Tad and I returned to El Chalten for a well deserved meal and some story swapping with friends. We felt great about being in this place in what seemed to be an uncharacteristically good weather season. Everyone was getting out and going for it. But the warm temperatures seemed to be putting the ice routes out of condition. My long time friend Jess had just made a good attempt on the Exocet Chimney on Cerro Standhardt, but what is typically a sustained 500m WI5 turned to a cold shower and they turned back. So when we jumped on the computer and it looked as though the climbing gods were opening the gates to yet another three day weather window, route selection was a point of great attention. Tad and I had left a cash at Paso Superior with the intent of returning to climb Poincenot if the weather would allow. Now that it was definitely allowing, we rationalized climbing the route in warm temperatures by getting a very early start and avoiding any kind of soft snow on the ramp as well as the possibility of getting caught in wet slides. How the mixed pitches would look was to be left to mystery. We departed town the next day in beautiful weather for the Whillans – Cochrane 5+, AI3, M4, 550m
We arrived at Paso Superior with light packs and the temperatures were quite warm as expected. We hoped the ramp would harden up during the night for easier and more speedy climbing in the morning. The night was calm, and pretending to read in my sleeping bag, I felt a world of gratitude for being at the foot of such an amazing climb. Doubts swirled and faded and an overriding calm settled in. I was anxious to climb for sure!
The alarm beeped at 1 am an hour later we were on the glacier and approaching the giant bergschrund that guards the base of the route. We chose to begin to the far left and gain the ramp directly. Stepping out with a lot of vert below was rad. Once on the ramp, we encountered good snow and ice conditions quickly making it to the mixed chimneys. The chimneys have great stone and awesome cracks to place cams and picks. The warm temperatures had made only rock protection a real option but the climbing was good. After the second pitch we went right and found M4 climbing all the same. Once at the shoulder we switched to rock shoes for the fun rock pitches to la cumbre. It was a dream!! We began to rappel from the summit around 6:30 pm and reached the shoulder above the mixed chimneys at dark. Then we rappelled through the night with only a couple hold ups with the ropes reaching the glacier at sunrise.
I felt very strongly the bond of partnership that night rappelling the rock, ice, then finally over the bergschrund to the comfort of the glacier. I never forgot that it was just the two of us out there going for it, and it was incredible. Some people get stoked on solo ascents of scary routes. I would have to agree that they are bold, even genius in there self reliance. But for now I am content with sharing my experiences in the mountains with great people. Inspiring people. In this way, the memory is not simply mine to cherish, but shared. And if there is one thing that I walked away from my time in Chile and Argentina with, it was the realization that to share is to fulfill at least one of our true purposes here on this floating sphere.
A big thanks to my larger than life friend Tad McCrea
Tad put together a VIDEO of the climb Here
Illumination Rock is located just above timberline lodge ski area on Mt. Hood. In winter, the routes are mixed rock and ice climbing. The route we climbed was 4 pitches of M4 – AI4. The protection was mostly rock in splitter cracks. For April, the climbs seemed quite winter-esque making the placement of gear even more fun than usual. Moving among sugar gargoyles put me in a total dream-like head space.
I had only seen fluffy mushrooms of ice in magazines, so it was great to touch them. Stoke seemed to be running through my veins….
Below is a topo of the rock with routes: