Sunday, February 7, 2010

Alpine Rock @ Frey (Northern Patagonia)

This blog contains some of the highlights of climbing in the area known as Frey in Argentina.
Climbing in Patagonia had always been something I had thought of since I started climbing many years ago. Seeing pictures of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre and hearing about epic climbs in the area deffinitly peaked my interest in the region. Since this would be my first trip down, my expectations or goals were minimal with a focus on checking out the area, logistics and having a little adventure with some climbing thrown in the mix. I took an all night Flight from DFW to Santiago were I would link up my climbing partner David. We decided to head to the climbing area of Frey outside the ski resort town of Bareloche in Argentina, which is located in Northern Patagonia. The weather forecast for Frey was the best for all the areas we had considered going to and we were pysched to get in some quality climbing. We took an all night bus ride from Santiago to the town of Onsorno, then a 6 hour bus ride accross the border to Bareloche. We arrived late enough to miss any busses to Catedral where the hike to Frey begins. We hired a taxi to drive us up and began the long hike in the early evening. The trail up to Frey is a nice one and is very gradual or flat at first but with a 70# pack on it was still brutal. Suffering from lack of sleep and heavy loads we stopped about 3 hours into the hike, I was bonking hard, it was dark and we bivied in a rock shelter about an hour from the Refugio Frey. The next morning we finished the last hour of the hike to the Refugio and set up camp. I was quite tired and took a nap and a break and later that day we climbed the Aguja Frey, which the tower nearby the Refugio Frey which offers quality cragging near the camping area. We climbed the classic route Sifuentes Weber, a 4 pitch 5.9 up the distinct features on the face.
Aguja Frey in the Distance with the Refugio Frey in the Foreground

Summit of Aguja Frey

The rock at Frey is quality granite on cool towers and spires. The climbing is steep and well featured which took me some getting used to. Alot of the routes follow discontinous cracks connected by steep face climbing, sometimes the climbing can be runout or well bolted depending on the route. I spent the next few days trying to get a feel for the rock and was quite conservative on what routes I would get on or take the sharp end. Those that know me well, know that I am not as comfortable on steep face climbing, so it took a while to get comfortable on the rock here.
One of the first big towers we climbed was the Campanile Esolveno on the route Buch Goyne (sp), a moderate crack route on the spire.
The Campanile
Nice Splitter Crack
Campanile Summit

The next major objective for us was Sinestro Total on the Torre Principal. The Torre Principal is the major tower that stands out above all the towers and spires of the area. The route in my opinion was the best one we did in the area, 8 pitches up to 5.10+ or 11-, steep and sustained  crack systems for most of the way. I led the odd pitches and the first pitch was a wake up call with a steep bulge thin crux that left me fully pumped and flamed, lots of rope stretching pitches on the route. We made good time up the route and got to share it with a couple of nice French guys. After a couple stuck ropes on the rappel we made it down, a great long day.

Me leading the 200' 5.10+ Fist Crack Pitch
Phillip and Michelle (AKA Frenchies)
The Travese Pitch High on the Route

Last Pitch

Torre Principal Summit
Setting Sun on El Piramidal

The next Frey classic we would climb was Objectiva Luna on the El Cohete Lunar tower. This route involved a mixture of splitter cracks and face climbing, 8 pitches up to 5.10c. I thought this route was very good, it had some wild steep climbing and interesting moves involving crack and face climbing.
On the approach to Objectiva Luna
The Steep and Varied Pitch 2
The Arete Pitch
The Crux Roof Pitch
There was one more high quality route that we wanted to climb before we left and that was Imaginate on the Campanile, a 5 pitch 5.10 route. The route climbs up the steep side of the Campanile with some overhanging climbing on huge features that you normally don't see in granite. A lot of the climbing is runout but the features are so big that you feel secure and what a blast to be on such a steep climb. After hiking to the base of the route the wind was absolutly howing, we decided to climb the route anyway taking extra care to not get blown off the face. Another great route at Frey and our last.

STEEP 2nd Pitch
More Steep Face Climbing
Last Pitch on Huge Huecos
Windy Summit
Summit View
Summit View
Sunset at Camp

The next day we decided to head out for the town of Bareloche. The night before the wind was incredible and nearly destroyed the tent, we had to get up and resecure it a couple times during the night. This would be another windy day that would blow you over if  you were not careful. It made it very difficult to pack up in these conditions but I was happy to be heading down and out of the wind. Once in Bareloche staying in a hostel, we checked the weather forecast and it did not look promising for the next 10 days. We had planned to head to Cochamo next but it look like it would be raining there for the next week and Chalten looked even worse. So in the end we decided to head back to Santiago where I would try to fly out early. After many hours riding on a bus and spending the night on a bus then spending a night in the airport trying to fly on standby the next night I got lucky and a spot opended up at the last minute and I was able to fly home.
 Overall it was a great experience to head down to South America, the climbing in Frey was  great. The steaks in Argentina were amazing along with the beer and other street vendor food. The dollar deffinitly goes far in Argentina. The only regret was not being able to check out Los Glaciares National Park or Torres de Paine in Southern Patagonia, but all the climbers I talked to in Frey who were there said they spent weeks just sitting in their tents or hanging in El Chalten and were not able to climb anything this season. And now that I am back and checking the weather I am glad I decided to come back early as the weather has continued to be horrible down there. Even Frey has not had the best of weather since I left, and Cochamo has rained every day.
I am currently recharging and resting up for the next bout of climbing. I am planning on heading to Red Rock or Zion next towards the end of this month depending on where the weather is best. I would like to spend most of March in Red Rocks, April in Indian Creek and May in Yosemite. Thats it for now.

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