Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Back from the Turbio!

Full Moon rising over Piritas

After having just returned from 34 days in the Patagonian backcountry, seeing no one else and being alone to work harder than either of us had worked before, I am left thoughroughly depleted, mentally and physically. Now back in Bariloche for a week or so, before figuring out my next step. Here is a preliminary expedition report and a couple photos. More to come for sure.

Leeches, carniverous bees, hacking through thick bamboo jungle on the approach: these are not the things that come to mind when you talk about Patagonia. But the amount of mystery and secrecy I found surrounding the many hidden granite walls of the Turbio IV, or Valle Oscuro piqued my interest, and in late January 2011 I found myself back in Bariloche, Argentina with my partner Josh Garrison, preparing to go in virtually onsight with the exception of a decade old hand-drawn map.

After waiting several days for the river to go down from recent flooding, we began a difficult 60km horseride to transport us and our gear to the junction of the Turbio tributaries. From here we made our first trip into the Mariposa Valley. The trailfinding was the hardest either of has ever encountered, through dense forests of cane colihue jungle and over sketchy tyrolean crossings, but after a mid-approach bivy while hopelessly lost, we reached the open alpine meadow of the Mariposa which became our basecamp for the following 14 days. During this time we experienced lots of heavy rain, but in between managed to climb the second ascent of the Brazilian route “El Palito” (5.10+ 550m) on La Oreja, and simul-soled a Royal Arches type feature we named the Earlobe to the east of La Oreja (5.6 900m). We attempted new routes on a feature we named El Diente (5 new pitches, 200m), as well as on the Northeast Piller of La Oreja (9 pitches 400m), but were thwarted on both by closed out and vegetated cracks. While we found the rumor of “10 Half Domes” to be true, most of the walls are capped by large glaciars which sweep the faces more often than one would hope for.

Josh find clean fingerlocks on El Diente

La Oreja

Summit of Earlobe, looking downinto Piritas valley

After a final resupply at the Turbio junction, we moved our camp over into the lesser known Piritas Valley. Piritas Right has seen some action from two different teams in the last several years, and for good reason: it has the cleanest and most spectalular granite in either of the valleys. Again experiencing days on end of heavy rain, confining us to the tarp-shanty we constructed, we grew anxious and began slimming down our rations in hopes for a weather window before our food ran out.

At last, with 4 days left, our window arrived. Leaving camp under a cold and clear sky, we made it to the bottom of the approach slabs by day break. The approach to the main wall is long and involved, kind of like the Death Slabs with pitches up to 5.10. By late morning we reached the bottom of our intended route in the center of the face and began climbing pitch after pitch of rope-stretching clean laser-cut cracks, with some heady slab climbing and traversing connecting the near plumb feature. We topped out at dusk, to a brilliant orange sunset sweeping from the distant Pacific Ocean (only 30 miles away!) to the snowy flanks of Monte Tronodor to the north, before settling in for a very cold full moon lit open bivy on top. In the morning we decended for 7 hours down the shoulder and slabs, for a camp to camp time of 33 hours, having established Under a Southern Star (V 5.11 460m)

Line of Under a Southern Star

Ryan follows thin cracks low on the route

Josh, about to get cold.

Atfer making one last heavy carry down the Turbio IV to our low camp, we loaded all of our gear into 2 lightweight packrafts and decended the Rio Turbio back to Lago Puelo in a long, relaxing day, finally able to let the river do its share of the work after 34 days in the Alpine.

Arrrrgh, the PIRATES always SEND!

This has by fay been one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences of my life, and Josh and I would like to thank the American Alpine Club Mountain Fellowship Grant, Sterling Rope, Alpacka Rafts, Montbell, MSR and Evolv, as well as our hard working gauchos Cholo and Mikol, all of whom helped turn this pipe dream into reality.