In January 2014, Calum Muskett and Dave MacLeod spent a month in the alpine climbing playground of Patagonia, Argentina. They were joined by Ally Swinton and photographer Ben Winston. Having climbed together on two of the hardest big alpine rock routes in the Alps over the summer, Calum and Dave were aiming high. They were hoping to make the second free ascent of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre in a minimalist, lightweight alpine style.
The route has a rich and controversial history spanning almost half a century, dividing the international climbing community and some of its most outspoken characters. Having laid relatively dormant for decades, in recent years it has seen a new flurry of activity which culminated in the first free ascent of the line (dubbed the Southeast Ridge) by Lama and Ortner in 2012.
Calum also has personal motivation for attempting the route:
In secondary school, all Welsh students learn of Patagonia and the migration of Welsh people to the area in the mid to late nineteenth century. It wasn’t until I read Paul Pritchard’s Deep Play though that the area really caught my imagination. TheCompressor Route is undoubtedly the most famous route in Patagonia, perhaps even South America, and the idea to try and free climb it captivated me at an early age.
When I was 16 I went on an international meet to Yosemite and was fortunate enough to climb with Colin Haley, the well known Patagonian protagonist who, alongside Rolando Garibotti, made the first traverse of the Torre group. Colin, amongst others, spoke of some of his personal experiences in Patagonia inspiring me yet further to visit. When David Lama succeeded in freeing the Compressor Route it became the route I most wanted to climb in South America." - Calum
The weather in Patagonia is notoriously fickle and violent. Even with the best will in the world, weather windows typically only last a few days so it is important to be well equiped to take advantage. Throughout the trip, the guys tested a number of prototype Rab® products including down insulated jackets and baselayers.