Cerro Torre- the lie and the desecration


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Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 3, 2009 - 07:02pm PT
Me Three!! But, he's saving them for the book.

But wait, all his biggest fans are already right here, on the holy taco!

I drink your milkshake!
Apr 3, 2009 - 07:16pm PT
Rolo's airtight dismantling of Maestri's claims:


EDIT: Indian Creek: the Lie and Desecration (Part II). On this dark day in 2006(?) I trudged up to the Way Rambo wall with my pard. We dispatched that juggy warm-up with all the face holds. Laying about, we watched what seemed to be a yak train laboring its way up the approach under thick clouds of dust. This proved to be not a train of animals but none other than El Presidente the honorable Sr. Donini with his legions of groupies. I believe he was wearing his green beret and carrying a mountaineer's axe. We watched stunned, nay stupefied!, as this legend proceeded to hold forth on the merits of athletic tape, sprayed his forearms down with some sort of aerosol goo/hairspray/lube/who knows, and wrap each arm to the shoulders with a half inch of tape. Oh the humanity!!!1 Then he hiked some thin hands thing.

ANOTHER EDIT: Then we went over left and climbed the Cock-o-meter and came back and Donini said, so, did you measure up? bwahaha, you're the best, Donini!

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 3, 2009 - 07:32pm PT
After a two week climbing binge I've been festering here in Ouray in unseasonably cold, wet weather. Bored speechless, I've embarked on a little writing binge. I'm about ready to post a little account of Overhang Overpass. The weather is clearing tomorrow and I'm heading to the Creek. I'll post some pictures when I get back, after my wife shows me how.

Apr 3, 2009 - 07:42pm PT
Thanks for the spate of stories, Jim. Way to make the most of a rainy day. Have a great time at the Creek! And in Italy.

Social climber
Telluride, CO
Apr 3, 2009 - 07:50pm PT
It was late April or May of 1976, that Jim, John and I think Jay made a "triumphal" return to the Valley. I remember watching their show about Cerro Torre in East Auditorium and being totally blown away. What a great climb and the first real "proof" of the Maestri lies.

Good job! Jim - and yes it is time for the weather to change sun in our neighborhood.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Apr 3, 2009 - 07:52pm PT
Given that this is an explosive historical issue, I'll try and be as clear and objective as possible.

When I interviewed Jim Bridwell for Mountain Magazine about 25 years ago, it was right after Jim made the supposed 2nd ascent of the "Compressor Route" on Cerro Torre. The first ascent was attributed to Casare Maestri, circa 1970, via his now infamous compressor debacle. I am not entirely certain (perhaps some other reader is), but as I remember it, Maestri did not climb the final ice mushroom, which rests on top of the rock "summit." I believe Casare claimed that since the ice mushroom was not part of the rock, it didn't represent a legitimate summit - or some such thing.

Anyway, I seem to recall that there was some controversy about this, being as the ice mushroom seems such an obvious and integral feature of Cerro Torre.

Long story shortened: If Maestri didn't bag the ice shroom, could he really claim a first ascent (or second ascent if you believe he climbed the mountain in '59)? I say, No - but read on to see why . . .

From the way Jim described it during his interview, the Maestri bolts ran out 100 or so feet short of the top of the rock, on which sat the final obstacle - the ice mushroom. From the last of the Maestri's bolts, Bridwell had to use copperheads and a few rivets to surmount the face and gain the top of the rock (below the shroom).

I've never followed this up and checked/discovered what present-day climbers do up there near the top, where Jim described Maestri's bolts running out. Perhaps I misinterpreted things, or maybe Casare swung around at the end of his last bolt ladder and found some other way over the final 100 or so feet to the "top." But at the time of the interview I firmly believed two things, and still do:

1), Knowing that Jim Bridwell was a vastly more experienced aid climber than Casare Maestri ever was, I was confident that Jim had found - and climbed - the easiest line to the top. If another line has existed, which Maestri might have followed off the end of his bolts, Jim Bridwell (veteran of fifty plus big walls) would certainly have found and climbed it. And 2), that "easiest line" (off the top of Casare's last bolts) required copperheads and rivits. This means that the crack Jim nailed to the top of the rock almost certainly had never been climbed before. Hence, given these factors, the likelihood of of Maestri having climbed to the top of the rock, during his compressor adventure, was approaching zero.

