When my friend and Patagonian expert Bruno Sourzac showed me photos of his attempt on Cerro Murallon’s mixed east face, I only had eyes for a beautiful and lonesome pillar on the left of the photo. At the time I was living in Chamonix with my climbing comrades and as soon as I showed them the pictures, we decided to go to Patagonia in November.
We met up in Calafate in early November. As they arrived on the first day of a beautiful window of good weather we quickly put together the 300kg of food and gear we were to drag to the foot of the wall and hoped on the boat the next day.
We had very little information on the approach and had prepared skis and pulkas to gain the base of cerro murallon. This quickly proved to be an illusion as 20km of very tortuous and crevassed glacier separated us from our objective. This turned out to be the crux of the trip. 14 days of walking, two trips to the foot of murallon, and 5 days waiting for better weather in the little pasquale refuge were necessary before we could start climbing, with very poor back condition and severe scoliosis.
We finally started climbing and spent 10 days on the wall. 7 days climbing and 3 forced rest days, waiting for better weather. In 4 days we had gained the foot of the 400m headwall, climbing beautiful cracks with good protection. The headwall was our main worry, as it looked compact and overhanging. The satellite phone suddenly stopped working and we realized how exposed we were without a weather forecast.
Finally the headwall turned out to be streaked with an incredible crack system leading to 100m of the summit. The upper 600m of the pillar is sustained climbing between 5.11b and 5.12b on crazy steep cracks with good pro. Only a section of 5m, wet and frozen, was climbed artificially (C1) and probably goes at 5.12d/13a.
The two final pitches were steep and formed with inconsistent snow and ice (M6, WI6). Our final push to the summit lasted 34h. We were at the foot of the ultimate pitch at 3am. A 25m fall cut one of our ropes and we decided to wait for the sun to try this final exposed crux. The early morning sun on the end of that very cold night gave name to the pillar del sol Naciente.
A total of 32 days of autonomy was needed to accomplish our goal. We left as little trace as possible, 15 bolts, all at belays, for the 31 piches of the route. As usual in Patagonia, much determination was necessary, but more than anything the wind gods seemed to be with us, giving us the necessary time to reach the top!