The northeast pillar of Aguja Guillaumet is perched 5,000 feet above the Río Eléctrico valley, overlooking Patagonia’s Fitz Roy massif. The route climbs a steep pillar of wind-sculpted golden granite; its pockets and steep cracks would fulfill anybody’s expectations. Eduardo Brenner, a well-loved Argentine climber, did the first ascent in 1981. In February 2008, Adrian Falcone, a former Park ranger and good friend, turned 50. He had lived below these peaks for 20 years but had yet to climb any of the granite summits that crown the range. Guillaumet seemed like a perfect birthday present.
Adrian, Mati and I leave Chalten past midnight, dancing to the base, drunk with the lightness I feel when going climbing for fun. We reach the base at dawn and as we ascend we are pleasantly surprised by the quality of the climb. At the cruxes, two pumpy vertical cracks, Adrian struggles. “I am half a century old!” he exclaims, as if needing to justify himself. On the summit, tears roll down Adrian’s face washing the sweat off his face. “It is good to be here with friends,” I think to myself. We make a speedy descent along the Fonrouge route – Boca Juniors, Argentina’s most iconic soccer team, is playing late in the afternoon and neither Adrian nor I want to miss it.
Patagonia has changed a lot, and these days climbing Guillaumet is a day outing and not a month-long expedition like it once was. Some of the mystique has been lost, but there is nothing like a great day of climbing on immaculate rock without missing the first goal, or the birthday cake.