Saturday, November 28, 2009

No Paine, No Gaine

Alright, coming to your cubicle straight from the Ghetto Shanty itself at the head of the Ascensio Valley, is the first of the Patagonia Reports from Expeditiòn Fiebre de Cumbre (Summit Fever).
Josh Garrison and I arrived on November 15 to Puerto Natales, in Southern Chilean Patagonia to begin all the preperations to head into the Torres del Paine park to start climbing as many towers as we can before the real world calls back.

Beginning the hike past the Hosteria.

After securing our expedition´s permits with Park Administration we hiked with heavy loads up to Campomento Japonés, the climber´s camp used as a base for all of the west-side routes on the Torres. A 4 hour hike interrupted by a welcomed coffee break with the rangers in Campamento Las Torres got us to our home for the next 8 days.

Our first views of the Towers. Big.

The One, the Only, The Ghetto Shanty.


For 6 days the weather Gods did not smile on us. Temps were cold, snow fell, and many jumping jacks were done to keep toes warm. The gin rummy score was in the thousands. But with a good weather window forecasted, we racked and packed to move to a high camp on the moraine below the Torres, with the intent to first climb the Monzino Route on Torre Norte. The walls which soar above us, Fortaleza and Escudo, are ominous and featureless, home of some of the hardest and most visionary routes in the world.

Waking up at 4am with beautiful clear skies and no wind, we began the long arduous slog up the gully to the base of the climbing. The recent powder accumulation made this quite a task. At the base of the roped climbing we got a bit off route trying to avoid snow, only to encounter serious and run-out climbing. Back on route, the conditions did not prove favorable to rock climbing. It sucked. What should have taken 30 minutes to simul-climb was pitched out in 4 funky mixed pitches.

Sunrise-towers silhouetted on Escudo.

Post-hole hero.

Ugh. Screaming Barfies are no fun.

Making it to Col Bich, the notch between the Torre Norte and Torre Central, at 2.45pm, thoroughly exhausted, frozen and wet, we made the regrettable decision to head back down instead of onwards. It was a good first run, and with the hope that warmer temps will bring the col pitches into better condition, we cached our gear high, glissaded down thousands of feet to camp and now wait in town getting ready (read: eating as many empanadas as possible).

Until the next one, Hasta Proximo!