Photos from the 11/99 FA of A Fine Piece in Patagonia

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Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 13, 2013 - 03:09am PT
Taking a trip down memory lane this week and getting some old slides scanned, I just put up this photo-rich post of the first ascent of A Fine Piece that Jim Donini and I did on the west pillar of Cerro Pollone in Patagonia in November, 1999.

I only briefly mentioned the climb in Enduring Patagonia (I think it got a paragraph, maybe just a sentence), but that's no reflection on its quality, because it was incredibly good, a "high intermediate" alpine rock climb in a world-class setting up the most neglected of the three major cirques in the Cerro Torre/Fitzroy massif. 15 or 16 pitches of mostly 5.9 and 5.10 crack climbing, nothing outrageously difficult, minimal objective hazard, simple approach (albeit a long one), easily doable in a day (although Jim and I bivied on the way up, and for fun on the way down since, for once, the weather was perfect, and so was the ledge).

I strongly recommend A Fine Piece for anybody interested in getting a taste of top-shelf Patagonian action without having to cue up for other, more famous climbs. But the pictures tell the story...
Lasti

Trad climber
Budapest
Feb 13, 2013 - 04:36am PT
A Fine piece indeeed!

Gorgeous pictures and stellar route. Thanks for posting your memories.

Lasti
jaaan

Trad climber
Chamonix, France
Feb 13, 2013 - 05:15am PT
Nice rock. What are the red things around Jim's legs?
mcreel

climber
Barcelona
Feb 13, 2013 - 05:19am PT
Thanks! It seems that Donini has some aiders tied around his legs, but as far as I can see, they're not attached to his harness. How does that work? Looks pretty stylish, I have to say.
adikted

Boulder climber
Tahooooeeeee
Feb 13, 2013 - 09:24am PT
I have been in Patagonia for 6 weeks now, 4 in Chalten and 2 in Bariloche and i can say is WOW!!!! Im already stoaked for next season...this place is truly remarkable...
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Feb 13, 2013 - 10:39am PT
Yo Greg!!! I have a number of those photos but some of them I have never seen before. That certainly was a fine.....and safe climb- should be a classic. I suppose the length of the approach is a little daunting for some.
Angela put a bunch of scanned photos from the Kichatna Spires on a thumb drive, i'll bring them with me next week.
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2013 - 10:40am PT
What are the red things around Jim's legs?

Jaaan, they were a lightweight Russian aid system we were testing for Trango. Quite good as long as the route isn't overhanging, although prone to fouling around your ankles if you didn't cinch them out of the way.

They have this little hook at the top of the thing on your ankles and you use the force of your weight to keep you attached to these little metal rings on the half of the etrier that you have attached to your aid piece.

I liked 'em in that environment, although I wouldn't use them on El Cap. The whole set up was very light, too.

I have been in Patagonia for 6 weeks now, 4 in Chalten and 2 in Bariloche and i can say is WOW!!!! Im already stoaked for next season...this place is truly remarkable...

Glad you're having such a great time, Adikted, and if you're still in Bariloche, don't neglect to do Imaginate on Campanille Eslovenia -- one of my favorite all-time rock climbs.
Patrick Sawyer

climber
Originally California now Ireland
Feb 13, 2013 - 10:46am PT
Gregory excellent post and photos.

How's Creektown? I was born in Kaiser there.
jaaan

Trad climber
Chamonix, France
Feb 13, 2013 - 10:59am PT
Thanks Gregory.
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Feb 13, 2013 - 11:08am PT
That looks like the real deal - not many climbers will ever have an experience like that. Looks outstanding! Not too hard, great rock and position, continuous angle, variety, untouched, good weather.

You guys scored!
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Feb 13, 2013 - 11:22am PT
That rock looks crazy good!
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2013 - 11:47am PT
How's Creektown? I was born in Kaiser there.

I like it well enough.

That said, I'll be out of here like a cannon shot when my son goes off to college. Probably over to SF if I'm still able to make the paddle out at Ocean Beach 6 years from now. If not, either down to the kiddie-pool surfing in Santa Barbara or off to the Western Slope. Or maybe I jag it all in and head for Indonesia. (Actually, I think I'll do that for a while before making any larger decisions.)

Glad you all are enjoying the pics. And team, that route was astonishing. World class, and I think I can say that without the blinders of being in on the first ascent. What I do know is that it's deserving of more attention.

