Great cinema: French alpinist trio climbs southeast ridge on Cerro Torre

The three French women Maud Vanpoulle, Fanny Schmutz and Lise Billon made their dream come true and climbed Cerro Torre via the southeast ridge. They are the first women's rope team to have succeeded in repeating this historic route in Patagonia.

From the first attempt in 1968 to reach the summit of Cerro Torre It took 44 years to reach it via the southeast ridge until the first free ascent. Since 2012, just a dozen teams have repeated the former compressor route via the free variant by David Lama and Peter Ortner. With Maud Vanpoulle, Fanny Schmutz and Lise Billon The first all-female team is now continuing the climbing history on Cerro Torre.

This year was the good year, I was ready and I was with the right people to do it.

Lise Billon
Maud Vanpoulle, Fanny Dirt and Lise Billon climb Cerro Torre via the infamous southeast ridge. Image: Lise Billon, Fanny Dirt and Maud Vanpoulle
Maud Vanpoulle, Fanny Schmutz and Lise Billon climb Cerro Torre via the infamous southeast ridge. Picture: Lise Billon, Fanny Schmutz and Maud Vanpoulle

Second year in a row with the southeast ridge as the target

The three French alpinists have been traveling there for many years Patagoniato climb the granite giants there. In 2024, they were there for the second season in a row with a clear goal in mind.

Rectangle_Knatsch in Magic Wood

For the first time we dared to formulate a goal, a dream that we wanted to focus on: the southeast ridge on Cerro Torre

Maud Vanpoulle

The idea alone impressed her, says Maud Vanpoulle. “But we decided to work on our insecurities and at least assume that we wanted to try.” This meant that the three alpinists did not explore new possibilities with every change in the weather, but instead concentrated on one goal right from the start.

In the here and now

After six weeks of waiting and not so much hope, a small weather window emerged for February 22nd. Although it rained and snowed during the approach, according to Maud Vanpoulle, “it was a good time to try, even if the conditions were far from perfect.”

They would have detached themselves from their goal and simply focused on the here and now. Step by step, that was her key to success. Because mixed climbing in powder snow before the Col de la Paciencia and aid climbing to clear the snow from the first 5+ pitch would have raised doubts.

Until two pitches below the summit, no one believed that our venture would be successful.

Maud Vanpoulle
The approach is an alpine endeavor in itself
The approach is already an alpine climb in itself. Picture: Lise Billon, Fanny Schmutz and Maud Vanpoulle

ice length of their life

Nevertheless, the trio masters one pitch after the other and immerses themselves in the world of Cerro Torre. “A world full of frost and some of the best pitches of our lives, including an incredible frozen chimney,” enthuses Fanny Schmutz.

The climbing on the headwall is going much better than they could have imagined. Fanny Schmutz reviews this last passage again: “A first 5 in bad rock made it possible to get used to the following 6c. 60 meters of questionable rock in a waterfall. I put on my climbing shoes and feel a lot of pressure. It is as impressive as it is magical to be here. Stand. Now the two 7a. We did it and we're crying like crazy."

It's a story about the mountains, but for me it's above all a beautiful story between friends. Thanks girls!

Fanny Schmutz
The southeast ridge on Cerro Torre challenges the entire alpine and climbing spectrum. Image: Lise Billon, Fanny Dirt and Maud Vanpoulle
The southeast ridge on Cerro Torre challenges the entire alpine and climbing spectrum. Picture: Lise Billon, Fanny Schmutz and Maud Vanpoulle

Southeast Ridge: A route steeped in history

According to Patagonia Vertical, the first attempt to climb Cerro Torre via the southeast ridge was made in 1968 by Martin Boysen, Mick Burke, Pete Crew, José Luis Fonrouge and Dougal Haston. They reached a point 450 meters above the Col de la Paciencia.

Two years later, Cesare Maestri and his partner nailed their way through a bare slab on the right, two pitches below the previous highest point. Their bolt ladder gave them the opportunity to get up to 60 meters from the summit. Their line later gained fame as the Compressor route.

In 1999, Mauro Mabboni and Ermanno Salvaterra extended the high point of the 68er climb by two pitches. In 2007, Zach Smith and Josh Wharton added this line to the base of the headwall.

In 2011, Chris Geisler and Jason Kruk made it 40 meters below the summit. The following year, Chris Geisler reached the summit of Cerro Torre with Hayden Kennedy.

Shortly afterwards, David Lama and Peter Ortner made the sensation perfect with the first free ascent of the southeast ridge. Your free climbed version leads to the right in the headwall. In the past 12 years, the Lama-Ortner variant has only seen a dozen repetitions.

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Credits: Cover picture Lise Billon, Fanny Schmutz and Maud Vanpoulle

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