It was the last good day before an extended period of bad weather, and I wanted to get up something. Cerros Huemul and Electrico are both on my to-do list, but both were longer outings than I felt I could manage coming off a 23-mile run the day before. So I settle for Mojon Rojo, a moderate summit just south of the Real Climber peaks of the Fitzroy group. It would involve repeating quite a bit of the overcrowded trail to Lago de los Tres, but the new terrain on the approach to Laguna Sucia and up to its southwest should be spectacular, particularly if the clouds held off. From the west end of Sucia, Fitzroy rises 2500 meters in only about 2700 meters of horizontal distance, which is not as steep as El Capitan, but well over twice as high. I found it more impressive than Los Tres, but thanks to a slightly harder approach trail and the randomness of social media virality, Sucia is seen almost entirely by climbers, most of them doing Aguja de la S, the easiest of the Fitzroy granite towers. I got a fairly early start, partly to avoid the crowds and partly out of habit to get ahead of deteriorating afternoon weather. This was pointless, as the weather here does not seem to follow the normal mountain pattern of calm mornings followed by deteriorating weather as the sun warms mountain faces and creates convection. Windy mornings are followed by calm afternoons, storms arrive in the middle of the night, and knock-you-over wind can build remarkably quickly. All of this is forecast reasonably well by modern weather models, particularly Meteoblue, but I don’t understand the “why” of it. In any case, I had a fairly quiet hike to the Rio Blanco, where I left the Los Tres trail to head up a well-beaten track following the river. There was a sign probably telling me to turn around just before a log crossing, and another before a scramble up the right side to get around a constriction, but everyone seemed to ignore them. The trail went through some boulder-fields above the constriction, and therefore disappeared and braided, but I eventually hopped back across the stream on some giant boulders and reached Sucia’s outlet. The trail was refocused on the lakeshore, and mostly easy to follow after that, though I got into some annoying terrain by leaving the shore a bit too early. It was one again warm, and the glacier above had been in the sun for hours, so I got to hear and then see a large chunk of ice break free, shatter, and fall down a watercourse. It looked like snow by the time it poured into the lake, but the splashes made clear that it was still a rain of sizable ice chunks, dwarfed by the surrounding cliffs. I was dragging as I gained elevation in the heat, but with plenty of food, water, and time, I patiently slogged on. Reaching a place marked “La Cueva” on my map, I found a large walled-in overhang where some people had left a base camp, and several more tents on various nearby platforms. From there I followed cairns and trail steeply uphill, on slabs and recently deglaciated terrain, heading more or less straight for Mojon Rojo. The route description I had found mentioned a glacier crossing, for which I had brought crampons and axe, but as I approached the ridge, I wondered if this was no longer the case. With careful route choice and one low-angle snow crossing, I got remarkably close to the base of the peak all on rock, but there remain a few hundred yards of mandatory glacier, still steep enough to warrant crampons when icy, and home to a handful of crevasses that demand a bit of attention. I had passed a couple of rope teams descending snow and ice next to the rock, and a group of four were heading up as I stopped on the highest rock to crampon up. Heading out onto the ice, I sensibly followed the group ahead of me, then left their track to gain the toe of Mojon Rojo where they turned right toward Aguja de la S. As I took off my crampons, I saw someone higher up on the peak, traversing rubble below a couple of pinnacles. I followed a similar line, threading my way through generally obnoxious but not threatening talus. The route description I was using mentioned “several pitches of French grade 4 (YDS 5.4-5.6),” but I had found none so far, and saw none ahead. Route options eventually dwindled, though, and I found a short, steep part in a corner that involved a few low-fifth-class moves. There was also a bit of a bottleneck, as four guys from Sheffield were descending right as I was about to head up. Apparently Mojon Rojo is a popular consolation peak for climbers thwarted on neighboring peaks, because I also met two guys from Slovenia below the summit block. I said “hi,” dropped my pack, then set about figuring out how to climb the thing. Following Pataclimb’s directions, I traversed around the southwest side on some wide but exposed ledges, climbed back to the northwest arete, then made one somewhat-delicate move to reach the flatter part of the crest just below the top. Reversing the crux move was somewhat thought-provoking, as the west and south sides are sheer and tall, but I was soon back on the sheltered slab with the Slovenes, eating cookies and enjoying the sun. It was the last day of good weather before a period of storms, so I had brought enough food to also do neighboring Techado Negro, which shares much of the approach. Ideally I would traverse between the two peaks, weaving through the towers on the way to Techado’s summit. The ridge had looked semi-reasonable on the way up, but it was definitely chossy, and head-on it looked more difficult. I told myself I could always drop down and climb its known-moderate east side, but I knew I wouldn’t do that. I caught the Brits below the glacier, then skipped down the climbers’ trail through the Cueva camp to Laguna Sucia. Frustratingly Fitzroy remained hidden in clouds, but even neighboring Aguja Poincenot towered massively above the lake. The river was raging in the hot afternoon, and I missed my morning crossing, but there are plenty of ways to boulder-hop across, and I was soon back in mindless terrain. I put on some podcasts and wove my way back through the crowds to the trailhead, sometimes having to wait for lines of people to pass through the thickets of woody brush. Fitzroy may look awesome from Lago de los Tres, but it looks equally impressive from a half-dozen other spots that require no more effort. I haven’t decided whether it’s good or bad that almost everyone chooses this one hike.
On This Day
- Nothing has ever happened on this day. Ever.