I don't quite know what to compare it to because I can't think of an alpine rock climb in the United States that's anywhere close to its league. Perhaps some of the good stuff in the Sawtooths or the western alps, but I've never climbed there so I can't compare. Perhaps some of the big classics in the Bugaboos, like the Chouinard-Beckey, but to me, being in Patagonia always had a special feeling that no other place replicated.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Feb 13, 2013 - 11:57am PT
Holy buckets of awesomeness Batman!!

You guys are indeed ROCKSTARS!!!

Thanks so much.
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2013 - 04:41pm PT
Holy buckets of awesomeness Batman!!

Ha! We just got onto a good one there... I'd spotted it and some other promising terrain up the Marconi cirque the previous June, when coming down Paso Marconi after doing the winter west face of Cerro Torre with the Swiss boys, taken some photos, then made some quiet inquiries with Rolo about what besides Greenpeace on Piergorgio had been climbed up there. (The west pillar of Pollone had been attempted by Michel Piola and Daniel Anker, but not successfully, although they'd gotten at least 2/3rds of the way up the pillar, probably 3/4ers of the way up. They're responsible for the single bolts left at what I would have left as boltless stances, but at least those bolts allowed me to return home with some hardware on the rack for a change.)

Broke the news to Jim that I had an eye on some good stuff up the Marconini Valley but wouldn't send him the pictures for fear of the cat escaping, but he was on board and we went down in November and caught a run of really good early season weather.

The FA of Torrecita Tito Carrasco that we made the week before A Fine Piece was really good, too. Pretty moderate except for the last ten meters, and those would be easy, too, in good conditions, but we caught 'em crusted up with ice in a rising storm with very strong winds.

I'd never been on a high quality virgin summit before that trip, and then I got two in a week.

If anybody got hot and strapped on A Fine Piece, I'd love to have a 'biner or some other piece we left behind for the mantle shelf...
Jay Hack

Trad climber
Detroit, Michigan
Feb 13, 2013 - 04:51pm PT
The pitches with those double cracks look amazing!!! Nice post up.
youngharz

Boulder climber
Carpinteria
Feb 13, 2013 - 04:58pm PT

Recent "A fine Piece" stoke from los Hermanos Joel and Neil Kauffman!

http://joelandneilsclimbingblog.blogspot.com/
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2013 - 05:05pm PT
Recent "A fine Piece" stoke from los Hermanos Joel and Neil Kauffman!

http://joelandneilsclimbingblog.blogspot.com/

Oh man, that's the coolest ever! Love it. Thanks, Youngharz. I hadn't seen that -- I'll have to link to it from my post. Was that the second ascent? I think I'd heard that somebody had done it this season, but I hadn't seen the story.

youngharz

Boulder climber
Carpinteria
Feb 13, 2013 - 06:33pm PT
Hey Greg,

I wouldn't know if it was the second ascent, but email me if you want their contact or maybe they will chime in here? I think they are still down there crushing.

That Looks like an awesome route you guys put up. I'm drooling about getting back down there.

-Erik

Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2013 - 06:37pm PT
Erik... I commented on their blog, so that might do the trick, but please do pass their info along to gregorycrouch@sbcglobal.net

It's a big buzz to see A Fine Piece getting some traffic, and super cool to see their pics. I'm truly psyched by their climb.

Thanks, Greg
The Alpine

climber
Feb 13, 2013 - 06:52pm PT
What in the world is all that white stuff??
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Feb 13, 2013 - 07:00pm PT
Yay. I saw that on my FB page about 20 minutes ago and was blown away. That route looks sooo clean. A prettier locale than the valley as well.

If that route was in Yosemite, judging by the pics, it would be 5 stars and among the best.

Was the rock as bulletproof as the pics suggest? I've seen some clean granite that is a tiny bit crispy.

Donini has done so many new routes. He is kind of like the Fred Beckey of the modern era.

PTPP was way into the Russian Aiders on El Cap a few years back. He raved about them but they never caught on, I guess.
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2013 - 07:14pm PT
Was the rock as bulletproof as the pics suggest? I've seen some clean granite that is a tiny bit crispy.

Base104 (your number, I take it?), in my memory that rock was pretty perfect, but I probably ought to hear that confirmed by the Kauffman brothers before making outlandish claims. As I recall, the only section with suspect rock was the traverse out to the corner in the "my glory pitch" photo. But the rest of that pitch was 5.7 cruising in a gobsmacking alpine corner right to the very top. (We might have simulclimbed a bit there...)

