the Northeast Face of Cerro Rincon at the Head of the Marconi Glacier. It had been on Pedro’s list for quite awhile and seemed like a logical option that would allow me join them for the climb and return to Piedra del Fraile Tuesday night to make a solo attempt on Aguja Guillamet as the winds were forecast to drop later in the week.
Logical as it seemed when I looked at the map I soon realised that it would add a further exhausting 25k round trip to my already ambitious plans for this weather window, not to mention the actual climbing and descent. Despite this it seemed clear from the map that the view from the top would be spectacular so I was in.
We set off Monday morning and hiked up the Rio Electrico valley by Lago Marconi and continued on skis up the Glacier. To minimise weight I decided to forgo taking real skis in favour of approach skis and mountain boots. When we arrived I set up camp while Matt and Pedro took off on skis up the steepening glacier to find a path through the crevassed approach to the face with the remaining daylight.
The next morning we set off early and after a long slog up the glacier finally reached the bergshrund. We decided to climb a different line to original Comesaña-Palma route linking together the three obvious snowfields on the northeast face with short ice and mixed passages. The climb was pleasant but never difficult and within a couple hours we topped out to find the incredible views we had hoped for. It was my first Patagonian summit and though not one of the classics I had put so much energy into over the past year I was pretty happy to be standing on top of something!
As ever the descent left a lot to be desired with the usual unprotected down climbing one comes to expect on remote peaks like this. Nonetheless it a great adventure with new friends and stunning views of some of the wildest mountains on the planet.
Following the descent I said good bye for now to Matt and Pedro and continued through the night back to the refuge at Fraile. I knew the following day I needed a full day to rest and recover before attempting Guillamet on Friday and I didn’t have enough food to take my time getting back or stop for the night part way. After almost 20 hours on the go I stumbled into Fraile put up my tent and collapsed. I was exhausted but happy to have finally had a small taste of success in Patagonia.