Roger Schäli and Simon Gietl on the rock face

Roger und Simon - a dream team of Alpine sports. What sets them apart is not just their ability to maintain control in critical situations, even upping the tempo, but also their deep passion for mountain climbing. "The best climber is not just the person who climbs the most difficult routes, but also the one who has the most fun doing it." That's the motto of these two SALEWA alpineXtrem team members.
The two climbers touched down in Patagonia on 11/11/2009 ready for action but, unfortunately, two of Simon's bags had gone missing. They did not let this hold them back, however. Simon borrowed a pair of climbing boots and the adventure began. The pair arrived in South America with an ambitious aim: to make two ascents of Cerro Fitz Roy (3406m), one ascent as fast as possible, and one by the most difficult route, involving several days on the exposed rock face.

Six days later, they were standing for the first time on the summit of Poincenot. They got there via the "Whillans/Cochrane" route – 650m, 5+, 60°. The Poincenot Bergschrund encountered on the way sent adrenalin shooting through the blood of the SALEWA rope team. A single, small slip on the snow would have had catastrophic consequences - a fall of over 300m. Roger reached solid rock with a feeling of relief, and fastened the rope.
Onwards they went through deep snow, until they reached the gully. This section took a lot out of Simon. The higher they got, the worse the weather conditions. It's a particular challenge in Patagonia: unpredictable weather and sudden storms make high demands on climbing technique. The two battled on to the end: at last they reached the summit! The Patagonian weather showed its worst side - violent storms. A speedy descent was called for. After a "pretty wild abseil down" as Roger describes it, the pair arrived at the base 20 hours later, exhausted but happy. They had achieved their first goal! The bad weather followed the pair down the mountain. A new ascent was out of the question in the short term.  But that didn't put a dent in the good humour of the pair: they entertained themselves with cooking, bouldering, fishing, and a visit to a chocolateria.
Then on Tuesday 24th a window of good weather opened for two days. The two immediately made the best of this opportunity to start the ascent of the 3,406m granite colossus. Right from the start they had to be flexible in their approach - 50cm of fresh snow and the assessment of experienced natives left the team only one choice: to go by the "Californian" route. This is a long strenuous route that takes the climber's breath away in a different way with its indescribably wild backdrop.

An unsuccessful Swiss team warned them, but nevertheless the alpineXtrem bivouacked without an alarm clock. They hoped to wake up about three. Just as anticipated, they woke and started off at three. Things got fairly tense at the spot where the rope team had given up the day before.  They managed to progress further upwards via a severe left traverse. Six pitches later they reached the ridge. The sun greeted them in all its glory. Then, after another ten demanding pitches and three ice towers, at last the ice field at the summit. Although, it has to be said the term ice field is relative. It's rather a snow field which demanded total concentration from the men on account of the packed snow and constant danger of an avalanche. Exhausted, but proud and happy, the two SALEWA sportsmen reached the highest point of Monte Fitz Roy at four o'clock.

The descent brought several more tense moments. The relatively unknown "Franco Argentina" route held several pitfalls. They reached the bivouac just at sundown. The following day, they almost broke a record on the descent. It wasn't through ambition or motivation. Once again, the bad weather was on their tail.

After a couple of days relaxing in the valley, the two extreme mountain climbers were already considering the next plan: they wanted to achieve more, and they wanted to be the first to do it. And indeed they became the first! Only a few weeks after their success on Fitzroy, Roger Schäli und Simon Gietl achieved an impressive first ascent on the Poincenot north face in Patagonia. The two sportsmen christened the new route “FÜHLE DICH STARK ABER NICHT UNSTERBLICH” (FEEL STRONG BUT NOT IMMORTAL). The facts: 600m in four days - Alpine style via the immense Bigwall, rated A3+, 6c, M5.

This extremely demanding route goes along the Williams ramp initially, and then runs vertically up the Poincenot great rock wall. Three combined rope pitches later lead to the exposed recess where the two climbers had barely enough space to pitch their tent. For Roger from Switzerland, it was the most beautiful but also the windiest place he'd ever bivouacked. From that point onwards, the challenge was to climb the precarious 30-metre-high slab of sheer, flawless rock. Roger and Simon needed 15 hours for this alone: skill and effort at its purest. When they finally arrived at a crack in the rock, they secured themselves before starting a 10-metre-high pendular traverse into an increasingly icy system of fissures. Leaving the airy headwall, they continued on into mixed terrain.

After four days of climbing vertically, uncertain of success, the two extreme mountaineers got the whiff of the summit. They managed the final couple of rope pitches quickly and at last came the overwhelming moment of reaching the summit.


El Chaltén, Bouldern

Salewa at Fizroy

Discussing the tour


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Roger Schüli, Swiss top-class all-rounder: "Alpine activity up and down the mountain."

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