“He can no longer be alive.” With these words, the Argentine doctor Carolina Codo, head of the Patagonian Mountain Rescue Center, ended on Sunday the already slim hopes that the Italian top climber Corrado, called “Korra” Pesce could have survived the Cerro Torre avalanche accident. The 41-year-old’s body was discovered by drone, she said, lying 50 meters below a rock platform where Pesce and his Argentine rope partner, Tomas Aguilo, had spent the night from Thursday to Friday. “At that altitude, and without adequate protection, death from hypothermia comes after a maximum of two hours.”
New route opened via the North Face
The two climbers had opened a new route last week through the North Face of the legendary 3,128-meter-high granite giant, which is often battered by storms, and had started to descend from the summit via the same wall. At their bivouac site, they were hit by an avalanche of ice and rocks early Friday morning. Aguilo suffered several fractures and his lung collapsed. Pesce’s injuries were even worse, and he was unable to move.
Aguilo managed to descend a short distance and make an emergency call. A spontaneously assembled international team of climbers, including Thomas Huber of Germany and Roger Schaeli of Switzerland, rushed to the aid of the two injured climbers. They managed to bring Aguilo to a place from where the Argentine could be airlifted by rescue helicopter. His condition is said to be stable. The rescuers were unable to reach Pesce, also due to the increasingly bad weather.
On the most difficult routes
Korra Pesce lived for over 20 years in Chamonix, where he also worked as a mountain guide. The Italian climbed the most difficult routes all over the world, including the Indian Himalayas – and time and again in Patagonia “with its incredible mountains, breathtaking landscapes and legendary routes,” as he once wrote.
There, with Tomas Aguilo, he succeeded in 2016 on Torre Egger (2,880 meters) in the first repetition of the extremely demanding route “Psycho Vertical”, which was first climbed in 1986 by the Slovenians Janez Jeglic, Silvo Karo and Francek Knez. Pesce and Aguilo mastered this 950-meter-high “direttissima” in steep granite in alpine style.
With their first ascent of the Cerro Torre North Face route, the two fulfilled another dream. However, this one ended in a nightmare. About Cerro Torre, Korra had once said: “A lot of people talk about it as a killer mountain, as if the mountain is alive, has a soul, and is so bitchy that it kills people who try to climb it.”
It was the second avalanche accident in Patagonia with a fatal outcome: Three weeks ago, the 29-year-old German climber Robert Grasegger had been caught by a wet snow avalanche on Aguja Guillaumet (2,579 meters) and died of his injuries.