Talented Norwegian ice climbers Bjorn-Eivind Aartun and Ole Lied have climbed a major new route on Patagonia's Torre Egger (2,850m), forcing an outrageous series of ice pitches up the left side of the South Face overlooking the Col of Conquest.
The pair spent the first day climbing ca 600m to the Col, the pronounced notch between Egger and Cerro Torre, via Alessandro Beltrami, Rolando Garibotti and Ermanno Salvaterra's El Arca de los Vientos variations to the original 1976 American Route (6a and A1).
After a bivouac at the col, the next day they climbed seven long pitches up the 350m South Face to the summit (more or less the left skyline of Egger in the photo), surmounting the final mushroom from the east.
After an initial ropelength of M5, the pair continued up very steep rime ice, sustained at 90-95° with a section of A1, to reach the top. They then rappelled to regain their bivouac. Ice climbing in this section was graded AI6.
This is only the second time that the face above the col has been climbed.
The South Face formed the original route to the summit of Torre Egger and was climbed in 1976 by Americans John Bragg, Jim Donini and Jay Wilson
After reaching the Col of Conquest for what is now felt to be the first time, the Americans climbed the South Face of Egger, towards its right side, in 10 pitches.
The first proved to be the crux (A4), after which a section of 5.8/5.9 and A1 led to a long ice runnel and the 85° summit cornice. The team used some fixed rope and operated from a Whillans Box erected below the Col.
It was this ascent that really sparked the full controversy around Maestri's claimed first ascent of Cerro Torre via the Col of Conquest and North Face.
Following the line described by Maestri towards the Col, the Americans found masses of fixed gear in the lower section, ending at a large cache of unused equipment. Above, there was nothing.
Higher up, Maestri had described a highly difficult traverse leading to the col, on which he left fixed rope. While this traverse does indeed look hard from below, once there the Americans found it surprising easy, and there was no trace of fixed gear.
Bragg and Donini, who had begun the adventure believing Maestri's claim, completely lost faith when their own observations were entirely at odds with the Italian's story.
After many, many attempts by numerous parties, Cerro Torre's North Face was unquestionably climbed in 2005, when Beltrami, Garibotti and Salvaterra completed their 1,200m El Arca de los Vientos at 6b+ A1 AI3 and M6.
For all excellent information on all things Patagonian, consult Garibotti's website.