Cerro Torre successful ascent for French women mountain guides Lise Billon, Fanny Schmutz and Maud Vanpoulle

«A view from the top, guess which one!” writes Lise Billon on her socials. “The moon is watching over us,” she says. Lise and her rope-mates, Fanny Schmutz and Maud Vanpoulle, set up the most beautiful of bivouacs, under a benevolent moon and clear sky, with the Fitz Roy lit up by the night star as their guardian. They climbed Cerro Torre, the proudest and most beautiful peak in the Andes.

An immense smile comes to mind. Pure joy, no doubt, for those who, season after season, have tamed the harsh mountains of Patagonia. Its climate and furious winds. Its golden rock. Season after season, to rub shoulders, one day, with the most majestic of peaks, Cerro Torre. Twice, Lise Billon has tried. Twice, she had to give up. The 2024 season was the right one, but it wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Far from it.

Cerro Torre’s night bivi. ©Lise Billon

The trio announced their intentions when they set off for Patagonia this season: to climb the Torre! At 3145 metres, Cerro Torre is not the highest, but it is undoubtedly one of the most complicated mountains to climb. Hard pitches stack up to its frost cap, made of ice without consistency, whose blocks break off in whole sections without warning. An extreme pitch, in seventh degree, right up there, since two Americans restored the Torre’s nobility and commitment by breaking the bolts drilled by Cesare Maestri. No, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion.

“The season is complicated here. The wind won’t stop, and when it does, the mountains are white with frost,” wrote Lise Billon on February 17. “Now we’re more experienced, more familiar with this massif. Our ambitions have grown.” And Lise jokes after climbing a classic route: “I would have felt in agony ten years ago, it would have seemed ten times harder!” The reason? What Lise calls the Chalten routine: “endless walking, a bit of climbing, going home, a beer on the terrace, and dancing late into the night”.

Happy to have pursued this chimera, the Cerro Torre. All the way to the top.

Raised in a climbing family – her father is mountain guide and her bro Leo is the famous GMHM member and guide – Lise Billon told us how much she loved Patagonia and the climbing community at El Chalten. But not just for the peaks and the climbers who, like her, flock there regularly. She also wondered about their motivations. How much risk is acceptable on these peaks of dangerous, even fatal, beauty? She who wants to put the adventure before the summit at all costs. With the occasional renunciation, as on the K7 in Pakistan last summer.

All three women mountain guides, Maud Vanpoulle, Fanny Schmutz and Lise don’t take themselves too seriously and are used to having a good laugh, as evidenced by their crazy selfies on the roads and in the Patagonian mountain huts. But they have accumulated the experience that makes all the difference.

I know the three friends are happy now. For believing in themselves. For having once again set their sights on this “dream”. I know that this dream, the Cerro Torre, will bring them immense joy for years to come. Well done!