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South America, Chile, Cerro Balmaceda and Cerro Paine, Patagonia

Cerro Balmaceda and Cerro Paine, Patagonia. An Argentine expedition of the Club Andino Bariloche had expected to attempt the main peak of the Paine group, which they had attempted in 1954 and 1955. Just before leaving for Punta Arenas in mid October 1957 they were surprised to be informed by Chilean officials that these soaring, ice-fluted granite Paine spires, which rise to altitudes between 9000 and 10,000 feet from near sea level, were being reserved for an Italian expedition sponsored by the Padre Alberto de Agostini. Political permission has never been necessary in Chile. The Chileans assigned them Lieutenant Ramírez and Corporal Saavedra and gave them permission to attempt Cerro Balmaceda (6677 feet), some 30 miles south. The Balmaceda group is composed of three parallel ridges that run north and south. The westernmost caused them little difficulty, but the second was definitely of Alpine character, despite its height of only 5500 feet. In frightfully bad weather, typical of the region, they reached a pass which gave access to the third ridge, which is crowned by the highest peaks. On October 25 a momentary break in the clouds gave them a view of a glacier which promised a route up the northwest side to the summit. When, after nearly three weeks of incessantly bad weather, the weather suddenly improved, on November 8, they left their snow-cave camp on the pass, although the summits still lay hidden in the clouds. Otto Meiling, Ivan Arnšek, Carlos Bottazzi, and the Chilean, Saavedra, reached the top at 2:45 P.M. just as the clouds cleared from the peaks.

Meanwhile a small party was reconnoitering the Paine group. After a week of bad weather, on October 26 they reached a glacial cirque where from 5500 feet a couloir ascends the rock walls to the "techo” or roof, a high glacial basin around the outer edge of which rise the principal summit pyramids. After ascending the 60°-couloir several times to be driven back by the weather, on November 8 Augusto Vallmitjana and his son Augusto, Carlos Sonntag, and Davorin Jereb ascended to the "techo.” The first two made the second ascent of Paine South (Cumbre Bariloche), first climbed by the Chileans in 1955. The latter two attacked the southeast face of the main peak (10,007 feet). Difficult ice-climbing above a 6000-foot cliff brought them finally to the foot of the rocks. This pair returned two days later to ascend the route they had prepared in the ice, to climb the severe rock face, and to reach a snow gulley about 100 feet below the summit ridge. Although there seemed to be no further difficulties, they turned back from there in deteriorating weather. Other members of the party were Vojslav Arko, José Iglesias, and Benjamin Dixon.