Why It’s So Hard to Rescue Climbers in Patagonia » Explorersweb

Patagonia’s mountains and impressive granite towers are ideal for hardcore alpinism.

“While in the highest mountains on the planet, mountaineering has lost its raison d’etre, with the abuse of fixed ropes, oxygen, and the assistance of Sherpas, in massifs such as those of Patagonia, climbs continue in total autonomy,” Basque climber Eneko Pou wrote a few days ago. “You don’t have anyone around to open the difficult pitch for you, open the track for you in deep snow, carry your backpack, prepare your food, or set up the tent when you’re tired.”

With that freedom and independence comes danger. Let’s examine why Patagonia is dangerous and why it’s so hard to rescue climbers.

Aguja Poincenot (Poincenot Spire). Photo: Sebastian Alvaro


Garibotti’s reports

Every year, Argentinian-American climber Rolando Garibotti writes an excellent climbing report on Patagonia for the American Alpine Journal. His reports also detail accidents.

Garibotti attributes the major causes of fatal accidents to falls, lack of planning and strategy, and extreme weather.

The Goretta Pillar on Fitz Roy. Photo: Matteo Della Bordella


But plenty of other factors come into play too: avalanches, falling debris, the over-eagerness of climbers after bad weather, exposure, and poor self-rescue skills. Some climbers fail to take an InReach or VHF radio with them. All these factors can inhibit rescue efforts.

Skills and risk calculation

Every year, more climbers and tourists head to Patagonia. But not everyone is aware of the danger.

“In many ways, these mountains are much more serious than anything in the Alps or the contiguous U.S. and shouldn’t be taken lightly,” climber Colin Haley wrote, following two fatal climbing accidents late last year. “Weather conditions are very changeable and sometimes brutal,” climber Sebastian Alvaro told ExplorersWeb.

With unpredictable weather, risk calculation is important, and this is often related to the maturity of the climbers….


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