Mayan Smith-Gobat and Ines Papert Repeat Riders on the Storm, Patagonia

Mayan Smith-Gobat, Ines Papert and photographer Thomas Senf claim the fifth known ascent of Riders on the Storm—a coveted prize on Torre Central in Torres del Paine National Park, Chilean Patagonia.

By Rock and Ice | March 2nd, 2016

Topo of <em>Riders on the Storm</em> (5.13a A2 38 pitches), Torres Central, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. Photo: Thomas Senf.” title=”Topo of <em>Riders on the Storm</em> (5.13a A2 38 pitches), Torres Central, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. Photo: Thomas Senf.” style=”float: right; margin: 0px 0px 10px 10px;”>    <strong style=After 15 days on the wall, Mayan Smith-Gobat, Ines Papert and photographer Thomas Senf topped out Riders on the Storm—a coveted prize on Torre Central in Torres del Paine National Park, Chilean Patagonia. They reached the tower’s summit on February 6, the 25th anniversary of the first ascent, and claimed the route’s fifth known ascent.

“Riders on the Storm pushed me to new limits,” says Smith-Gobat, “It took absolutely everything I had both physically and mentally.

“I felt like I had to pull together every scrap of my previous climbing experience, from bouldering to big wall and to scrape together my minimal alpine experience, to be able to successfully climb this route.”

Wolfgang Güllich, Kurt Albert, Bernd Arnold, Peter Dittrich, and Norbert Bätz established Riders on the Storm in 1991 at 5.12d A3. They were able to free all but a handful of pitches through a blank section of wall, and ever since, climbers from around the world have sought to claim the route’s first free ascent, without success.

Patagonia’s relentless winds and chaotic weather have shut down even the best attempts at a complete free ascent. Two crux crack pitches near the top of the tower frequently ice over and become impossible to free climb, and a pitch near the middle of the face requires a pendulum and bat hooking to sneak through an entirely blank section, Smith-Gobat says.

Like other teams before, Smith-Gobat and Papert’s goal was to make the coveted first free ascent.

During their first week on the wall, with good weather, they discovered a difficult, 5-pitch variation to loop around the original lower aid section. But to make the most of the rare, stable weather conditions they chose to put their efforts into free climbing the upper section and summiting the tower first.

Mayan Smith-Gobat, from New Zealand, climbing pitch 31 (7c+/5.13a ) on <em>Riders on the Storm</em>. Photo: Thomas Senf.” title=”Mayan Smith-Gobat, from New Zealand, climbing pitch 31 (7c+/5.13a ) on <em>Riders on the Storm</em>. Photo: Thomas Senf.” style=”float: right; margin: 0px 0px 10px 10px;”>A
    week later, Smith-Gobat, with bleeding fingers, freed pitch 29 and pitch 31, before the upper crack “became a waterfall from ice melting above,” she
    says. Nevertheless, the team pushed on and reached easier fifth-class terrain that led to the summit. At 12:48 p.m. on February 6, they stood on top.</p>
<p>“After living on the wall, only ever seeing one side of the landscape for weeks, it was incredible to reach the summit,” says Smith-Gobat says. Their rare
    ascent was awarded with a rare cloudless and windless Patagonian day and 360-degree views of Torres del Paine National Park. “Endless peaks, stunning
    untouched walls, glaciers and lakes stretched out as far as the eye could see.”</p>
<p>That night, rock fall pummeled their portaledges. </p>
<p>A wave of warmer weather had thawed the ice that locked together the loose blocks above that comprised the tower’s peak above.</p>
<p>Rocks tore through the center of Papert and Smith-Gobat’s shared portaledge, narrowly missing them. They were unnerved by the event, but still determined
    to finish what they came for. The team continued to work the lower pitches.</p>
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