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Jonathan Copp and Dylan Taylor with More First Ascents in Patagonia


by Jonathan Copp

March 07, 2002

Camp4 - Climbing News Archive

This season in Patagonia, many teams, including ours, danced the tango with the Tempest – sometimes in step, other times sadly out of rhythm. The out of rhythm jaunts left us careening out of control, marionettes to the wind. But when the beat took over – absolutely perfect. I couldn’t begin to count the number of five star pitches we climbed in the most mind-blowing positions. This one 1000 ft. splitter hand, offwidth and finger crack, which was only about a quarter of the route on Poincenot, was outrageous. We named that route Southern Cross (3900 ft, 5.11+, A1) – surfboard summit and storm on its way - two nights without bivi gear, one of which was on the descent cuz it took us a whole day just to get down, simul downclimbing forever into the night.

During the first part of the trip we were living the monks life in desolation, up off the ice cap on the Marconi side of the Range. There the weather caught us off guard a few times and we launched into these horrendous pushes without sleep and onto the vast west face of the El Cap like Pierre Giorgio – shut down once by bad weather; once by logistics and a chopped rope; and once, only a few pitches from the summit, after having climbed about 3000 feet of glacier, slabs and ice and about 2800 ft of perfect granite wall (we were trying to climb the beast in a single push), after I’d led this screwy (scary) ice ribbon in a corner pitch – I stared down at Dylan and his twisted grimace as he jugged to my stance. As I had been chopping away and knocking hunks of ice down onto Dylan, his helmet sprung loose and dropped quietly into the abyss. A bowling alley chimney led to the summit, and we both wanted it, of course. I didn’t breathe a word of suggestion, and in the end we decided to descend. I love the choice even more now, a choice of values, of life over some ephemeral cornice – a summit that will always be there.

The other route we did was the first ascent of the north face of Domo Blanco. It looks like the Diamond in Rocky Mountain Nat. Park but a lot bigger. Another funky, half-beat dance step gave us two hours of sleep before a 2 am start. We climbed all the next day and through the night, into a storm, too committed to descend because of big roofs and wind and ice splinters blowing and I don’t know what else. We topped out the overhanging headwall as sunlight broke open the parameters of view from a semicircle of amber-tinted, goggle protected, headlamp-created reality to something else, something enormous – especially being caught on a sheet of ice chopping edges with a cam because the tools were at the belay, and Dylan jumaring off of me arched over a granite bulge with my elbow in a icy pocket. The snowy summit plateau was a bit anticlimactic because we were so damn tired, and the storm that had been bringing us through the freeze thaw cycles all night was still blasting. Later we rappelled this fantastic elevator-shaft, ice chimney and moved on to the wall where we had scoped a possible descent. It worked even though it’s hard sometimes to imagine that it might. That route is called Son of Jurel (V+, 5.11+, A1+, AI?) plus a couple thousand feet of crevasse and icefall navigation.

Other obtuse attempts and fancy run-ins left us laughing and crying. The end of the southern journey was lost in a cloud of smoke with Kevin Thaw and Alan Mullin. We were waiting for Cerro Torre to stand at attention so we could give the original line of Maestri/Egger a go. But the Tempest returned and stole the crowd in a mad dance toward winter.

We'd like to give special thanks to Rolondo Garibotti for exceptional pre-trip photos and ideas, to the Mugs Stump Award group for their support, to Lowe Alpine, to Metolius, to Big Agnes sleeping systems, and to La Sportiva. And to all the friends who make the dreams worth remembering. Cheers all.

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