Preliminary conclusion: It would appear that Casare got to a high point on the wall - short of the top of the rock - and retreated.

While I would want to exhaustively vet all this information and cross check it all kinds of ways before accusing the Italian of fraud, the preliminary evidence makes an unconvincing case for Casare Maestri ever having climbed the Torre, not in 1959, nor yet in 1970. Based on what world class climbers have seen with their own eyes, it would appear that Maestri bailed short of the top (or the rock) in both of his reputed ascents. But again, there would have to be much more investigation into the details for me to be convinced one way or the other. It all certainly raises some big questions - of that we may be sure.

It would be interesting to ask Jim Bridwell exactly what he found at the top of Maestri's last bolts, at that point where Jim had to bust out his Yosemite wall tackle and throw down some legitimate Valley A3 to surmount the last part of the face of Cerro Torre. Was there a gear stash similar to that which Donini, Bragg and Wilson found on Torre Egger? Was it possible that the compressor was as high as the Italian ever got?

These questions are worth trying to answer, for we're talking about one of the world's great summits, and the historical record should be accurate.

Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Apr 3, 2009 - 08:04pm PT
I really have no idea about any of this, except to ask one question.

From personal experience I know how easy it is to miss the easiest way, particularly if there is a storm or if I've got some preconception about how it should go.

also, I know that conditions change on Cerro Torre quite a bit, and that sections that in some conditions might be climbed as ice, must at other times be climbed as rock.

Just making sure the writers here have these factors in mind when pronouncing the word "Lie" (and I'm not saying Maestri didn't lie. Sadly, it seems some otherwise fine and bold alpinist also lie boldy too)


Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Apr 3, 2009 - 08:10pm PT
Good on both Largo and Jim Donini. V. interesting, isn't it.

When Donini says above: "As a young climber viewing these events from Camp 4, and three fourths Italian, I was a defender of Maestri’s, believing that a climber’s word was sacred" you want to agree but we all know now that what we all should have believed is simply that "a climber's word SHOULD be sacred", rather.

And for there to be such damaging questions in regard to both of these ascents of Maestri's points out Maestri's failing as a member of our community--- he has allowed these very real questions to persist unresolved for decades for almost everyone and to stink up the place, even if his claims are truly valid. It's the year 2009 for Christ's sake.

But alas there have always been liars and cheaters, and yeah, some of them are climbers.

best to you, ph
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Apr 3, 2009 - 08:11pm PT
John, if I remember rightly, Maestri said something about chopping some of the bolts at the top of the ladder, just under the icecap, to make it more difficult for the next party, or something of the sort. I don't remember anyone ever suggesting that he didn't get onto the ice shoulder, only that (as he stated) he didn't go to the top of the summit mushroom. Although conditions from ascent to ascent may well have differed.

I have the Mountain magazines with translated interviews with Maestri, and if I find time will scan and post them.

Apr 3, 2009 - 08:12pm PT
yo beat me to posting the link to Garibotti's pdf , an excellent read. Here are a few photos from his climb: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/photography/patagonia/cerro-torre.html

A nagging detail about the story, why was the Maestri-Egger rope below the ice field fixed with clove hitches to every pin? Both Donini and Garibotti mention it, it seems odd, but I am not an alpinist and maybe one of you could speculate on what it means.

Apr 3, 2009 - 09:18pm PT
JB's AAJ article:


on p380 he says (near the mushroom) "Looking up I saw seven broken bolts..."