But it is in the high mountains. The only other alpine granite that was as good that I've ever encountered was on The Old Smuggler's Route on the north face of Aguja Poincenot, which I also did with Jim. :-)

Old Smuggler's has some objective hazard on its approach, however. There is none on the way to A Fine Piece. And the route itself felt really safe to me, too.

And yes, in my opinion, if that route were in the Valley it'd be in Roper and Steck's book, and it'd be one of the most popular rock climbs in the world. (It's probably about the size of the DNB.) And also yes, the setting of A Fine Piece is exponentially more spectacular than the Valley. No doubt about that.
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2013 - 07:28pm PT
Yo Greg!!! I have a number of those photos but some of them I have never seen before. That certainly was a fine.....and safe climb- should be a classic. I suppose the length of the approach is a little daunting for some.
Angela put a bunch of scanned photos from the Kichatna Spires on a thumb drive, i'll bring them with me next week.

Jim! Sorry, I missed your check in. We might have to spend some time with the light trays next week. :-)

There are probably a lot of pics from that trip and the walk out to Estancia La Maipu that you haven't seen. I'll burn you off a disc of these plus the Shaken, Not Stirred pics when you're here.

What fun that was!

And thanks to Angela for setting me up with the Kichatna spires pics.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Feb 13, 2013 - 07:33pm PT
All of my alpine experience is in the alps or the Sierra.

Most alpine rock tends to get pretty shattered and comes tumbling down on you at incovenient intervals. Well, it is pretty inconveniant any time.

That route is cleaner than anything that I saw in Chamonix with the exception of the shorties on the back side of the Aiguille du Midi which is also perfect but short.

The Sierra probably has rock that clean, but I've never seen it. Or much of it, anyway.

That route is cleaner than the Central Pillar of Frenzy in the valley. It is cleaner than the Dru. It is cleaner than the Fissure Brown. There is very little rock in Chamonix that is that clean, and even then only for a way.

I judge it to be pretty f%*(ing good. I wish that I had gone down there.

I'm getting into sailing now, and the beta on rounding Cape Horn is that statistically, there is usually a calm period in the first few weeks of January. I don't know that personally, though.
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2013 - 07:42pm PT
Base104, as far as alpine rock goes, in my experience, A Fine Piece and The Old Smuggler's Route had the best I've ever touched, anywhere -- nothing I've climbed in the Sierras, RMNP, Winds, Tetons, North Cascades, Bugaboos, Ruth Gorge, Kichatnas was as consistently good.

In fact, for granite routes in excess of 10 pitches, I'd put the rock on both of those routes in a class by themselves -- they had the best and cleanest granite I ever climbed, with the exception of some of the steep Valley classics...

I've always described doing the best pitches on The Old Smuggler's Route as being like finding pitches as good as the three-star classics on the Cookie that had never been touched before

Those sailing adventures sound pretty wild! I hope to have a few of those before I'm done.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Feb 13, 2013 - 07:48pm PT
Greg, i look forward to seeing some of your newly scanned phtos.

Yep....the approach to "A Fine Piece" is safe but most current climbers in El Chalten will consider it very arduous, especially with the current trend of dossing in an apartment in town. When you speak of reminiscing i think back to my first years in Patagonia when that eyesore (El Chalten) didn't exist. I know, you can never go back except in your mind.

Base 104....I've climbed "alpine" granite in Alaska, the Lower 48, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Canada, the Alps, China and Patagonia. I can say, without a doubt, that the BEST stone is in Patagonia.
Rumor has it, however, that the weather can be trying.
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2013 - 07:53pm PT
Jim, Did you follow the link on the previous page to the blog posts from the guys who just climbed it?

It's bitchin.
micronut

Trad climber
Feb 13, 2013 - 08:21pm PT
Stellar route! great write up. Thanks for sharing. This is what we all dream about.

A clean line in a wild land.

Credit: crouch/donini
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Feb 13, 2013 - 09:25pm PT
Few are worthy.
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 14, 2013 - 11:26am PT
As an addendum to the post, here's a photo of the west face of Piergorgio, which is about the size of El Cap. Greenpeace is the route that follows the buttress rising up the middle of the wall.

Credit: Gregory Crouch
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Feb 14, 2013 - 07:11pm PT
Greg,

Did you post the link to the blog piece with great photos of the second ascent? They pretty much confirmed everything I've been saying about how it looks. It also agrees with your assessment. It is posted on Facebook and a must read.

