Repeat of “Riders in the storm” (36 pitches 7c – A3 – 1200m – grade VII)

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Sean Villaneuva, Michael Lecomte, Oliver and Nicolas Favresse, have just repeated the exceptional route “Riders in the storm” (36 pitches 7c – A3 – 1200m – grade VII). TOPO & LOCATION
This amazing route is located in the “Torres del Paine”, Patagonia, Chile. It was opened in 1991 by Kurt Albert, Wolfgang Gullich, Bernd Arnold, Norbert Batz and Peter Dittrids.

After five days of team effort to carry to the base of the route enough material and food to last 15 days on the wall, the weather turned bad and forced the team to go down to Puerto Natales for more supplies. Things started getting really spicy when they returned to their base camp three days later. The two tents which were stongly attached hadn’t resisted the storm and shredded to bits. All of their belongings had blown away, scattered around their camp. Nico’s djarango (Bolivian guitar) was smashed to pieces, the tents irreparable, the clothes soaking wet, the groceries and food dispersed in the wind, the radios not functioning, the video camera wet and Mike’s sleeping bag as well as his bivouac bag disappeared, blown away – gone forever. It was the Team’s first Patagonia lesson!

While debating whether attempting “Riders in The Storm” would still be possible or not, two obstacles became obvious. They needed to find a sleeping bag for Mike and a shelter to build their base camp. Refusing to look back, the team spent two days scraping sand from under a boulder and finally managed to transform a small cavity into a four star underground hotel which they proudly baptised “Campo Belga”. Mike succeeded in borrowing a sleeping bag from a park ranger, thus overcoming the essential obstacles for the continuation of the expedition. They were finally ready to tackle the 1200m monster!

Two days later the team arrived at pitch 13 after more than 24 hours of effort and having hauled more than 200kg of gear, food, and water. Pitch13 is a small snow platform above which they could install portaledges (hanging beds). These first pitches allowed them to express themselves on beautiful granite slabs, demanding precise and technical climbing skills. Completely isolated and already engaged in this rock face, the point of no return had passed!

The route allowed the team to enjoy a large variety of style of climbing on perfect rock quality : difficult run out on slabs up to 7b, wide cracks (off-width, chimney), thin cracks, steep climbing, and a little ice and snow.

After eleven days spent on the wall without returning to the ground the team managed to summit “Riders in The Storm” in a short but perfect weather window. Out of the 11 days, seven were spent stuck in portaledges due to snowstorms. The team succeeded in freeing all the pitches except for a pendulum and two other pitches because of difficult weather conditions. Furthermore there are two other pitches they did not redpoint. They needed two days to return to the entrance of the park and take the bus back to Puerto Natales, exhausted after having carried down their haul bags. Upon return, the team indulged in a six-day food orgy to recharge their batteries.

Question to Nicolas >

What have you learned from climbing in Patagonia and how was it different from your other climbs?

Just being in Patagonia is already amazing! Even if you can’t climb, you are surrounded by heartbreaking landscapes. Having the opportunity to climb there is an unforgettable experience. There are plenty of exceptional granite faces, which are enlaced by endless glaciers. It’s a unique atmosphere.

But the weather conditions there are very difficult and unstable. The weather forecasts aren’t very reliable and once the weather turns bad, it’s not a joke! The approaches are very long and often involve steep sections of ice. You regularly have to go across patches of snow and ice in the middle of a route and cracks can be filled with ice. And if you have any kind of problem, forget about rescuers, you are on your own. Each summit over there has its own merit!

Since I had almost no experience with ice and snow, this expedition allowed me to learn many things. With this adventure, I feel like I can go ahead and consider new challenges.


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