Cara Este on Mojón Rojo


For Dale's take on this adventure, check out his blog:

Some days come together as a perfect concert of luck and execution. The rarity of such days is highlighted by the number that more closely follow Murphy's Law, of which we'd experienced a few during our time in Patagonia.

In this case, we snuck in a great climb and our first summit of the trip in a weather window shorter than one day with decently high pressure, but high winds and an impending storm in the late afternoon. Dale and I teamed up with friends Alan and Adam, woke up in our hostel early in the morning, and were on the trail up to Campo Poincenot around 4am.

For the first time on the trip, we were carrying a minimal amount of gear—nothing to spend the night, no stove, no bulky food, no full ropes, and a tiny amount of rock gear. The impossibly light feeling resulted in some seriously fast hiking on our approach to Rio Blanco and then up the river to Lago Sucia, mostly before dawn and with the last bits at the lake at sunrise. The clear skies let us see a looming Fitz Roy massif from early in the hike and the granite faces slowly became contrasted against the night sky as dawn drew nearer.

Taking in the magical Patagonian ambiance

We made our way around the scree slopes on the South side of the lake and then headed up the steep, somewhat loose rock outcrops on our way up to the glacier. It had been cold overnight and our few stream crossings were a bit treacherous with tough-to-see verglass on all of the rock. Thankfully we made it through unscathed and dry. We suited up for the glacier once on the snow slopes and were glad we did—I plunged into my waist twice while crossing the crevasse field. All of the recent snow had filled things in enough to make the crevasses mostly invisible, but not enough to create solid bridges.

The crevasse danger subsided as we reached lower-angle slopes below Mojón Rojo and were blown away by gorgeous views North to Poincenot, Fitz Roy, and the rest of the massif. The last bit of snow was deep and tough going, but we traded off a few times and hit the 4th class rock without being too tired. The route wasn't crystal clear, but everything was pretty manageable, so we took a couloir up to some rock, pulled a steeper section, and headed up 3rd class for a little bit until we hit a short 5th class bit. It wasn't long or difficult enough to warrant roping up.

The last bit to the summit was more 3rd class and we arrived at the summit block to experience some incredible views of the Torre massif as well as some roaring winds. Standing 20 feet from the edge was decently calm, but getting near the sheer cliff would push you off balance. We briefly put a rope on to take turns pulling the exposed 5.6 moves to the top for the proper summit tag, then packed up and started our descent.

It was pretty uneventful on the way down and the forecasted weather was clearly rolling in, but not chasing us off the mountain. We stopped at the toe of the glacier to nap in the sun. It was so nice to have some warm sun on our faces without a perceptible wind chill!

We eventually motivated and hiked back out, quickly hitting the lake, skirting it again, following the river out, and then following the well-worn trail back to town to complete our home-to-home mission. What a great day.