Aguja Mermoz - East face
9. Pilar Rojo
Kurt Albert and Bernd Arnold (Germany), 9/1/1999.
Description. To reach the base of the route, cross the bergschrund and climb up the triangular snowfield for 150 meters, almost to its apex and right before it move left, and after a short mixed pitch start up a series of stunning finger and hand cracks on the orange prow. It involves nineteen short pitches that go free at 7a+ and were red-pointed by the first ascent party. It can also be climbed at 6b+/A1. Kurt commented that this was one of the finest crack climbs he had ever done, and coming from such a well trod climbing globtrotter it must be quite good indeed. All pitches but pitch number three sport perfect rock.
History. The route was climbed with the use of fixed ropes and powerdrill. All belays are bolted, and the entire route can be descended in 30-meter rappels, except pitch 7 that is 35 meters long. Many bolts were placed right next to cracks to make the climbing more amenable... Curiously most of this route had been climbed, in one day, by Topher Donahue and Kennan Harvey (USA) in 1993 who, without placing any bolts or using fixed ropes managed to climb to within a half pitch from the north ridge, where an ice pillar blocked the exit chimney. They had named their attempted line “Sueños de Tiempo”. After hearing about Albert and Arnold’s bolting spree, Donahue commented: “We sure didn’t feel the need for any bolts”.
Arnold describes the origin of the name Vela y Viento (candle and wind) as being revealing of the situation they faced: the long days and nights of storms, rain, snow and wind (viento), and the candle (vela), the fire of which pushed them to climb on. Albert’s explanation of the name was slightly less poetic, referring to the candle shape of Aguja Mermoz when seen from Piedras Blancas. The second name Pilar Rojo refers directly to the obvious red pillar on the lower half of the route. Albert and Arnold produced a documentary film for German Television about this ascent.
Approach. Paso Superior to Glaciar Grande Superior.
Descent. Rappel via the same route (30 to 35m raps, a single 70m ropes would be ideal). All belays are bolted.
First ascent. AAJ 1999 p. 337; Klettern Magazine99/3 p. 8; High Magazine 203 p. 85. Desnivel Magazine 155 p. 96.
Donahue. AAJ 1997 p. 249.
Photos (click to enlarge)
Aguja Mermoz east face
Aguja Mermoz east face