FABIAN BUHL in Patagonia

I met with Colin Haley on New Years in Buenos Aires and we went down to Chalten. We both had high hopes to climb something nice, but we knew the weather odds aren’t very good. The seasonal forecast sowed more then average precipitation, so far the season was bad. Anyways we tried as Patagonia is always a gamble with the weather and for something big you just need to be present and see.

Nonetheless the daily routine between life in Chalten and checking NOAA, Windy, multimodell and basically any weather side possible, just to maybes a hint of good weather, can be quite frustrating at times. We tried to be Zen with the weather adjust stay relaxed, unluckily our climbing time came to an end and other then a few single day outings we did not get to do much climbing together in the period of a month. Yet we had some fun and I learned a lot about Patagonia from Colin, as he has basically invested 3 years of his life to this amazing mountain range and knows it better then anybody else.

Just before I had to return to Europe the weather shaped up and it was clear it will be a cold but good window, the amount of precipitation beforehand did not give high hopes for good rockclimbing conditions. After pondering many different options, I thought tat it would be cool to do the Ragni and fly of from Torre. The absolute kingline of CerroTorre, the rime formation on this route is just unique. There are some years where the route is in absolute mega conditions, but this year it hasn’t been done, so I did not know what to expect.

I knew that for the experience I would like to be among the first team to reopen the route in this season, as it is somethings special to be in such a surreal place at the first party.

Soon there was found a very motivated crew Christophe Ogier, JB Tapie, Mathieu Perrussel, Raphaela Haug, Laura Tiefenthaler and me. We made 2 rope teams and arrived quite a bit before everybody at te based, but in order to reopen this unique route, there is a lot of rime cleaning to do. I was really impressed of the beauty of the climb and the excessive amounts of rime we had to clean. Especially the headwall, which is usually an ice pitch, was covered with 20cm of rime and needed quite some work.

We went quite slow and steady, as we ad all our gear for giving with us.

On the last summit mushroom it was clear it is to windy to fly off today, so I preferred to stay dry and let the other party finally go to work, as many did not bring bivi gear. For me the focus definitely was flying off at that moment and I knew, I will have the best chances tomorrow morning before te sun is fully out, so there will be no exchange wind or thermal activity. Thus we settled in for a cold night and went up te summit mushroom before sunrise to enjoy the breathtaking view and I roughly knew about where to take off from pictures I studied with Solo Garibotti. Unfortunately to my surprise the wind was already quite gusty and from the wrong direction. But my launch was 5 m below the summit, so I was a little bit protected and could take off into the lee. I tried to concentrate and still be reasonable with my choices, I waited on a little break of the wind and rose my wing, but unfortunately it came up little sideways, so I had to break and adjust a bit, which shortened my accelerating phase, but after another 3 steps the terrain got that much steeper that I just jumped a little into the wing to load it fully. Diving quite close on the 60° snow field, before the glider went over the cliff and I had 1500m of air below me, let my adrenaline rise quite high after that not so perfect take off. Therefore I enjoyed the beautiful scenery even more, flying between the Fitz and Torre Range while the sun was rising, was one of the most magical moments I have so far experienced during my very short flying career. After 17 min of pure joy I landed super smoothly on te glacier below and started my way back to Chalten, also I took it super easy, I was pleased to be already at midday back in town sipping coffee. My thoughts where by my friends that still had a long way of rappelling and walking back.

Flying off from mountains like that is only possible if everything goes well and you get lucky enough, that the wind is only your side. Cerro Torre has been flown 3 times so far but all ave been dropped off on the summit. Also the Pin brothers climbed the Ragni in 1988 but they had no luck with the wind and needed to rappel. I feel super lucky and fortunate that I got lucky enough to climb and directly fly off.


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