January 12, 2012 — A firm layer of snow a few inches down necessitates crampons as we ascend the 45º snow slope to the saddle between St Exupery and De La “S”. The roar of the wind through the tiny col hasn´t hit us yet but is a constant reminder of things to come. I strap the crampons on to my approach shoes and get out my ice axe. We kick steps and front point up the firm snow. Below the saddle we begin to feel the howling and once we are able to sneak a peak over to the other side, we are greeted with the full brunt of its force. Laguna Sucia, with her turquoise blue water and the steep east face of St Exupery, rising straight up from the crevassed glacier below, reveal themselves to us. We rope up and Matt ventures up and then around and out of the wind.
The 0400 weather check that morning revealed high winds and partly cloudy skies, the southern cross being briefly obscured by high, wispy, fast moving clouds. Four hours later though, the winds had abated and Cerro Torre´s usual cloud cap had lifted. Matt and I decided to go have a look, to see what the north ridge of De La “S” was all about. Two thousand three hundred feet higher the wind had decided to kick back up. We continued up anyway and made our way up to the saddle and onto the rock.
The protection from the wind is a welcome treat as I make my way up the second pitch, a nice dihedral to a clean face split by thin cracks and edges. Beautiful and fun climbing
takes me to a small ridge. We unrope and wander to the south, roping up again below a face of white granite, split by daigonally leaning cracks. A few pitches later I am perched on a small stance on the ridge crest, belaying Matt up the solid patagonian stone. With gusts that burst from different directions and its sudden starts and stops, the wind plucks, pulls and pushes, building in me a sense of vertigo, not knowing how to balance, where to lean, or how to stand. Soon Matt is ten feet in front of me making his way up the ridge. I yell to him over the roaring wind. He stares at me blankly. I wait for a small abatement in the onslaught. I yell again. This time he is closer. He tries to stand, but is relegated to moving across the easy terrain with four points of contact. The clouds drop in over Cerro Torre to the west and whip around the summit of St Exupery to the north.
Matt slings a large horn with a cordelette. The wind picks it up and whips it off, but not before Matt clips it to himself. He repositions the cord and clips it into the rock. He belays me over and we stack our ropes into a backpack and we get set to bail. I rap into the relative calm of the leeward side and into the scree filled basin below. Sixty meters below we enjoy a brief respite from el viento before we turn and make our way back down to the col, bouted once again.