Patagonia’s Cerro Torre, considered by many the most beautiful peak in the world, draws the finest and most devoted technical alpinists to its climbing challenges. But controversy has swirled around this ice-capped peak since Cesare Maestri claimed first ascent in 1959. Since then a debate has raged, with world-class climbers attempting to retrace his route but finding only contradictions. This chronicle of hubris, heroism, controversies and epic journeys offers a glimpse into the human condition, and why some pursue extreme endeavors that at face value have no worth.
A Shriek Turned to Stone”
Mountaineer Reinhold Messner’s description of Cerro Torre, considered by many the most beautiful and compelling mountain in the world, articulates the challenge and controversy that has enveloped this mountain since Cesare Maestri claimed first ascent in 1959.
At the wind-scoured southern tip of Argentina, between the vast ice cap and the rolling estepas of Patagonia, rises a 10,262-foot tower of ice and rock named Cerro Torre. Considered by many the most beautiful and compelling mountain in the world, it draws the finest and most devoted technical alpinists from around the globe. Reinhold Messner, the greatest mountaineer in history, called it a shriek turned to stone.”
But controversy has swirled around Cerro Torre since 1959, when Italian climber Cesare Maestri claimed its first ascent. His partner died on the descent, and generations of world-class climbers attempting to retrace his route have found only contradictions. In 1970, enraged by the doubts and obsessed with proving his success, Maestri used a gasoline-powered air compressor to hammer hundreds of bolts, spaced to be used as ladders, into Cerro Torre’s flanks. The Compressor Route instantly became one of the most contentious routes in the climbing worldand, in the decades that followed, it became the most popular route on the mlC5