Hard Sayin’ Not Knowin’ 5.10 A2 70° Ag. Guillaumet

Fitz Roy Range, Patagonia

Mikey Schaefer and Kate Rutherford   January 2009

Two mornings ago I dreamt my way across the glacier, trying not to face plant falling asleep walking.  At 4:30 in the morning we had sat on our packs, finally back at the base of Guillaumet after finishing a new route. We ate some cheese and salami, drank a bit of slushy water and decided we would name it ‘Hard Sayin’ Not Knowin’.

This was my second trip to climb in Patagonia’s Fitz Roy range, and it was the first time I had been on top of a peek. The 26 hours of decent weather we had just climbed through had looked suspicious. The wind had looked low, but so did the pressure. We were itching to climb, and so we started up thinking we would get hit by bad weather and just come down.  However, we never had reason to turn around and so a few hours after midnight we stood on the summit of Guillaumet, looking down the other side at the dark.

The snow had fallen strait down periodically through out the day, but as we rappelled, the wind kicked up, and the cloud we were in grew in to a thick fog. Eventually we dropped on to the lee side of the ridge, and aside from Mikey’s exhaustion, we easily raped the Amy Couloir to the glacier. It was my block, after Mikey had laboriously kicked a thousand steps up the icy final pitches.

Our day started at 3:30 in the morning well rested at Laguna de Los Tres, and after following 3 too many teams toward the Brenner Ridge route we fell out of step with the rest and figured we would just start up the East Face of Guillaumet. There was a short splitter off-width that Mikey started off on. It led up to fun cracks, a tunnel through a strange jumble of pillars, and up a 5.10 hands to tips crack.

I lead the middle third of the route. Without gloves, I traversed left into another corner on disturbing loose flakes. Each crimp and foot edge had old snow to whack off before trusting cold fingers to keep holding on. I gave up and put my gloves on, scrambling up a snowy ramp. Kicking steps in my Mythos.  When I realized I couldn’t put cams in icy cracks it made me think, humm, “I’m so not an Ice climber.” The rock gods heard my wining, a perfect hand crack veered right, and I loved every jam in my gloved hands. Ok, maybe I could be an alpinist……

The top of the hand crack looked like a ledge and I pulled over, ready to mantel on to easier terrain, ack! It was all snowy! I brought Mikey up, and told him to put on his boots. 4 minutes later, he tagged up his crampons too. Little did we know, it was all ice from here. Some super spicy (to us) mixed moves lead to the base of a corner with icicles dripping from every little roof. I sat pummeled by ice as Mikey chopped aid placements out of the frozen cracks. We figured we were 2 pitches from the summit (we were wrong).

I watched as all our friends crossed back over the glacier headed back to Paso Superior after the relative ease of the Brenner ridge… at least they were leaving us a path to follow home. It got dark and they yelled up to us. Echos reverberated off the walls, and distorted the question of when we would come down. We didn’t know anyway.

The darkness made me cold, and Mikey still kicked steps up the hollow run out 70 degree, I don’t even know what you call it, Neve? Lucky for me, he said this was not the time to lead my first ice pitch. And so for an early birthday present, he lead all 800ft of ice to the summit ridge.

I then took us down. Rappelling through the fog scanning the fresh snow on the walls of the Amy couloir for anything not grey or white, I worried I’d miss the anchors. But they would appear, as did the glacier solid and relatively flat in the dark fog and sparkling snow.

I welcomed the early grey light, weaving back through the crevasses on the path of our friends. We had been moving a long time, but we were content, a day with the ‘hard sayin’ not knowin’  attitude had proven successful.