Riders on the Storm / by Mayan Smith-Gobat

I'm alive and psyched to bring you a short update on my latest adventure! Enjoy... there is more to come!

Ines Papert and I nearing the summit of Riders on the Storm. We completed the 5th ascent exactly 25 years after the first ascent! Photo: Thomas Senf

Ines Papert and I nearing the summit of Riders on the Storm. We completed the 5th ascent exactly 25 years after the first ascent! Photo: Thomas Senf

On the 6th February Ines Papert and I accompanied by photographer Thomas Senf summited Torres Central, in Torres del Paine National Park, via the east face. Succeeding in making the fifth known ascent of Riders in the Storm, 25 years after the first ascent of this historic route.

Torres del Paine at sunrise. Photo: Franz Walter

Torres del Paine at sunrise. Photo: Franz Walter

This stunning line on the sheer 1300m east face of Torres Central was first climbed by Wolfgang Güllich, Kurt Albert, Bern Arnold, Peter Dittrich and Norbert Bätz In January 1991 in fifteen days of climbing over a six week period. The line went at 7c, A3. Since then there have been several attempts to free climb the entire route but due to iced up cracks and the difficult weather conditions in Patagonia, two pitches of steep crack climbing near the top of the route prevented freeing them. There was also one pitch near the middle of the face where a pendulum and bat hooking is necessary to get past an entirely blank section of rock.

Likewise, Ines and I hoped to free climb the entire route. Our time in Patagonia began with incredibly stable weather and in their first week on the wall we succeeded in finding a very difficult five pitch variation to avoid the lower aid section. However, to make the most of the stable weather, they chose to focus on freeing the upper section and making it to the summit, before investing time into climbing these difficult pitches.

Making the first free ascent of pitch 31, 7c+ of Riders on the storm. Photo: Thomas Senf

Making the first free ascent of pitch 31, 7c+ of Riders on the storm. Photo: Thomas Senf

On the last day of good weather, after 3 weeks on the wall, I scrapped together all my strength and climbing experience, and with fingers bleeding from countless places, succeeded to free climb pitch 29 and 30! It all came together in the one hour of early morning sunshine, before the upper crack became a waterfall from ice melting above. Then Ines, Thomas and ! continued on to the summit of Torres central, reaching the top at 12.48 on the 6th February on a stunning and surprisingly wind still day.

With ines and Thomas on the summit! I could not have had a better team! Photo: Thomas Senf

With ines and Thomas on the summit! I could not have had a better team! Photo: Thomas Senf

However, our success was quickly dampened by rock fall hitting the portaledges that night while we were asleep, tearing Ines and my ledge open and narrowly missing us. Shaken yet still determined to finish the route, Ines and I returned to work on free climbing the lower pitches. Discovering that especially in warm weather this face is quite exposed to both ice and rockfall for the top of the peak - which is comprised of loose blocks held together by ice.

Sending the second pitch of our free variation. Photo: Thomas Senf

Sending the second pitch of our free variation. Photo: Thomas Senf

The climbing on Riders on the storm is demanding varied, from delicate face climbing with poor protection to off widths entire filled with ice. Ines climbed one pitch using an ice shoe with crampon on one foot and climbing shoe on the other and two ice axes which were also used as protection in the frozen crack - The “Papert-Technique". Ines, Thomas and I battled on, and in ever deteriorating weather managed to free all but two pitches of the original route and the most difficult two of their new variant. However, unfortunately in the last ten days of our time in Patagonia we were hit by extremely bad weather (more typical for Patagonia...). With winds over 120km and snowfalls down to 500m, the entire route became plastered in snow and we ended up having to retrieve our gear in the few days where the storm abated slightly. Getting no further chance to climb.

Ines on pitch 23, 7c, Riders on the Storm. Photo: Thomas Senf

Ines on pitch 23, 7c, Riders on the Storm. Photo: Thomas Senf

Though we didn't succeed in freeing the entire route Ines and I did have an extremely successful trip, resulting in a rare repeat of Riders in the Storm on the 25th anniversary of its first ascent. In addition we found a variation to the original line which, though likely to be very difficult, we both believe will definitely go free. Due to the unpredictable risks of this face Ines has decided against returning, however I am motivated to attempt the route again next summer.

Struggling to carry all our gear down after an epic cleaning it off the snow-clad wall. Photo: Thomas Senf

Struggling to carry all our gear down after an epic cleaning it off the snow-clad wall. Photo: Thomas Senf

Facts

- Route: "Riders on the Storm", Torre Central 2800m, East Face - Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
- 38 pitches (with the new free variant), 1300m
- Grade 7c+ (2 pitches which haven't been free climbed yet)

- Ines and Mayan free climbed all but 4 pitches of the entire route.
- Ines Papert, Mayan Smith-Gobat and Thomas Senf from 16 Jan - 20 February
- Climbing days 15
- Summited at 12:48 on February 6th 2016
- Fifth known Ascents of "Riders on the Storm“

The topo, including our new free variation. Photo: Franz Walter

The topo, including our new free variation. Photo: Franz Walter

The topo including Ines and my new variation

The topo including Ines and my new variation

Many thanks to our sponsors, Chaly Gabl for the current weather updates and to Chino (Offtrailpatagonia.com) for the support throughout the expedition. 

Psyched after making the first free ascent of pitch 32 - the last crux pitch. Photo: Thomas Senf

Psyched after making the first free ascent of pitch 32 - the last crux pitch. Photo: Thomas Senf