Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Spires, Splitters and Cabernet Sauvignon

Here it is, straight from the frontline, all the news that´s fit to print, coming to you live from the scorching cubicle in the heart of malbec country.
I just got back yesterday afternoon after 11 days in El Cajon de los Arenales, a deep canyon located in the "foothills" of the Andes Range at around 10,000ft, whose main claim to fame is a ridiculous number of steep granite spires split by record number of perfect splitter cracks. With just enough information to get me psyched, but not enough to give me any idea what was in store for me, I rallied out with my friend Amir to see what all the fuss was about.
We were not disappointed. What we found and climbed there during our stay equaled many of the 5 star free climbing routes in Yosemite.


The view.

The further you work up the canyon, the longer and more involved the routes become. Every single route we climbed was a classic in its own right, ascending laser cut splitters and exposed ridges leading to sometimes very small summit blocks on top of slender needles (agujas), the most memorable being Armonica (210m, 5.10b), El Escorpion (220m, 5.11a), and Mundo Interior (170m, 5.11b). The length of these routes might seem long just on their own, but also realize that the bases of these climbs were often more than 1,900 vertical feet away up a 45 degree scree and talus slope. So every day it was almost 4,000ft of gain and decent just to get to the climbing!

Me on crux pitch of Mundo Interior, Aguja Espina

Me on Summit of Aguja Espina

While we basecamped at the upper end of the canyon, near the upper climber´s refugio, Amir and I made a ton of great Argentine and Basque friends, and lived it up with the beverage of choice, a fine (or not-so-fine) wine passed around ring-of-fire style.

Summit shot on Aguja Charles Webis, after El Escorpion

Each route we climbed was a bit longer and harder, as we got a feel for the grades and climbing, in preparation for the granddaddy of the trip out to Arenales, an ascent of the route Mejor no Hablas ciertas cosas (500m, 5.11a) on the North Pillar of El Cohete, a massive granite pillar which captivates the imaginations of climbers in the Arenales.
So we racked, we hiked, and we sent. The route itself was rad- we simulclimbed 200m of rotten rock to get to the base of the pillar, where the hard climbing started right off the bat. Many pitches and several difficult cruxes later, with cold temps and numb hands we stood on the summit and let out a big monkey call to our friends up in the spires before beginning the many hours of rappels to get back down to the base.

Amir on the OW pitch 7 El Cohete

Pitch 9 El Cohete

Our Basque friend Jon climbing Pichulla de Caballo at night (5.13a)

El Cajon de los Arenales is an amazing place with an insane amount of potential, and I plan to make a return trip already. But for now, it is time for some New Year´s Fiestas, and then down to Bariloche to climb in the world-renowned Frey area.

¡Hasta Luego!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Spires, Splitters and Cabernet Sauvignon"
Getting a Payday advance is just a few steps away