February 8, 2006

Cerro Torre Mystery Solved?

National Geographic Adventure magazine is running a story on a recent ascent of Patagonia's 10,262' Cerro Torre, considered one of the world's hardest climbs.

Mountaineering Geeks out there are probably aware that Cerro Torre is the site of one of climbing's greatest controversies. Here's a little background:

Cesare Maestri, a legendary Italian climber, claimed the first ascent of Cerro Torre in 1959. The mountaineering world was thunderstruck. At the time, Cerro Torre was not only unclimbed, it was considered unclimbable.

Maestri's route was years ahead of its time, so much so that subsequent climbers failed, year after year, to repeat it. They also failed to find any evidence that Maestri had actually reached the summit.

Since Maestri's partner, Toni Egger, died during the descent, there were no witnesses. And Maestri himself provided contradictory details about the route, eventually refusing to talk about it and angrily denouncing those who questioned his accomplishment.

The dispute opened a rift in the mountaineering community between those who believed Maestri and those who didn't. A 2004 American Alpine Journal investigation concluded Maestri did not climb the peak, but the controversy remained.

Last November, Rolando Garibotti, Ermanno Salvaterra, and Alessandro Beltrami made a brilliant ascent of Cerro Torre's north face, as well as climbing thousands of feet of Maestri's alleged 1959 route. What did they discover? Visit National Geographic's Adventure Online to find out.

Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow


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