Last week Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold were busy taking on the major ridge line of Fitz Roy in Patagonia. From February 12-16, 2014, Caldwell and Honnold claimed the first traverse ascent of this coveted line or the “mother of all traverses.”
Mount Fitz Roy has a reputation of being the “ultimate” despite the fact that it’s half the size of the Himalayan giants. This reputation is due to the sheer granite faces that present long stretches of grueling and technical climbing. The weather adds to the reputation as it is extreme and treacherous.
The climb was practically a baptism of fire for climber Alex Honnold as it was his first route in Patagonia. On the flipside, Tommy Caldwell has made numerous climbs in the Patagonian region that includes the first free ascent and first onsight of Linea de Eleganza up Fitz Roy in 2006.
The Cerro Fitz Roy ridgeline involves climbing Aguja Guillaumet, Aguja Mermoz, Cerro Fitz Roy, Aguja Poincenot, Aguja Rafael Juarez, Aguja Saint-Exupery and Aguja de I’S. This is more than five kilometers of ridgeline and 4,000 meters of vertical gain with difficulties to 7a (5.11d) C1 65 degrees, and four bivvies.
The duo climbed in approach shoes for the majority of the ascent with the exception of Pilar Goretta up the north face of Aguja Poincenot where they climbed with climbing shoes. In order to retain speed, Caldwell and Honnold simul-climbed, and the 20-pitch section of Pilar Goretta was dispatched in just three pitches. All of this was done with minimal gear that included two backpacks, one sleeping bag, a BD First Light tent, one ice tool, one ice screw, two pairs of aluminum crampons, two sets of stoppers, a 60m 9.8mm lead line, an 80m 6mm tag line, and a few other things. For a complete list of gear taken and more details on this expedition, see Rolando Garibotti’s report.
Alex Honnold already started 2014 with quite the bang when he completed a free-solo ascent of El Sendero Luminoso in El Potrero Chico, Mexico back in January. This free-solo ascent was one of his most ambitious and difficult climbs to date with a sustained 2,500-foot limestone big-wall. Climbers have taken two days to climb the monolith, but Honnold’s ascent took only three hours.
Tommy Caldwell was also busy in the past few months. He has continued his quest to send the entire route of Dawn Wall, a project he’s been working on for seven years now. Despite an injury of a separated rib back in November 2013 that kept him from continuing the climb with Kevin Jorgeson for a few weeks, Caldwell redpointed one of the hardest pitches in Yosemite, a 5.14d, on the Dawn Wall in December 2013.
There’s no question that there is much more that these two incredibly powerful climbers will accomplish in the near future. Whether it’s another insane free-solo ascent by Alex Honnold, or the anticipated complete send of the Dawn Wall by Tommy Caldwell, it’ll certainly be a jaw-dropping, adrenaline-pumping feat that many didn’t think was possible. Congratulations to Caldwell and Honnold!