American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Chile, Chilean-Argentinian Patagonia, Cerro Torre, East Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982

Cerro Torre, East Face. In January Phil Burke and Tom Proctor from England climbed the east face of Cerro Torre nearly to the summit. On a previous 28-day attempt, Brian Wyvill and Ben Campbell-Kelly had climbed over half the route. They left a “super-box” near the Col of Conquest. With that, they worked out a system of pulling up the super-box and then fixing another 1000 feet of rope ahead, enabling them to climb fast if the weather was good and yet be safe in bad weather. In 1981 they worked on much the same system. They used EBs on rock and usually they placed nuts and Friends in preference to pitons. Originally the team was four, but Brian Wyvill was hit by a rock and Geoff Birtles had to return to work, leaving Proctor and Burke to do the climb. For 1000 feet they followed Maestri’s line of pitons and bolts, though they climbed mostly free. Then there were two rope-lengths on the icefield, a rappel into a gully, an A2 pitch and then another 1000 feet up a slabby buttress to near the Col of Conquest. That much had been done in two pushes interrupted by a short spell of bad weather. However, for the next three weeks it stormed incessantly. When the weather finally improved, they spent five days carrying supplies to the super-box. Above, rose a huge overhanging dihedral. The three-pitch entry into it was one of the most difficult parts of the climb. Though Wyvill and Campbell-Kelly had spent weeks on this problem, Burke and Proctor climbed 1000 feet nearly to the top of it in a day. The next day took them quickly back up the fixed ropes, but they found the exit from the dihedral very difficult. After another night in the box, they were away early. At their previous high point, they were 4000 feet above the base of the climb at the junction of the east and north faces. The next seven rope-lengths on nearly vertical, verglased rock took them twelve hours. Just below the summit, the ice turned to overhanging mush. Reluctantly they had to turn back a few feet from their goal. Further details are in Mountain N° 78 and N° 79, which also includes interesting comments on Cesare Maestri’s disputed ascent.

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