LUCK, CHANCE, SKILL?
After our winter ascent - together with Dani Arnold, Tibu Villavicencio and Stephan Siegrist – a journalist interviewed me...
It's been 14 years since the Cerro Torre has been summited in winter. Why? What makes this mountain so particular, and so particularly difficult?
The Torre is a special mountain. Everyone who has stood below the Torre knows why.You don't need words for that. From all sides, the mountain rises vertically for a thousand meters. It is difficult to climb, but with today's means and the skills of many alpinists, it's doable. The only aspect that is often difficult to control is the Patagonian weather. Storms that come out of nowhere and bring 130mph-winds are common.
Why did it take 14 years? Maybe because nobody wanted to climb the Torre during the coldest time of the year.
What did you do better than the expeditions that failed? Luck, chance, skill?
We were lucky, we were fast, we were a great team. Everybody worked for the team, we all focused on the same goal, together: make the best use of the weather and reach the summit of Cerro Torre.
Stephan had summited once before – did the expedition benefit from his experience?
Every expedition benefits from the know-how of individuals. Helped by the experience that we all have when it comes to climbing in Patagonia, we managed to reach the summit in three days, counting from El Chaltén.
The nights during the Patagonian winter are very long and cold. How did you deal with these long periods of cold?
We did not only train specifically for this project, we also took great care when choosing the gear that we need. We had sleeping bags and good, warm clothing. Had we been cold for more than 12 hours every night we bivied, we could not have performed well enough during the day.
You talk about a "fairy tale landscape of unreal ice formations", the "amazing Ferrari Route", the fantastic views and a perfect team - that sounds like a mellow walk through a dreamscape. That can't be the case?
Cerro Torre is no walk in the park. Especially in winter, every meter is a challenge. But this mountain, and especially this route is unique in all the world and it is a gift to climb up the ice mushrooms in good weather.
You climbed the last meters to the summit unroped - isn't that risky despite there being no wind?
Everything is risky if you are not aware of the danger. Moreover, the last few meters are really no problem.
By the way, how does one come up with the idea of climbing the Torre in winter, considering the risk is higher than in summer?
Winter alpinism in Patagonia is something very special. That is Patagonia to me, and I am sure this wasn't the last time. Maybe the risk is lower than in summer, because the cold reduces the risk of rock fall when the sun comes out to pretty much zero.
What was better: Reaching the summit, or the joy about the bread, salami and beer that your local friends Hector and Luis brought to you on your way down?
Everything! Because everything, every moment, is connected. It starts at home... packing, the flight, the excitement, the unknown, the drive to Chalten, the anticipation, the climbing, the summit, the endless trek to the Marconi and the first beer... simply everything! It was great to have a fantastic time with good friends, via the Torre.
Can you compare this winter ascent with other routes/landscapes, was it something special for you? You were without your brother - is there something missing when climbing then, because you know each other so well? Do you have plans which mountain (summer/winter) you will attempt next?
Every mountain, every adventure has its unique flavor. Whether it is Baffin, the Karakorum, Yosemite, or Antartica. Every expedition was special and perfect. But Patagonia stands out for me. Patagonia, to me, is today what Yosemite was for me eight years ago. I have never failed in Patagonia, even though I sometimes came back home without having reached a summit. I've always had a great time that made me evolve.
Alexander had an other plan this summer. We will climb together a lot in the future, but every once in a while, we each do our own thing. That's the way it should be, and where we are heading next? Maybe... just wait a little longer to find out, we have many plans, and if we stay healthy, we might make it up another summit or two ((-;