The legendary Cerro Torre

Ariel knew the signs of the weather. “Tomorrow will be clear,” he said the night before, when he handed me the keys to room 5, and recommended that I get up early. Those opportunities could not be wasted. I did this and verified that his reading had been successful. During the season, Ariel attended the administration of the Rancho Grande hostel and restaurant, located at Avenida San Martin 724, until the winter knocked on the door.  Then, he left to discover new destinations or return to those who had conquered him. In 2017 he had stayed in the village to try the winter.

For my part, it was the second time I visited the National Capital of Trekking. Since I had arrived late the night before, in the morning I did the shopping for breakfast and lunch. In the supermarket of San Martin Avenue were few people and several products without the price. If you wanted to know how much a “dulce de leche” cost, you had to go to the box and ask the girl sitting behind the counter.

Back at the hostel, I decided to start on the trails that had been left pending. I chose to trek to Torre Lagoon, located at the foot of one of the most beautiful and difficult climbing mountains in the world. At 3,133 meters high, Cerro Torre was a challenge that had become a legend.

At the beginning of the trail, a park ranger distributed advice to travelers who passed through the National Parks post. The man indicated times and distances, while he followed threads of colors on a map carved in wood. After a few minutes, I arrived at the Cascada Margarita viewpoint and, 3 kilometers later, reached the viewpoint of the Torre. In the distance, I observed the Adela cord, the Cerro Torre and the granite needles Egger (2900 meters) and Standhardt (2800 meters) that accompanied the second. At times, the path entered the forest and then went to a clearing, where the presence of the sun felt more intense.

Further on, the road split into two: one arm led to Madre e Hija lagoon, which connected with the path to Fitz Roy, and the other continued to Camp D ‘Agostini. There I met a girl who had also been staying at the Cruz del Sur hostel in Ushuaia. It was a fleeting greeting, a kiss on the cheek and a laugh of joy for having recognized us. Afterwards, we said goodbye without even remembering our names.

At the end of the path, the landscape became rocky, as before reaching the Tres lagoon. The Torre lagoon was a mirror of water enveloped in shadows, where small icebergs floated. The top of the hill was traversed by faded clouds, which gained density over time.

The history of the hill, famous for its slope, began in 1959, when the Italian mountaineers Cesare Maestri and Cesarino Fava, and the Austrian climber Toni Egger undertook the ascent of the east face of the granite mountain, until then classified as “impossible” . Maestri claimed to have reached the top but Egger died on the descent, dragged by an avalanche that would have taken the camera with which they photograohy the expedition. Without evidence to confirm the feat, few believed in the word of Maestri.

Eleven years later, the climber returned to try the ascent, helped by a gas compressor that he used to place 360 ​​pressure nails. Although it reached the end of the rock, Maestri did not climb the ice mushroom. Despite criticism for the use of the compressor and not having made a summit, the “Maestri route” was used by mountaineers for more than 30 years. In 2012 the Canadian Jason Kruk and the American Hayden Kennedy reached the top of the Torre. When they went down, they took 102 of the nails placed by Maestri and lit the controversy in the town.

At the moment of returning, the top of the Torre had been hidden inside a whirlwind of irregular clouds, which highlighted the dramatic of its legendary figure.

Text and photos of Gabriela Naso.

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