Amy-Vidailhet Route on Aguja Guillaumet

Heading up toward the route

Heading up toward the route

For Dale's take on this adventure, check out his blog:
http://www.daleapgar.com/blog/patagonia-2014-part-i

Our plan before making it down to Chalten included starting out on Aguja Guillaumet as a warm-up. We had wanted to hit the Brenner-Moschioni route on the North ridge, but it became clear once we made it to Chalten that our trip was not going to involve much pure rock climbing. All of the granite faces were plastered with snow and had cracks filled with ice, and the temperatures weren't rising enough to bake the wintry coats off of the towering granite peaks. "Play the hand you're dealt," we told ourselves. The clear back-up route was the Amy-Vidailhet, a snow and ice gully running up to the summit ridge.

Piedra Negra camp with Guillaumet behind

Piedra Negra camp with Guillaumet behind

We were still figuring out the lay of the land and weather when the first "window" appeared on the meteogram. After spending one day in town after all of our traveling, we were rested and ready to hit it up. The forecast for our approach day was pretty miserable, but the following day looked good, or so we thought. The cab ride had rain pounding the windshield and we were dropped off at Rio Electrico under an ominous sky.

The first 2 hours to Piedra del Fraile went easily and quickly, but as we approached the exposed ridge heading to Piedra Negra, we began to feel the brunt of the weather. This section of the approach felt quite a bit like Aasgard Pass back in Washington. Driving winds and horizontal rain pelted us on our hike up to Piedra Negra and we found ourselves completely soaked by the time we made it to camp. No one else was up there. We struggled the tent up in the wind and hopped in immediately, not to emerge until the next morning.

Hot meals and warm sleeping bags helped us dry and thaw out before waking at dawn the next morning to give the climb a shot. We took a slight mis-step on our way up to Paso Guillaumet, but were able to traverse back to the col successfully and were greeted with a sunny, relatively calm day on the East side of the massif.

On the route

On the route

The climb was in perfect condition. The snow was well consolidated and had good, secure steps in it. Much of the route was full-on alpine ice that took good screws. We climbed along another pair of guys from Seattle and exchanged whoops and hollers of delight as one-hit wonders kept greeting us all the way up.

Unfortunately, the wind at the ridge was insanely strong and appeared to be getting worse by the minute. Snow started blowing straight up the gully as we turned around and rapped the route with our new friends. A set of 3 or 4 double-rope raps got us back to the steep snow below the bergshrund and we booked it for the pass, where we were greeted with violent winds carrying snow crystals and an unintended exfoliating facial. The winds calmed a bit as we dropped back down to the lower glacier and it was much more calm by the time we hit camp.

A bunch of people had come up to camp while we were climbing and spoke of a window that was opening up, so we decided to stay the night and see if the sky would open a bit. Some more hot meals knocked us out well before sunset and we woke to uninspiring conditions after enduring another very windy night in the tent. It was so windy that at least one party had to hike out that night with a broken pole. We later heard that winds were easily 30 knots during our nights up there. A nap was in order before our hike out.

The skies cleared and things warmed up a bunch during our hike out, and we passed no fewer than 30 people headed up for an apparent 2-3 day window. We had to explain to a number of folks why we were headed out. It was a bit frustrating, but we'd had a great time. We learned a lot and we made it through some tough conditions, which helped us put things in perspective for the rest of the trip.