The problem with Patagonia is that the entire Circ#m-Antarctic current not only hits it, but that it is the choke point for the biggest current in the world, or the most important, weather wise.

The current has to squeeze through the Drake Passage, which is the roughest water on Earth. That is the little squeeze it makes as it squirts in between the south tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Too bad about the weather. I have a bunch of friends who work up at the Storm Prediction Center. Top of the line forecasting meteorologists who put out all of the watches and severe weather forecasts in the U.S. They have access to worldwide data. I can also give you links straight to the weather models. There are many of them. The Navy as one that has the entire world on it.

The three day models are now amazingly good. Some models run out to ten days, and they are great about predicting events that far out. They see a big trough coming and that far out they may be off by a couple of hundred miles, but the system does come through.

The only problem with Patagonia is that there aren't very many weather stations upstream, meaning out to the west. If there were only 6 sounding stations, the forecasts would be very good. Surface Buoys only get surface data. Balloon soundings show the entire troposphere and above, and all soundings take place twice a day around the world at 00Z and 1200Z. Then they go into the models.

It is amazing that the wind is that strong, considering the altitude of less than 10,000 feet. Those are jet stream speeds, and the long fetch to the west...basically the whole pacific, allows the upper wind speeds to couple with the lower troposphere and you get jet stream winds. The Antarctic Polar jet is much faster than the Arctic Polar jet. It gets up to 200 mph.

Sorry. All of my friends are meteorologists. I should get an honorary degree. I have been up in Arctic Alaska a bunch, and there was a day up there that I could not even walk. The wind can scream, but I made it a couple of hundred yards and almost got knocked down about ten times. That is on flat ground.

Just think if that route had sunny weather at least 6 months a year. It would get trashed with fat 3 bolt belays and there would be a conga line on it. Seriously. That is one of the best routes I've ever seen. So you have a whole book, Greg? Gotta get it. It is OK to put in a shameless plug.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Feb 14, 2013 - 07:12pm PT
That pic of Donini with his shades makes him lood just like Butthead. All he needs is a Metallica t-shirt.

Don't beat me up. I hear that you are not to be trifled with.
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 14, 2013 - 07:22pm PT
BASE, I've written two you might enjoy: Enduring Patagonia & China's Wings, both of which are readily available.

Enduring Patagonia is my literary take on the alpine climbing experience in Patagonia, China's Wings was published last Feb, and it's an untold WWII flying story.

There's a CW thread buried here on Supertopo. Give it a bump. ;-)

Plenty of info about both on my website, too.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Feb 14, 2013 - 07:45pm PT
http://joelandneilsclimbingblog.blogspot.com/2013/02/cerro-pollone-fine-piece.html

That is a link to a recent ascent of the route. I never go all gah gah over anything, but that climb looks about perfect. You can't see the wind in pictures.

With that kind of rock and those huge faces, it looks like a place with a lot of room left. Has that El Cap sized face been climbed? If you stuck it in the Trango Group it would see flocks of climbers.
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 15, 2013 - 12:39pm PT
Another photo of the Marconi Cirque, one that shows the true size of Piergorgio's west face relative to A Fine Piece and Torrecita Tito Carrasco, and we got 15 or 16 full value pitches out of A Fine Piece.

A pretty big Patagonian stone.
A pretty big Patagonian stone.
Credit: Gregory Crouch

The classic route up Piergorgio is called Greenpeace.

When Donini and I were up near the top of Pollone's west pillar, seeing Piergorgio's west face and Greenpeace in perfect profile, Jim said something to the effect of, "What a wall, and God damn that looks like a wild ass climb, but who'n the f*#k names a route after an environmental movement? F*#kin' whales. Greenpeace my ass, this route is a A Fine Piece."

And thus a route was named.

But humor aside, Greenpeace looks to be a phenomenal route, and one well worthy of more traffic than it has seen to date. Much like A Fine Piece.
roy

Social climber
NZ -> SB,CA -> Zurich
Feb 15, 2013 - 02:44pm PT
Hi Gregory,
That's an amazing climb in unbelievable territory. Fantastic pictures too.

Cheers, Roy
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Feb 15, 2013 - 11:37pm PT
I don't quite know what to compare it to because I can't think of an alpine rock climb in the United States that's anywhere close to its league.

