American Climber Dies in Patagonia

On February 23, 2022, rockfall on Patagonia’s world-famous Cerro Chaltén — also known as Fitz Roy — killed beloved big-wall climber and California native, John Bolte. He was just 26 years old.

Losing John Bolte on Cerro Chaltén

Bolte and his climbing partner, Adam Martos, had traveled to Patagonia to summit Afanassieff, a 1,500m 5.10 that follows the massif’s northwest ridge. Two days on the wall proved fruitful, and on February 22, the pair had claimed their ascent and spent that evening bivvied on the summit.

For the descent, Bolte and Martos went the conventional route, a neighboring line called Franco-Argentina. They planned to break the hours-long rappel into two parts — first by rapping from the summit to La Silla col in the morning. There, they would post up and wait out the hottest part of the day before continuing the second leg of the descent.

 

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As with their ascent of Afanassieff, the first half of Franco-Argentina went smoothly, and they continued down the massif that evening. Descending big walls requires the climbers to set up and execute multiple rappels. They were on their final rappel to the glacier when loose rock dislodged from a notoriously unstable gully above. Experience had taught both climbers to tuck hard and fast into the wall at the first sign of collapse. Martos emerged from the shower uninjured; for Bolte, the impact was immediately fatal.

According to a close friend and climber, Tyler Karow, Martos managed to fix the line and rap down to the glacier alone and amidst continued rockfall. He continued on to a camp at the base, where he alerted a contingent of climbers about the accident.

Climbers honor Bolte’s memory

Climbing recently published an intimate profile of the alpinist from Santa Cruz as his family, closest friends, and many climbing partners around the world knew him. In an email to the outlet, Candian climber and one of Bolte’s many friends, Josh Schuh, said the following:

Bolte was an absolute gem of a human, and I feel honored to have had some incredible trips and experiences alongside him. I’ll miss his goofy jokes, laughing at his ridiculous mullet, but also his thoughtfulness, integrity, and outlook on life. I’m saddened that we won’t share another alpine sunrise together or sit around a fire. You will be sorely missed, brother.

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing. In 2020, Jilli left her corporate position to pursue an outdoor-oriented life. She now works as a contributor, an editor, and a gear tester for ExplorersWeb and various other outlets within the AllGear network. She is based out of Austin, Texas where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.


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Frances Bolte
Frances Bolte
25 days ago

Thank you for your beautiful piece on John.