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 3, 2009 - 09:24pm PT
Being old fashioned, I believe that an alpine first ascent requires you to stand on the summit. Using that rationale: Bridwell did the first ascent of the Compressor Route. This also means that Ferrari et al did the first ascent of Cerro Torre in 1974- not Maestri either in 59 or in 70.
Ben Harland

Social climber
Baltimore, MD
Apr 3, 2009 - 09:34pm PT
I also read about the bolt chopping somewhere, and I though that was the best part. Why on earth would you chop a bolt this way? It will be found later and people would wonder why you did it (of course most of them would be easily missed).

To me, that had the most impact on my feelings about the story. Is it possibly not true?

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 3, 2009 - 10:04pm PT
Viper Ridge was a variation not a complete route- fun though.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Apr 3, 2009 - 10:13pm PT
I've never seen any photo of Maestri et al at his high point, and am quite skeptical of his claim to have gotten much past the compressor. Assuming that he got to the 'shoulder', it's hard to believe he and his two partners wouldn't have taken a picture there, especially with what happened previously. Such a picture might be of the inside of a white out, but would help.

I wonder what Maestri's two partners said and say about it?

There's a lot of coverage of Cerro Torre in Mountain 24 (September 1972), including an interview with Maestri by Peter Gillman, a journalist. Seventeen pages altogether, including a double page photo of the mountain, and a seven page interview.

The line of the Maestri's route is marked on the big photo, and is shown as ending on the 'shoulder'. The photo is rather foreshortened. It doesn't say who put the markings on. The interview took place at Maestri's home. A quote: "When we saw his book, one thing immediately became clear: the 1971 climb had not finished on the summit of Cerro Torre, but had merely gained the plinth on which the summit ice mushroom rests (the mushroom itself being approximately 150 - 200 ft. high.)" I surmise that the line marked on the photo in the book was marked by or at the direction of Maestri.

Other quotes from Maestri:
"..the compressor, which we abandoned about 15 metres from the beginning of the final ice cap; if their (following climbers) technique was on a level with their vainglory they might even have got beyond our compressor to our final line of bolts. These I broke off in their holes, so that I would at least compel my successors to bolt those few metres, and so that I would not eliminate an important proof of our ascent."

"If, one day, the English or the Spanish, aided by good weather, by their splendid form and by miraculous fortune, were to arrie in the vicinity of the summit, they would be able to by-pass the compressor, follow my broken-off bolts, which trend from left to right, and attack a snow-tongue which descends from the summit ice-cap."

And on and on. Maestri's story doesn't jibe with what Bridwell and partner found, although it's possible that conditions had changed. A mystery inside an enigma inside a riddle, but all in all very hard to believe.

April 9th will be the centenary of Peary's claim to have reached the North Pole, an even more famous fraud which we can have some fun arguing about and dissecting.

Boulder climber
Apr 3, 2009 - 10:14pm PT
The mountain doesn't give a ratz azz how you climb it or even if it's climbed, it don't care about you, me, or anything else. It has no name (cerro torre? does it even speak. . .spanish?)and lives time in a way we can't even understand. . .

We on the other hand have ego's and we assume that the mountain has one too. . .white folk fight over the dumbest things huh?


Trad climber
One Step Beyond!
Apr 3, 2009 - 10:19pm PT
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Jim.

These examples of the pitfalls of self-promotion and the ensuing slippery slope of maintaining the ego should strike a deep chord with all of us tempted to follow that path.

Your stories serve as a solid reminder.


Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Apr 3, 2009 - 10:31pm PT
I think Ferreri did the right thing and instead of futzing around in the confusion of who did what, he just went down there and climbed the thing. From what I understand, Maestri's bolt ladder route is by far the most popular route up the mountain and is really something of a classic.

Wish I would have climbed that thing . . .

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Apr 3, 2009 - 10:58pm PT


Apr 3, 2009 - 11:00pm PT
And now they climb it in 9 hours.
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