Man that thing looks good! Whatever the approach is who cares if all that rock is there and no hoards of competitors.

yeah there's a few pillars like that in Canada, like in the bugs on the Howsers and the minaret sub spire of south howser tower. Others are more remote like in the Stikine Ice cap or Waddington range. Get a load of some of these pics here:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=1768379&tn=80
drljefe

climber
El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Feb 16, 2013 - 12:00am PT
Amazing rock and spirit of adventure!
Thanks a lot!
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Feb 16, 2013 - 10:10am PT
Sunday morning climbing bump...the front page looks like CNN. Heading out for some tasty sandstone in Castle Valley!
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 16, 2013 - 11:13am PT
Have fun, Jim! Wish I were joining you.

Interestingly, David Allfrey, one of the three guys who made the recent repeat of A Fine Piece, checked in on the Enduring Patagonia Facebook page last night. It sounds like he's got strong Bay Area ties, and I'm hoping to have a beer with him and hear his story when he gets back from Patagonia.

I've been posting lots photos to the EP FB page, with lots of links to other things climbing related.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Feb 16, 2013 - 11:23am PT
Hey. I clicked on it....

So has the main face been climbed? How high is it and which way does it face?

I was reading last night on the techniques that ships and sailboats often use to cross the Drake Passage between S America and the Antarctic Peninsula. Most of the year it is just a train wreck of low pressure after low pressure, although sometimes around December or January, they are spaced out enough that they use the technique of "chasing the lows."

That is where you tuck in on the backside of a low and haul ass across the Passage before the next one hits.

On another note, I saw some pics of Hayden Kennedy on the Ferrari Route on the back side of Cerro Torre. This would be the year before he chopped the Compressor Route. That face looked like a fairy-land of snow mushrooms and rock.

IIRC, they couldn't get over the summitt mushroom and bailed from there.
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
Feb 16, 2013 - 01:44pm PT
Piergiorgio...Breemer et al did a route on that?
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Feb 16, 2013 - 01:48pm PT
If that face is of the same quality, that would be wild.

I have always thought that the Nose is one of the best routes on the planet, but I haven't gotten around like Donini and Crouch have.

I was a little nobody. A subman. I still got to do a lot of climbing. Now I am permanently hobbled.
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Feb 16, 2013 - 03:27pm PT
Greg: Thanks for sharing that fine story and beautiful photos. Looks beautiful.
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 16, 2013 - 03:31pm PT
Are you asking which way the west face of Piergorgio faces? :-)

It's about a thousand meters tall, so about the same size as the Nose. Comparable looking route, too, up a buttress in the middle of the main face.

Route information is at Pataclimb.com, in the Piergorgio/Pollone massif section

I don't see a Breemer, et al route in there, but that isn't to say one hasn't been done. I'm not up to date like I used to be. Not at all.

Base, five months before the FA of A Fine Piece, I was in on the first winter ascent of Cerro Torre's west face in 1999 (the Ferrari Route) with three Swiss guys -- Thomi Ulrich, David Fasel, and Stephan Siegrist. Amazing trip, and very difficult both physically and emotionally. But really incredible to be out there on the ice cap in winter, stupendously alone. It was like being in another world.
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 17, 2013 - 11:29pm PT
I'm super excited that Joel Kauffman just commented on my A Fine Piece post, calling it "alpine granite perfection," and adding the news that the route has received at least one other ascent this season. Wow. I really do think that route deserves to evolve into a classic.

If I'm understanding Joel's comment correctly, Blake Herrington and Scott Bennett climbed a variation start. (I'm still not clear if it had been repeated prior to this season.)

They apparently recovered a Lost Arrow Jim and I left on a descent anchor, and I've got my fingers crossed that it'll survive the Kauffman season and get returned to me so I can give it a place of honor on the shelf that divides my kitchen and living room.
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 6, 2013 - 05:38pm PT
Team, I gave the A Fine Piece post a massive update late last night, doubling the number of included photos and fleshing out the stories.

Worth checking out again if you've got a few minutes.

Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Mar 6, 2013 - 05:47pm PT
Shyts hard core!
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 7, 2013 - 10:20am PT
Torrecita Tito Carrasco on the left; Pollone's west pillar in the midd...
Torrecita Tito Carrasco on the left; Pollone's west pillar in the middle.

I don't think the rightmost formation has yet been climbed...
Credit: Gregory Crouch
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