When I proposed to Greenpeace to attempt one of the most difficult climbing routes in Patagonia – a land famed for its bad weather – using PFC-free clothing, I had my doubts.
Would these products work just as well as clothing with Gore-Tex? Well, I have to say they did and I am extremely happy with their performance. But let’s start from the beginning. My climbing partner and I had been checking weather forecasts almost constantly for the last three weeks but December had shut us down. Then a four-day good weather window appeared and January 3 looked like our chance to climb the mountain.
We started the approach to Laguna Torre and the Nipponino basecamp under strong wind, but after a six-hour hike through the glacier we settled down to rest. Distances are much greater here than anywhere else, and walking 20 kilometres just to get to the mountains is common. Good and reliable gear is crucial if the bad weather catches you during one of these approaches.
At Nipponino basecamp we prepared our gear and at midnight we started the approach to the foot of the west face of Cerro Torre (3,102 metres). A long and difficult hike on the Glaciar Grande among huge crevasses led us to Col Standhart with 1,200 metres of climbing just to get to Circo De los Altares and the base of the route. After 15 hours of climbing we got the base of the wall and Col de La Speranza. Here we dug a snow cave that kept us warm and safe during the night. We melted our water and recovered from the day.
Greenpeace lent me PFC-free clothing (from a UK brand) which so far worked very well. I was happy and still dry and warm. On the morning of January 5, we started to climb the west face, 850 metres above us. Snow and incredible ice formations seemed impossible obstacles but in 1974 an Italian team had found a way through. We were following their route. After many metres and many challenging sections of vertical ice and inconsistent snow we got to the last 50 metres of Cerro Torre. The famous Mushroom. This is definitely the hardest part of the mountain: now that can take up to five hours to climb.
I took my ice tools and went for it. After an hour-long battle against howling wind, hard climbing and scant natural protection, we got the top of this amazing mountain – a dream of every alpinist.
After enjoying the view from the summit, we started the long way back to the snow cave. Twenty hours of climbing later, we made it and rested for the night. On January 6, we walked 14 hours through the Hielo Continental, the third largest ice mass in the world, and slept at its base. On January 7, we reached El Chaltén, the end of our trip, happy and satisfied.
My gear worked perfectly and I was very glad to have climbed this mountain without clothing made with toxic chemicals. Nature is our home and our playground and as climbers our duty is to protect it. Thank you Greenpeace for helping us doing this!
Demand an end to PFCs in outdoor gear at detox-outdoor.org
David Bacci is an alpinist and adventurer from Northern Italy. His passion is to climb mountains and to travel to the most remote and extreme places in the world. Visit his website here: davidbacci.exposure.co