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Colin Haley’s Solo Winter Ascent of Cerro Torre

by thesummiters.com
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Three months back, Colin Haley, an intrepid American climber, embarked on a monumental quest: tackling the daunting Cerro Torre all by himself in the unforgiving grip of Patagonia’s winter.

“Despite my unwavering focus and pouring my heart into it, this climb demanded more than I expected,” Haley confessed.

The bone-chilling cold proved fiercer than anything he’d braved in his 16 ascents of Alaska’s Denali and Mt. Huntington combined. The frigid temperatures, the unfathomable depths of snow, and the monumental challenge of a long winter expedition, laden with tons of gear, wore him down. Coupled with confronting daily hardships solo, it drained him psychologically, halting his progress early on.

His target was the famed Ragni route (also known as the Ferrari route of 1974), a path that’s gained massive popularity on Cerro Torre. Haley had conquered this route multiple times in summer, even breezing through it with a partner in just a few hours. But venturing alone in winter, breaking ground entirely on his own, he managed only to reach the Elmo summit, a resting spot before the main pinnacle of Cerro Torre.

The Unyielding Trial of Rope-Soloing

He pointed out the stark contrast between ascending a route in its untouched, pristine state versus one already heavily traversed. “Climbing solo or with a partner, summer or winter, it’s a whole different ball game,” he emphasized.

Haley meticulously chronicled his climb, every pitch, accompanied by breathtaking photographs, on his blog. However, he initially hesitated to share this experience.

“I usually prefer to keep my climbing endeavors low-key; drawing attention seldom helps,” the climber noted. Explaining further, he admitted:

The Ragni Route and the cols on the Cerro Torre massif, including the Elmo to the right of the main spire. Photo: Simone Moro
The Ragni Route and the cols on the Cerro Torre massif, including the Elmo to the right of the main spire. Photo: Simone Moro

However, in this instance, I doubt I’ll revisit this project for several reasons. Firstly, the grueling approach to the Ragni route, especially alone in winter with a hefty load, demands an immense amount of toil.

Moreover, the route receives minimal sunlight during winter, intensifying the bone-chilling cold. “And finally,” he added, “as time goes by, the likelihood of having the route to oneself diminishes, losing that raw, solitary experience. But my primary reason is that I’m steering clear of rope-soloing, once again!”

Rope-soloing, a technically intricate method allowing a climber to ascend solo while anchored to a rope, had been Haley’s tool on previous climbs like the first solo of Torre Egger and the alpine-style solo of Cerro Chaltén via the Goretta Pillar. Yet, despite its utility, he remains unenthusiastic.

“I thrive on moving swiftly and lightly. Rope-soloing is the antithesis of that—it’s sluggish, arduous, and burdensome,” he explained. “I’d rather climb partnered when roped, reserving my solo climbs for objectives I can comfortably free climb, or almost all of them.”

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