Monday, November 29, 2010

Blown Away on La Peineta

It isn´t usual to arrive in Puerto Natales and within a week have a small weather window with which to attempt one of Torres del Paine´s many elusive granite towers, but that is exactly what happened. After being in town for only about 5 days, Josh and I saw a brief opportunity to actually go climbing. Our friend (and Head Logistics Coordinator) from Outward Bound, Caitlin Brown, had decided to take a long weekend from her studies in Santiago to come down and hike in the park; little did she know she would be helping us carry in our tremendous load of gear! While the weather did not look stable enough to go for our main objective on the Central Tower, we took our full kit up to the Valle de Silencio so that we will be ready when it does come. Instead, we set our sights towards a route on La Peineta, a distinct tower accessed from the Silencio, called Durazno para Don Quijote (IV 5.10+ A1 or 5.11c).
Josh scopes the lines on the East Face of Central Tower

After getting a good sleep in our old home, the Italian Cave, we woke at 12.30am on November 27th...MY BIRTHDAY! That´s right, a spell of good weather on my birthday! Is that luck or what?! Anyway, starting from that far down the valley meant we had a very long approach in store for us. About 6 hours later, we were at the base of La Peineta, having just ascended the super-couloir. The wind was slack when we began the couloir ascent, but was begining to pick up as we donned our rock shoes.

Beginning the "Red Ramp" pitch
No. 5 Camalot and gloves. Fun times!

The climbing was spectacular, up clean and featured white and red granite. Pitch after pitch of rope stretching splitter cracks led us further up the southwest buttress of Peineta, but the increasing force of the wind, together with the debilitating temperature drop, was beginning to take its toll. Below the 9th pitch, only 2 pitches from the summit, I was unable to warm my toes, which had become cold and wooden. Luckily for us, this is where the rappel line leaves the route and continues down the main corner system, so we hastily organized the rappels.
Having seen no more than a handful of ascents since its FA in 1997, the rap stations were pretty dire, but without too much donation of our own gear, we were able to re-equip the line and safely make it back to our boots which were waiting for us in the sunshine.

North Face of North Tower of Paine

A long descent and march back through the snow got us to the cave at just after 8pm. I can say with assurity that after having been on the move for 19 hours camp to camp, that this is the MOST of any of my birthdays which I have truly experienced!
Thanks to Mom and Dad for giving me this life that I am trying my hardest to live to its fullest.

With nothing but rain on the horizon, Josh and I sit and do what we do best. Wait.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It is hard to believe that I have already been in Argentina for a month, but I have been kept so busy that the time has flown by. Bariloche has treated me very kindly, as have the many friends I have made since first coming here in 2008. A couple of days ago I finished up the last of my spanish courses, and I have been going up to the Frey to climb every weekend. With a ton of snow still up at the Refugio, it has made good training for the 3,000ft couloir approach to the Central Tower which is never far from my mind. My friedn Lissie is traveling here in South America, and she was lucky enough to come up for a visit on the nicest weekend we have had here. We managed to climb 17 fun pitches, and feast on homemade chocolate every night. While climbing the Torre Principal, two magnificent condors came and kept us company, flying within 20 ft of us at times.
I bought an old bike here, and it has been great to pedal around town and along the many lakes.

Tomorrow I leave for the Paine, where I will meet Josh and after reuniting with the crew in Puerto Natales, we will begin preparation to go back into the Valle de Silencio.