By Jack Buchanan
Reprinted from The Leader, Spring 2001, Vol. 16, No. 2
In February, two NOLS instructors, Dave Anderson and Andrew Chapman, embarked on a climbing expedition to the Fitz Roy region of Patagonia. Their objective is to successively climb the major peaks of the Fitz Roy Massif in a single alpine push, enchaining the peaks of Mermoz, Poincenot, and Guillaumet without stopping.
Their route demands a high level of proficiency as they will attempt to cover fifth class rock climbing and alpine ice. They will go fast and light, carrying only essentials such as warm clothes, food, and minimal climbing gear. Anderson and Chapman estimate a reasonable timetable of 48 hours to complete their goal. Of course, that's assuming that the weather will hold long enough for them to make an attempt in the first place.
What sets Patagonia apart from many other climbing locales is the weather. This region is notorious for its incessant winds and precipitation. Storms constantly blast the Fitz Roy range and it is no exaggeration to say that several expeditions have been denied the opportunity to even leave basecamp. Therefore, Andrew and Dave will wait for the appropriate weather window and then push all at once, drawing on a well of considerable resolve and skill. These climbers prefer fast alpine climbing not only because it makes sense in the face of changeable weather, but because it appeals to their senses of purity and aesthetics as well. Light climbing relies heavily on proficiency with systems, climbing ability, and judgment. It also involves a deep commitment to teamwork and trust. Anderson and Chapman will have to incorporate all of the tools at their disposal: their knowledge of the route, their knowledge of climbing, and their knowledge of each other. Hopefully, this balancing act will lead to a successful climb. Regardless, these two will doubtlessly grow as climbers and individuals.
Andrew Chapman is amountaineering,rock climbingand backcountry ski instructor for NOLS. He has climbed long alpine routes including on sight solos of the Grand Teton (direct North face IV 5.8 and the Enclosure Ice Couloir IV 5.8), a 15-hour ascent of Moonlight Buttress V A2 5.10, and Rainbow Wall 5.12.
Dave Anderson has been working as amountaineeringinstructor for NOLS for five years. Climbing expeditions have taken him toPakistan, Newfoundland, Alaska, and Patagonia where he has established many new routes. Climbs include first ascents of All Quiet on the Eastern Front VI A3 5.11, Pakistan and Gargoyle Buttress IV 5.10, Alaska.