Matteo Della Bordella on His Aguja Mermoz FA and Finding New Challenges in Patagonia

This article originally appeared on Climbing

On January 10, Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll, Matteo Della Bordella, and Leo Gheza opened a stunning new route on the East Face of Aguja Mermoz, in Patagonia. They named their 1,600-foot 5.12b ?Que miras, bobo? (What are you looking at, idiot?), a reference to soccer player Lionel Messi's quip during a World Cup interview in December 2022.

Que miras follows a logical line of weakness--splitter cracks, friction dihedrals, and several punchy roofs--up the center of the East Face for 14 long pitches. Impressively, they free climbed the entire route onsight, and left not a single nut, piton, or sling behind.

But the team's ascent nearly ended before it truly began: at dawn, while Gheza led the first wandering pitch, his ropes dislodged a series of blocks that tumbled down to the belay. "[It was] not the best start, but at least no one got hurt," Della Bordella told Climbing. One of their lead lines was cut but the trio decided they had a workable amount to continue. They reached the summit late that evening, around 9:30 p.m., and watched as the sun set behind Cerro Torre. They chose to bivy there under clear skies and descended Pilar Rojo the following morning.

Que miras, it seems, was just the beginning of another successful Patagonian season for Della Bordella who a few days later repeated the Care Bear Traverse (5.11; 6,400ft), a link up of Aguja Guillaumet, Aguja Mermoz, and Cerro Chalten (Fitz Roy) via its North Pillar with Gheza. Then, in the most recent weather window, he teamed up with Kico Cerda for Rayo de Luz (5.11d; 1,300ft) on the West Face of Guillaumet, nearly nabbing an all-free ascent amid the icy conditions. He told Climbing: "It turned out to be a perfect line of cracks, vertical and sustained, a real pearl for lovers of the genre."

Man climbs a vertical white-granite corner in Patagonia.
Matteo Della Bordella finds his groove on one of Que miras‘ tough corners. (Photo: Courtesy Matteo Della Bordella)

Last year, Della Bordella's season ended in tragedy after a remarkable first ascent on Cerro Torre's east and north faces. Alongside Davide Bacci and Matteo De Zaiacomo, he had established a new route up the formidable aspect before linking up with Corrado "Korra" Pesce and Tomas Aguilo, who'd also climbed a new route on the east face. They climbed as a party of five to the summit but Pesce and Aguilo immediately began to descend, hoping to capitalize on the inbound night's cooler temperatures. Early the next morning the pair was hit by rock and ice fall, forcing a gravely injured Aguilo to descend alone while Pesce, mortally injured, remained on the wall. After descending a separate line, Della Bordella was horrified to learn of the accident. He immediately returned to the East Face in an attempt to rescue Aguilo and Pesce, climbing 1,000 feet of runout terrain before finding Aguilo. Because of inclement weather, however, Pesce could not be reached.

The death and rescue on Cerro Torre shook Della Bordella deeply, and this year in Patagonia he wanted to try something new: new styles, new partnership. Gheza had reached out to him in September 2022, asking to climb together in El Chalten. "I already had climbed with him in the past and the feeling was great, so he seemed [like] the right partner for [other] great Patagonian adventures," he said.

Three climbers on the summit of Aguja Mermoz, in front of Fitz Roy, in Patagonia.
Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll (left), Matteo Della Bordella, and Leo Gheza on the summit of Aguja Mermoz. (Photo: Couresty Matteo Della Bordella)

Their main goal was the full Fitz Traverse (5.11d C1; 11,800ft), a climbing objective that Della Bordella said is a significant departure from his typical big-wall endeavors. "It's a climbing style that, for me, is very different from the usual. [On traverses] you don't have extreme difficulties, but you have to climb quickly and efficiently and adapt to different [routes]. For me, a new challenge."

Though Della Bordella and Gheza did not achieve their main objective, Della Bordella later wrote that he's enjoying the new terrain.

Federico Bernardi runs the Italian climbing-news website

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