The beautiful Patagonian peaks of Cerro Adela and Cerro Grande lie south of the majestic and dramatic peaks of Cerro Torre and Mount Fitzroy. Yet in February 1958 both peaks, all those in between them, were traversed in one amazing day by the incomparable Walter Bonatti and his climbing partner, Carlo Mauri.
Typical of Bonatti though, in his brilliant autobiography, “The Mountain of My Life“, he donates just three and a half pages to this epic day. Having retreated from Cerro Torre earlier in his expedition he then crossed the Patagonian Icecap to climb the then unclimbed, and unexplored, Cerro Mariano Moreno. A major feat. After this you may of thought they would be content. No.
At 6am on 7th February they set out and had ascended the first 1000m of steep couloir in the first 2 hours. By 11am they sat on the summit of Cerro Adela. It was then they decided to continue along the chain. Cerro Adela South, Cerro Nato (1pm) and Cerro Doblado (3pm) all were reached before the twin peaks of Cerro Grande lay before them.
Not opting for easier options they moved together in harmony, alternating leads. They reached the top in strong winds at 4pm. Not content with just the highest of the twin summits they then did the other one. At 5:30pm they started the descent.
At 9pm after negotiating hundreds of waiting, gaping crevasses, bad weather and swinging pendulums into black voids they reached the safety of their tents on the Hielo Continental basin.
And, they only had ice axes, crampons and a rope between them. Just like “the mountaineers of old” said Bonatti. Not even a piton to help facilitate any retreat. What an adventure and what an effort. A lesson for all modern day “wanabee” mountaineers!
This is a MUST READ book.
We shall be visiting the area again during our Patagonian Icecap crossing in November 2010.