Alex Honnold’s Patagonia Trifecta: Two Speed Records and a First Ascent

Mt Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre from Condor's lookout
Mt Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre from Condor's lookoutIgnacio Palacios / Getty Images

It’s been a busy week for climbers Alex Honnold and Colin Haley. On January 31, the two athletes set a blistering speed record of 20 hours and 40 minutes on Patagonia’s Torre Traverse. The massive climbing route follows a north-to-south link-up of all four major peaks in the Torre Range (Cerro Standhardt, Punta Herron, Torre Egger, and Cerro Torre). The route, which has over 7,000 feet of vertical gain, has only been successfully climbed one other time, in 2008 by Haley and Rolando Garibotti, an accomplishment that took four days to complete.

To move as quickly as possible, Honnold and Haley went super light, carrying only 4.5 liters of water each, and some energy bars and gels. The entire climb, camp to camp, took 32 hours.

“I got the idea to try to do it in a day, and at first Colin thought it seemed crazy,” Honnold told Men’s Journal from Patagonia during a rest day. “And then the idea sort of stuck and we got excited about it.”

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Honnold and Haley first attempted the Torre Traverse in 2015, but they were forced to abandon their climb after 22 hours, just two pitches from the summit of Cerro Torre (the final peak), after a storm blew in. Their biggest challenge this season was also the weather: this time it was too warm. “When we got to the north face of Cerro Torre, the entire thing was running with water and chunks of ice were falling down from the summit,” says Honnold. “We both got super wet and cold, which was a little scary. But it worked out okay — we dried back out a bit as we continued climbing.”

After just five days of rest, the two turned their sights elsewhere, motivated by a good weather window. On February 6, they nabbed the second ascent of the Wave Effect, a link-up combining three peaks — Aguja Desmochadaa (8,400 feet), Aguja de la Silla (9,500 feet), and Fitz Roy (11,020 feet) — in a record time of 17 hours. “The Wave Effect is primarily a rock climb, so it was a very different style to all the ice on the Torres,” says Honnold. “It was kind of the next obvious objective for us; we’d been talking about it since before we even did the traverse.”

While they were completing the Wave Effect, Honnold and Haley also made the first free ascent of a route up Aguja de la Silla known as El Bastardo. “It was a nice little bonus,” says Honnold.

Honnold is a newcomer to the alpine climbing scene, but has already made his mark in Patagonia. In 2014 he partnered with Tommy Caldwell to make the first successful traverse of the Fitz Roy massif. Haley, 31, is an expert in Patagonia climbing. This season alone he’s been on a tear: he set the fastest known car-to-car ascent of Supercanaleta, on Fitz Roy, along with Andy Wyatt, in 21:08 hours; he put up the first solo ascents of Torre Egger, Punta Herron, and Cerro Huemul; and he also summited a new route on Cerro Solo called El Dragón. “Climbing with Colin is great, I only half-jokingly call him my guide down here,” says Honnold. “I couldn’t do climbs like this with anyone else.”

So what’s next for the new dynamic duo of Patagonia? “We’re both feeling pretty darn pooped today,” says Honnold. “I’m actually thinking about flying home early. We did my two main goals and I’m pretty happy with that.”

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