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with Stefan Nestler

Women’s power in Patagonia

Papert and Smith-Gobat at the summit of Torre Central

Papert and Smith-Gobat at the summit of Torre Central

A sport climbing shoe on one foot, an ice shoe with crampons on the other – Ines Papert should patent this idiosyncratic technique. The German top climber recently created it in a difficult passage in the East Face of the 2800-meter-high Torre Central in Patagonia. “The pitch left me with no other choice”, says Ines. She really used all means to fight up the extremely difficult route “Riders on the Storm”: “I took my ice axes not only for climbing but for protection too.” Along with the 36-year-old New Zealander Mayan Smith-Gobat, the 41-year-old Papert succeeded the only fifth climb of the route on the granite tower which had been opened by the German climbing legends Wolfgang Guellich, Kurt Albert, Bernd Arnold, Norbert Baetz and Peter Dittrich in 1991.

Extreme challenge

Mayan: "A new experience"

Mayan: “A new experience”

Ines and Mayan were accompanied by the photographer and mountain guide Thomas Senf. The German, born in the town of Leipzig, lives and works in Switzerland for 15 years. The team had set out to free climb the extremely difficult route through the 1300-meter-high for the first time. Guellich and Co. had failed doing it in this style as well as the climbers who had followed them. Also for Ines and Mayan, in the end this challenge proved a too hard nut to crack. After all, they “freed” two more pitches and found a very difficult five pitch variation, the two female climbers report. The notorious “Patagonian weather” with snow, rain and storm prevented them from completing their project. An extreme challenge on an extreme route, says Mayan: “Quite often my fingers, my hand or even my whole body cramped in an icy crack, which was a new experience for me”, says Mayan.

Scary moment at night

Women's power: Ines (l.) and Mayan

Women’s power: Ines (l.) and Mayan

At the beginning of their expedition Papert, Smith-Gobat and Senf used one of the rare good weather windows in the region to climb through the route to the summit. Ines speaks of a “magical” moment at the highest point: “We embrace each other, we are speechless. There is no wind, no cloud in the sky. For a moment, we are the happiest people on earth.” But there were also other moments – so in the night after the summit success, when a boulder, the size of a refrigerator, fell from the wall into the valley. A stone hit the portaledge of the climbers and tore the tent into two halves. Ines and Mayam escaped with a fright.

Papert technique without Papert?

“I had plenty of luck in this wall. Although it appears attractive to come back to complete the project, I decided against it”, says Ines. However Mayan has not yet given up the first free ascent of the extremely difficult route. She wants to return to Torre Central – even if she has to use the newly launched “Papert technique” of climbing.


3. March 2016 | 14:09