Review – Patagonia Vertical guidebook

By Rolando Garibotti and Dörte Pietron, Sidarta, 2012, (, RRP $69

Patagonia is one of the most beautiful and historic testing grounds for climbers on the planet, because of this it deserves a guidebook that reflects its importance. Patagonia Vertical, by local climber and Patagonia expert, Rolando Garibotti, and German alpinist, Dörte Pietron, is just such a guide.patagonia-vertical-mountaineering-guidebook_3

From the moment you pick it up this weighty tome it feels like a high-quality publication. It has superb images (given plenty of space) and beautifully reproduced topos, while the layout and fonts are strongly reminiscent of the much-loved climbing journal, Alpinist – clean and classic.

Patagonia Vertical is a full-colour, 369-page guide to the Chaltén Massif, which is home to some of the world’s most iconic peaks, including Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. It has 90 topos, 120 photo topos (and numerous excellent additional images) and covers 250 routes on 39 peaks. It also contains all the usual information you would expect from a guide, general information about climbing in the area, transport, the weather (which is notorious), equipment, climbing strategy, staying alive (my favourite), regulations, etc.

More than most climbing guides, a guide to an alpine area like the Chaltén Massif needs to be written by someone who knows the area intimately, and there is no doubt that Garibotti is such a person. He has had a passion for the Chaltén Massif since the age of 15, when he first climbed in the area. He is an acknowledged Patagonia expert and he has an unparalleled knowledge of the area’s routes and history. I hadn’t heard of Pietron before reading this guide, but she has climbed Fitz Roy four times and Cerro Torre twice, so there is no doubting her considerable experience with the area.

Jorge Ackermann on the last pitch of the Ragni route, Cerro Torre. As seen in this photo, this vertical rime mushroom often requires digging a half pipe or tunnel to ascend. Photo: Rolando Garibotti

Jorge Ackermann on the last pitch of the Ragni route, Cerro Torre. As seen in this photo, this vertical rime mushroom often requires digging a half pipe or tunnel to ascend. Photo: Rolando Garibotti

For me, the best guides are ones that you can come back to time and time again, mining for information and history (there’s a reason they’re often referred to as climbers’ bibles). Patagonia Vertical is packed with information and history. What I particularly love is that the history is largely integrated into the actual route information. So rather than having a long and complicated history section at the beginning, instead there is a brief overview of climbing history at the front of the guide with the meat of the history contained within each route description. And what a history it is. Patagonia has been scene of some of climbing’s greatest achievements, epics and controversies, including, of course, Cesare Maestri’s infamous Compressor Route and its equally controversial debolting by North American alpinists Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk. While the route histories cover all the most famous epics, more generally it also gives greater context than just a grade as to how epic it was putting up many of these routes.

My only criticism of the guide relates to the Compressor route – despite the fact the route no longer exists it would have been nice to have seen it marked up on the topo to see where it goes in relation to the other routes on the peak, particularly given the description is still included. But this is a minor criticism easily rectified by Google.1237871_pataV_sid_carto

For those planning to climb in Patagonia, Patagonia Vertical is no doubt an essential purchase. But equally, if you have an interest in climbing history and Patagonia in particular, then you won’t regret buying this guidebook, if only to dream.

Patagonia Vertical is available from Bogong Equipment, Mountain Equipment, Arapiles Mountain Shop, K2 Basecamp, Mont and Mainpeak ($69) or by post order by sending an email to ($69 including postage).

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