Piolets d'Or - Fitz Roy Group, Moonwalk Traverse (3,405 m)

Fitz Roy Group, Moonwalk Traverse (3,405 m)

©Rolo Garibotti

Moonwalk Traverse (4,000m+, 6c 50°) – the first complete south to north traverse of the Fitz Roy Massif (Aguja de l’S to Aguja Guillaumet), from February 5-10, solo.

Over five days in February 2014, Americans Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold pulled off an astonishing and much-coveted ridge traverse when they crossed the entire Fitz Roy Group from north to south – Aguja Guillaumet to Aguja de l’S. In 2015 the Fitz Traverse was awarded a Piolet d’Or.

In early 2020, stuck in El Chaltén after the start of the pandemic and with seemingly many more cases and restrictions in Europe, the Belgian Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll decided to stay, locked into this giant playground. By early February 2021, he was ready to embark on a dream: to traverse the entire Fitz Roy Massif, solo, from south to north. The project, over five kilometres in length and with more than 4,000m of total elevation gain, would follow the skyline from Aguja de l‘S, over Aguja de Saint Exupéry, Aguja Rafael Juárez, Aguja Poincenot, Aguja Kakito, Cerro Fitz Roy, Aguja Val Biois, Aguja Mermoz, Aguja Guillaumet Sur, and finally Aguja Guillaumet.

Villanueva O’Driscoll took a light sac, a small haul bag (which later broke, becoming unusable), 10 days food, a sleeping bag, small tent and tin whistle. The starting weight was nearly 30kg.

On the first day, the single lead rope he was using sustained three core shots and only just lasted to the end of the traverse. Not much later he lost cams when a gear loop broke. He climbed free, mostly on-sight, and self-belayed with a Grigri on all but the easiest (scrambling) pitches, resulting in him covering most of the ground three times. He carried no communication device and due to the quiet nature of the mountains at that time, met only three other teams. Prolific Patagonian activist, Colin Haley, felt it was undoubtedly the most impressive solo ascent ever made in this region.

The Jury felt this was an elegant and sustained line, which had been attempted or conceived by several parties, although no one appears to have considered it for a solo outing - an adventure unattainable for most climbers. Whilst, apart from a few pitches, none of the terrain was new, the style was outstanding, combining technical climbing, endurance, mental commitment, and considerable Patagonia experience. There was admiration for the optimistic attitude, at first when the country was brought into lockdown and then on the initial stages of the route, when faced with gear damage and loss.

2023 Organizers