South America, Chile, Cerro Gorra Blanca and Volcán Lautaro, Patagonia

Publication Year: 1964.

Cerro Gorra Blanca and Volcán Lautaro, Patagonia. The Slovene-Argentine Expedition of the Club Andino Esloveno, Sección Buenos Aires, was led by Peter Skvarca and included Augusto Mengelle, Luciano Pera and Dr. Antonio Luis Beramendi. They set up Base Camp at the Piedra del Fraile in the valley of the Río Eléctrico. On January 12, 1964 Skvarca and Mengelle made the first ascent of Cerro Gorra Blanca (9252 feet) from the southeast. This same day the pair also climbed Cerro Cardinal Cagliero (8432 feet), a short distance away. Both were difficult ice climbs. Gorra Blanca was climbed from the west two days later by four climbers from the Centro Andino Buenos Aires led by Carlos Comesaña. (The two groups were lamentably in open competition.) Until January 28 Skvarca and Pera did no more than to establish a high camp on the Glaciar Marconi, where they sat out a storm in an ice cave. (Their two companions had had to return.) Leaving at 11 a.m. on skis, they reached the base of Volcán Lautaro (11,089 feet) at midnight. (Thus far: Arko; Skvarca continues. — Editor.) At 7 A.M. on the 29th we left the tent and quickly covered the 3 kilometers that separated us from the volcano. The climbing was not difficult at first except for route-finding through the labyrinth of wide crevasses. I now see why Shipton was unable to find a route of access in 1958 since the volcano was very active and the crevasses open. We climbed the southeast ridge in a strong wind, which drifted the powdery snow. From time to time we had to ascend vertical schrund walls, which showed the value of our 12-point crampons. We were in clear weather, though the icecap had many low-lying clouds. The ridge ended in a fore-summit. We had to descend through a big hole, possibly an extinct crater. A strong smell of sulphur rose from narrow cracks. A last ice wall, the most difficult, of some 500 feet, separated us from the summit. It was very steep, furrowed by schrunds and heavily corniced. But everything ends at last and at 3:30 p.m. we finally surmounted this mushroom of ice to complete the first ascent. Only a few kilometers to the west the icecap ends and the green hills begin, furrowed by deep fjords where crevassed glaciers end. We clearly distinguished Fjord Eyre and Seno Trinidad. To the north we could see as far as Cerro O’Higgins and Lago San Martín. Some 25 miles to the east we picked out the Gorra Blanca and the fantastic FitzRoy group. Fifty meters below the summit we found an active crater some two meters in diameter. (Arko concludes. — Editor.) They descended the east ridge and reached camp at 8 p.m. The next two days the weather was stormy and their return on January 31 was complicated by strong winds which forced them to hole up, despite their having run out of food and fuel. Finally on February 1, they reached their camp on the Glaciar Marconi.

Vojslav Arko and Peter Skvarca, Club Andino Bariloche