Who Was Toni Rohrer?

While certainly an expert mountaineers’ paradise, San Lorenzo can also offer less expert trekkers a taste of the wilderness life.

From Luis Soto and Lucy Gomez‘s home, one can hike up a relatively easy path for a few hours and emerge, suddenly, at Refugio Toni Rohrer. Idyllic and mystical, set on the fringes of the fringes of the forest just before it opens up into violent scree and majestic views of the massif. A mountain stream bubbled by next to the cabin, and someone had carved out part of a log for for easy water collection (see below).

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(Above, a ghastly emerald tarn fed by San Lorenzo’s glacier)

Adding to the mystique is a still standing ancient refugio of legendary Italian priest and climber Alberto de Agostini. De Agostini was the first known person to summit San Lorenzo, in 1943. Legend has it that, being a religious man, Alberto always brought his Virgin Maria with him wherever he climbed (By the way, in 1931, De Agostini also crossed the Southern Ice Field, and then turned around and headed back the way he came). Here’s a shot of De Agostini’s San Lorenzo base camp:

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Now, who was Toni Rohrer, and why does he have a remote Patagonian mountain cabin named after him?

Toni and his wife Maria were attempting to summit San Lorenzo one morning when, just shy of the top, an avalanche struck. Accounts differ, but according to what Lucy Gomez told us, the avalanche swept Toni away, while his wife looked on in horror, still attached to his dead body via the belay rope.

Santiago Batet, an Argentine climber, was also killed on that fateful day in 2000.

Maria and Toni’s friends made it a point to return to San Lorenzo every year afterwards to celebrate Toni’s life. In the refugio, you can still find photo albums and memories dedicated to Toni.

San Lorenzo seems to be quite a finicky summit, and one mountaineer quotes a 10% success rate on summiting.

In the quiet of the refugio, we buckled down for a cold evening, the mountain winds swirling outside the cabin walls. While we were happy for a warm place to rest, we couldn’t help but feel uneasy and terribly unimportant in the shadow of such a summit. Epic efforts, from mountaineers all over the globe, rebuffed in mere seconds. Brushing away proverbial flies. Below, a peak into the interior of the cabin:

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That evening we had the cabin to ourselves to ponder our tenuous humanity. Warm wood stove, best friend maté to spark the conversation, howling winds, groaning glaciers, and the successes and failures written in the storybooks left behind by mountaineers made for a visceral and unforgettable evening.

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And now, for a final Lucy Gomez anecdote:

At the time, the simultaneously hated and loved Lonely Planet Trekking in the Patagonian Andes was in heavy rotation. Very early on, we became wary of the proposed trail times, many of which were due to legendary mountaineer Clem Lindenmeyer. Before his tragic death in the Gonga Shan mountain range, Clem had passed through San Lorenzo hiking and researching the famed Patagonian range.

Lucy obviously met and shared meals with Clem, and was fond of him. Even though at the time, seven years had elapsed since his death, Lucy did not know Lindenmeyer had passed away! We assumed she knew and said it offhand, brandishing the stupid Lonely Planet book like a pair of amateurs. Lucy was visibly shaken by such news. We sat in silence together, again, the power of the mountain…

 

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  • We Said Go Travel

    WSGT Travel Writer

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