Sarah Hart headed down to Patagonia this winter for some warm weather climbing with just a friend and some SCARPA gear. But it was a different trip than she was anticipating.
In June of 2012, I quit my desk job, packed my things into storage, and set off on what became an almost two-year climbing trip. But by January 2014, I could no longer ignore the fact that my bank account was quickly running dry, and I was going to need a job soon. To go out with a bang, I traveled to southern Patagonia for my fourth visit. If the previous Patagonia climbing season was to be any indication, I was pretty certain I’d be running hot laps up Fitz Roy in my tank top.
I was wrong. I didn’t get to wear rock shoes in the mountains once. The SCARPA Rebel Ultra GTX was about as close to a rock shoe I could get!
Each window of good weather that appeared offered up no more than eight hours of climbable weather at a time. So when one of these mini-windows appeared, we had to be strategic about getting into position on big routes (for a probable failed attempt!). Or we had to aim small, climbing something that could be pulled off in a few short hours. During one such window in January, my friend Colin and I managed to beat the odds and ascend a new route using the former strategy.
On January 4, we hiked into the Marconi Glacier valley to situate ourselves for the next days assault. Our intention was to climb a new line Colin has previously eyed on Aguja Volonqui a seldom visited, 2,200-meter peak bordering the Patagonian ice cap.
We arrived to the head of the valley and settled in for another goddamned 2:30 a.m. alarm. When it went off, we could barely hear it over the deafening wind, but we rallied and began our approach to the base of Aguja Volonqui in the dark. We fought the gusting wind, rampant snow and deep trail breaking, but as dawn arrived, the skies cleared and we were treated to incredible views of Gorra Blanca and the Marconi peaks.
Arriving at the base of our chimney, we racked up and began climbing perfect “snice” (snow-ice) up the center of the deep chimney. The six or seven pitches to the top of the chimney were entirely enjoyable, with mostly rock gear abounding – though Colin had to hammer in a few pitons for protection on a couple pitches. Once at the top of the chimney, we maneuvered around several small snowfields and gained the final summit ridge by climbing one last mixed pitch.
The summit of Volonqui may be its coolest feature. It was plastered in rime, resembling the summits of its big brothers, the Torres. This was also the closest I’d been to the ice cap.
We named our route Lobito, after our landlady’s dog in El Chalten, where Colin and I have spent the last three seasons together. Lobito means “little wolf” in Spanish – a fitting name for the wiry German shepherd we’ve grown to love and the first climb up our new route.
Lobito 400m, AI4+ M5 A0, January 5, 2014