American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Chile—Tierra del Fuego, Monte Sarmiento, Attempt on Unclimbed West Summit

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1972

Monte Sarmiento, Attempt on Unclimbed West Summit, Tierra del Fuego. November 16 was the only stormless day in the 42 we spent on the expedition. At seven A.M. it stopped raining and the wind dropped at Base Camp on the Canal Magdalena at the northwest base of Sarmiento. We left our tents and climbed through tangled forest, then grass slopes and finally into the zone of rock and snow. From Camp I at 2350 feet we picked up our climbing gear and food and staggered on under heavy loads along a snow and ice ridge and then along the glacier to Vittore Col (3050 feet). Before us lay the Conway Glacier and the north col (4250 feet) where Camp II was set up inside a crevasse. For us the north col up till then had meant two things: wind and storm. But now, at two P.M., in the calm we could see the twin summits of Sarmiento (7710 and 7050 feet) like giant cauliflowers. The col between the two peaks was accessible by climbing a steep ice slope; from there the higher east peak rose above a ridge with apparently impossible ice steps. The western summit seemed more possible except for one 135- foot vertical ice step which barred the ridge. In cloudy but not threatening weather we set out for the col in deep new snow through crevasses and séracs to the foot of the steep slope below the col where at 6000 feet we were only 1000 feet below the summit. Because of high temperatures we waited for a freeze to lessen avalanche danger. At eight o’clock it had frozen enough to proceed, but almost immediately lead-colored clouds spewed over us. We descended to Camp II where we waited for four days before we staggered down to Base Camp, still battered by the storm. Our group was composed of Ezio La Boria, Aldo Bonino, Giuseppe Ferrari and I plus Lieutenant Fernando Martínez and Sergeant Víctor Sáez of the Chilean Army.

GIUSEPPE AGNOLOTTI, Club Alpino Italiano

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