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Climbing the Red Pillar on Aguja Mermoz town to town in 24 hours

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I was initially unsure if I wanted to go back into the mountains of Patagonia after John died. I went out to climb with Cedar one day but it didn’t feel quite right and we happily bailed after Cedar managed to pour boiling water on himself while cooking dinner. Shortly after, another micro-window was on the horizon and I  made plans to climb with Pedro Odell, a local 18 year old who I had recently met in the mountains. The wind in the afternoon of the window was looking problematic so I suggested that we go for the Red Pilar on Aguja Mermoz, a long, hard, and sustained free climb that goes up the east face of Mermoz and is relatively well protected. Pedro and I racked up for the climb and opted to go light and fast in a single push from town. I went to bed the night before at 7pm with my alarm set for 11:45pm to get picked up at midnight by Max, Pedro’s dad. Max drove us to El Pilar and we began hiking at 12:32am.We chatted for the first hour and then enjoyed the silent of the night as we booked it through the forest and up the trail to Laguna de Los Tres. We quickly found ourselves in a cloud which I knew to expect. The forecast showed the low clouds dissolving by 6am and perhaps by 4:30am, we could see the stars… perfect timing. We motored up the glacier in our crampons and made it to Paso Superior just after 5am. We stopped for maybe 20 minutes to boil water before downclimbing to Glacier Superior and hiking to the base of the ice slope below the Red Pillar by first light. The bergschrund looked relatively chill to cross and a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, settled that Pedro would be leading it. He climbed up placing a couple screws for a few moves of steep ice before passing over to the 50 degree snow/ice field above. He placed a Microtraxion and continued up as I simulclimbed behind with one ice axe in hand. Pedro got us to rock and I led a short pitch to the first bolted anchor of the route just as the sun crested the horizon. We were off the ice… perfect timing. Pedro had climbed the first 4 pitches of the route in the past and offered to take the lead of the first 3 pitches. He led up the relatively easy pitches quickly depositing us at the base of the first crux. Pitch 4 is rated 7a or 5.11d and appeared to be a steep and perfect splitter crack ranging in size from fingers to hands. I had heard at least 3 accounts of people getting shut down on this pitch and being forced to aid climb it, eventually leading to a bail… this was also the story of Pedro’s last effort. 

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