Cerro Torre For Dummies (& Non-Alpinists)

Like many of my fellow online denizens, I’ve watched with interest as the Cerro Torre drama unfolded over the last couple of weeks. I’m not an alpinist, and I’ll probably never go to climb in Patagonia, as I prefer trips to places where the weather is good for more than three days out of thirty. However, in order to help the rest of us non-alpinists understand what’s gone on down there, I present to you Cerro Torre for Dummies (and Non-Alpnists):

It all starts in 1970 when some Italian guy uses the mother of all power drills to force a line up the most beautiful mountain in the world. He fails to reach the top, and starts erasing his route on the way down, but his partners make him leave, supposedly because of weather, but there was probably a rockin’ party in El Chalten that night. This was the 70’s after all.

People leave the controversial route in place, because it’s much easier to get to the top using all the bolt ladders. Over time it becomes generally accepted, even though everyone knows it’s wrong, like porn, or watching American Idol.

Forty years later, two up and coming young alpinists make an ascent without using the hundreds of bolts, and decide it’s time to clean up the trash and restore the peak to its former glory, like removing graffiti from the side of a beautiful old building.

Armchair mountaineers descend with vigor upon the internet, tempers flaring on both sides of the argument. Many high profile alpinists support the bolt removal. The Italians go nuts. The French could care less. Many of the residents of El Chalten are upset, even though the peak has never been guided, and they, like us, will probably never climb it themselves.

Most of us sit back and watch the debate with little concern for the precedent it supposedly sets, because this kind of total disrespect for the mountains has never occurred anywhere else in the world, before or since.

Hopefully that clears things up for all of us non-elites, and we can now wait for next week’s internet drama to unfold, which will thankfully give us something to do in between checking our email and updating our Facebook.

PS If there’s anyone we should be pissed at, it’s Maestri’s partners for not letting him chop the rest of the route on the way down. Those party loving Italians! But then again, if it weren’t for the smoking hot Argentinian babes they were hoping to see in town that night, we’d never get to have these fun online debates, would we?

9 Responses to Cerro Torre For Dummies (& Non-Alpinists)

  1. Pingback: About A Blog: Splitter Choss on Cerro Torre « thestonemind

  2. The two didn’t climbed it without using the bolts, some off them were used! That’s a big difference… but the rest is a nice article:)

    climb_more February 15, 2012 at 7:59 pm
  3. I’ve actually been wondering what the real story was with this place. I didn’t feel like weeding through 20 pages of various articles to find out so this is good.

    Gif February 16, 2012 at 12:29 pm
  4. Well said! Might be my favorite Cerro Torre controversy writing yet.

    Mike February 16, 2012 at 6:51 pm
  5. As I understand it, the two didn’t climb the route that they chopped — they climbed a different route, and partially chopped the Compressor as they rapped it. They did not clean the whole thing.

    So they made the decision to chop a route they didn’t climb, and certainly didn’t free, and didn’t even do a thorough job of the chopping.

    I’m not writing this to take a side or be controversial, just stating facts.

    My opinion, which has nothing to do with the act, but the controversy:

    One could argue that Mr. Lama, having freed the route by fair means, might be the guy to make that decision, not two guys who climbed a different route using aid.

    My suspicion is that had Mr. Lama cleaned up the route after freeing it, the controversy might have been substantially quieter.

    TWWCP February 16, 2012 at 8:11 pm
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  7. Nice article for non climbers that explain the situation friendly. Just as add, the town is non half older then the time the “compressor route” has been made, and in El Chalten town there are also many people supporting the bolt chopping. Also there is good beer and fun.

    Sebastian de la Cruz February 25, 2012 at 4:02 am
  8. With all due respect to TWWCP (and I actually mean that), not all bolt use is the same. “Reasonable use” has been the alpine game for years. I know that the word reasonable is subjective, but kinda like sexy, we know it when we see it. K and K used two of Maestri’s belays. Use of fixed belays has also been long accepted in the alpine game. Considering that, K and K thought it within the tradition to use them. The five bolts they used for “progress” were from other ascents that had been attempted fairly. What seems to be getting swept under the rug is that Maestri never had any intention of trying to climb the mountain in any sense of the definition of climbing. He arrived with the intent to tear it down. Read about his statements at the time. He did not run into difficulties, try as hard as he was capable, then use bolts as a last resort and as few as possible and was willing to give up (fair means). He set out to say “fuck you” to everyone and the mountain, steered away from cracks, and bolted others all with a 400 LB COMPRESSOR AND PNUMATIC DRILL!!! (How many exclamation points before people stop acting like that doesn’t matter?) Do the research and you will be appalled by his attitude at the time and wish you could time travel just to punch him in the eye. We are capable of discerning the difference between using 5 bolts and 400 over 3000 ft of terrain, are we not? I mean, where would people draw the line? 1000 bolts? 1500? Cables and actual via ferrata rungs? Is there any point where people would agree that it needed to come down? Its like watching bodies stack up “100, 101, 102…okay, that’s it, now I’m going to do something!” Or does Maestri just get a pass because he and the route are old? Bolts next to cracks still get chopped at shitty unknown cliffs all the time, but on the most amazing and awe inspiring objective in the world its sacrilege? For me, 400 bolts plus his obvious cynical intent was enough for it to need erasing. Hell, if you over bolt something at rifle, somebody’s liable to change or make fun of you until you do.

    As to them climbing a different line 1. They wanted to prove that it not only could be done, but at a grade that was NOT cutting edge. 5.11 A2 was doable nearly in 1970 and certainly soon after. Why hadn’t anyone gone up there and just done the route in proper style in 40 years? As hayden said with the bolts there, everyone just saw the bolts, without them you see the features. I’m sure if they had run into more difficulty, they would have probably said “oh, I see why Maestri had to use the bolts.” But they didn’t because he didn’t.

    2. Wharton and Smith tried to chop them by climbing the compressor first and caught hell for first using the bolts then trying to chop them. K and K figured they would prove they were useless first.

    Finally, Lama. His ascent, which was amazing, happened after the chopping so it had no bearing on the decision. But the whole thing is convoluted because Lama DID free it without the bolts, but would have never been up there in the first place had they not been there in the first place. Imagine that face still waiting for a future climber better than Lama to free it without that initial crutch. If anything Lama finding at least some gear for pro just proved K and K’s (and many other people’s) point that the bolts had been placed cynically and without need. Again, had maestri placed bolts here and there on blank spots while trying to climb, nobody would fault him, but he NEVER EVEN INTENDED TO DO THAT. This is a case where everyone involved proved that Maestri stole from the future (a line from the argentine guy who did the super cantaleta whose name I cant remember at this moment.) He also basically said “finally somebody took that POS down!”

    I type this on my phone, so sorry about the spelling.

    chris kalous March 2, 2012 at 5:41 am
  9. what ever, stop the nonesence and go out ther and climb đŸ™‚

    zeke May 29, 2012 at 5:37 am
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