American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Chile, La Fortaleza, Paine Group, Patagonia

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1968

La Fortaleza, Paine Group, Patagonia. A very strong British expedition made the first ascent on January 5, 1968 of La Fortaleza (9040 feet) in the Paine group. We are grateful to the leader, Ian Clough, for details of the climb. Clough was accompanied by his wife Niki, Chris Jackson, John Gregory, Gordon Hibberd, David Nicol and Derek Walker. In December they ferried supplies across Lago Nordenskjold, despite a storm which blew their rubber boat over and punctured it. They found La Fortaleza extremely difficult from the start. Above boulderfields and scree, they were faced with "huge belts of boilerplate-like slabs, low-angle but severe.” These would have been too difficult for load-carrying, even with fixed ropes and so they investigated further and found a huge couloir which did penetrate the slabs for some 3000 feet. A snow cave was dug near the top of the couloir below a 1000-foot band of vertical rock. This was broken only by a thin gully with a 350-foot ribbon of very steep ice, which they called the "Ice Hose,” with snow gullies above and below it. The final 80 feet of the ice ribbon were vertical and the whole was more difficult than the "Ice Hose” on the Eiger. Bad weather set in on December 18. They again left Base Camp on the 26th. Mrs. Clough and Gregory cleared the fixed ladder in the "Ice Hose” of ice. The route was continued from the gully leftward up a steep retaining wall and across smooth, holdless slabs to the "Big Corner,” the only break through the 1000-foot upper vertical walls. After 200 feet of vertical verglased rock, a steep ice gully rose, terminating in a steep, then overhanging 400-foot granite wall. Bad weather slowed progress until January 2, when Nicol and Gregory climbed part of the wall. On the 4th Clough, Hibberd and Jackson completed the route to the final 1500-foot summit icefield. Gregory, Nicol and Hibberd climbed to the summit on the 5th.

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