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CERRO TORRE - "Brothers in Arms"

Three seasons of effort yield a remarkably difficult line, and a partial conclusion to a visionary attempt made four decades earlier.

By Rolando Garibotti, 23/04/2022.

- Versión en español

[This article is copyrighted. Please do not reprint this article in whole or part, in any form, without obtaining written permission.]

Between January 25 to 28, David Bacci, Matteo Della Bordella, and Matteo De Zaiacomo completed an impressive line on the east and north faces of Cerro Torre.

They climbed to the Triangular Snowfield on the east face, tackling the slabs above to reach the base of the east dihedral, the massive feature on the right side of the face. At the end of this huge corner they traversed onto the north face, which they climbed to reach the west ridge, and the summit.

This is in part the line originally envisioned and attempted by Ben Campbell-Kelly, Brian Wyvill, Geoff Birtles, Phil Burke, and Tom Proctor, in 1978 and 1981, using a box-style portaledge to climb capsule style. In 1981, Burke and Proctor climbed the entire corner, traversed onto the north face, cut across to an obvious groove, climbing another four pitches to reach a point right below the rime mushrooms of the west ridge, no more than 40m from the Ragni Route. This was an incredibly visionary effort, deserving of the highest accolades.

Della Bordella first tried this line with Matteo Pasquetto in early 2019, retreating part way up the dihedral, and in early 2020 with Pasquetto and Matteo Bernasconi. Then thunder struck. In May, Bernasconi was killed in an avalanche, and less than three months later, Pasquetto fell to his death while descending after climbing a new route on the Grandes Jorasses. Della Bordella was devastated, but he reflected, ”today, our rope-team no longer exists, and recovering from such a blow has been challenging, but I prefer to think about what was given, rather than what has been lost. The moments we lived, the emotions we shared, the dreams we pursued together with those two friends are among the most beautiful gifts that life could give me".

Having assembled a new team, Della Bordella was back in Chaltén this past January with Bacci and De Zaiacomo. After taking in some gear loads, David and the Matteos approached on the 24th, and on the 25th they started via the American Torre Egger route, climbing to the Triangular Snowfield, continuing via the slabs above, climbed originally as part of El Arca, to reach the "English Box", at the base of the east dihedral, where they set their portaledge to bivy.

On the 26th they tackled the imposing corner, which offers unrelenting, physical climbing; hard pitch after hard pitch, with much mandatory climbing, and protection often sparse. Several pitches require the Camalots #7 and #8 that they brought (Burke and Proctor used home-made extra large cams, a hybrid Big-Bro/cam design) . The wall is very steep and there are hardly any ledges to rest, with most belays being hanging. These are the kind of pitches that if encountered in Indian Creek, one would want to rest an hour or more between them, but here it was not possible. By evening they reached the end of the corner, where they again set up their portaledge to bivy.

On the 27th, one more hard pitch, traversing, brought them onto the north face, where they run into Tomy Aguiló and Korra Pesce, who were embarked on "La Norte", and at their behest decided to follow them, instead of heading further right, in Burke and Proctor’s footsteps. For the next seven pitches, they climbed behind each other. On two of those pitches, worried about spending too much time under precarious rime mushrooms as the day warmed, they ascended ropes trailed by the party above. By late afternoon they had reached the Ragni Route, and David proceeded to quickly dispatch the last pitch, summiting around 6 p.m. The feelings in the summit are hard to describe. Three years of effort, two of which with friends that were no longer with them, made the moment particularly moving. Rather than descending that evening, the Matteos and David decided to spend the night on the summit - a unique opportunity to soak it all in. They planned to descend the Southeast Ridge the next day.

The following morning, calmly and carefully they made their way down, taking most of the day to do the 30 some rappels, and reached the glacier around 5 p.m. Here they were alerted to the accident that Korra and Tomy had suffered during their descent down the north face, and although Tomy had made good downward progress, he was stuck 300m from the ground, and in need of a rescue. In spite of being tired after four days of intense climbing, without missing a beat, Della Bordella offered to lead the team to Tomy. He had lead those pitches a few days before, and knew them by heart, so he was the right man for the job. Less than an hour after reaching the glacier, he was climbing back up, and at around 9:45 p.m. they reached Tomy, and started the long road that would bring him down to safety. This intervention, along with the monumental efforts from a large group of volunteers, was undoubtedly life-saving. For Korra there was nothing that could be done.

The Matteos and David decided to name their new line “Brothers in arms”, they explain: “in honor of Matteo Bernasconi, Matteo Pasquetto, Korra Pesce and all our brothers who are missing on the mountains we love so much.”

This line is the culmination of three seasons of efforts and a partial conclusion to a visionary attempt made four decades earlier. Della Bordella describes the climb as a “route that is not just a dream, but a reason to live, the type of project that gives meaning to our existence.”


Photos (click to enlarge)

Brothers in Arms. Click to enlarge.

Brothers in Arms. Click to enlarge.

Brothers in Arms. Click to enlarge.

On the massive corner. Click enlarge.

On the north face. Click to enlarge.

On the summit. Click to enlarge.

Summary: “Brothers in Arms” was climbed between the 25th and 28th of January of 2022, by David Bacci, Matteo Della Bordella and Matteo de Zaiacomo. It starts via the American Torre Egger Route (300m to 6b A1), to reach the Triangular Snowfield, climbing the slabs above (part of El Arca, 200m 6b), to reach the English Box. It then tackles the massive corner of the Burke-Proctor attempt (350m 7a A2), traversing onto the north face, following the line of La Norte (300m 6c C1 90˚), to climb the last pitch of the Ragni Route to the summit.

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This article is copyrighted. Please do not reprint this article in whole or part, in any form, without obtaining written permission.


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