Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Jardines Japoneses: A New Route On Mermoz For Team Washington

On December 26th, Mike Schaefer, Colin Haley, and myself completed a new route on the east face of Mermoz. A few weeks prior I underwent my Patagonia baptism on the same feature, the driving snow and bitter cold stopping Mike and I seven pitches up.
Colin and I enjoying the fine mixed moves of pitch 3 (m5)

With the next window of good weather and more reasonable temperatures, we sped up to our high point before tackling the crux rock exit to the upper Argentine Ridge. Full on alpine trickery had the three of us swinging between crack systems searching for a reasonable way up. After an exciting whipper and jedi route finding Colin finally planted us on a huge ledge where we ditched our tools and reminded each other to mentally block out the wind. Sure, it was blowing hard, but it couldn't stop us from going to the top. We were fired up.

Does it get any better?? Pitch 6 (AI3)

I slipped into my rock shoes and raced as fast as possible up the summit tower. Six pitches of pleasant jamming later and an easy ridge traverse planted us on the summit block, the shrieking wind helpless against our enthusiasm. My first Patagonian summit felt extra sweet since it was a moment I had waited for since 2008, the same year I came to Chalten only to watch one of Patagonia's best weather windows ever slip by as I battled pneumonia.

To the top!

I've realized in my time here that the descents off these towers defines the difficulty of the experience as much as the steep ice and technical rock that guards each summit. I have done routes of similar difficulty and size elsewhere, but walking off the top pales in comparison with travel back down the route, all the while battling relentless winds that throw your ropes straight out from the wall.

To the bottom!

Our descent was challenging, but we finally made it down to the glacier. Unfortunately, our two half ropes suffered greatly, one core shot and part of the other buried under a ton of snow and ice after a piece of the bergshrund collapsed under Colin's feet. "It ain't over until it's over," was a statement that echoed in my head during the isothermic snow slog from hell back to our base camp.

"Jardines Japoneses" is fondly named after one of the best rock pitches in the world (in our very biased opinions!) found at the Lower Town Walls at Index. Washington represent!


Isaac Howard said...

Wahoo!!! Represent our fine state!

Blake said...

Jens, Mikey and Colin - awesome job guys. Looks like the approach to Japanese Gardens 2.0 is a little more involved than on the original.

JN said...

great looking climbing. I love seeing these pics and words.