AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

The Mountaineers

Argentine-Chilean Patagonia

Avalanche Tragedy, below El Tronador, above Bariloche. On April 25, a group of ten young Argentine climbers were camped in snow caves on the side of the Vieja Ridge on el Tronador. This was a training course for high-mountain guides, who were under the very able supervision of Sebastián de la Cruz. [The readers of AAJ, 1994 will remember his, Teodoro Plaza’s and Ramiro Calvo's remarkable exploits, which are recounted in the second article. The other two were also present at the course.] An extraordinarily heavy snowfall counseled retreat. On the morning of the 26th, the group set out, climbing toward the crest of the ridge. When Sebastian de la Cruz was within 20 meters of the ridge top, he suddenly felt a puff of air and sensed the snow giving way under his feet. Luckily, he and four others were not buried, though two were injured. They quickly dug out one who was half buried and another who, despite being completely covered by the snow, could be revived. Probing with ski poles for the other three, including Teo Plaza and Omar Moscoso, proved fruitless. A litter was improvised for Nicolás de la Cruz, brother of the director of the course, who had broken his pelvis. They struggled in the deep snow down the ridge to where at dusk there was no longer avalanche danger. A rescue group, summoned by radio arrived in the night and in the morning the whole group descended to the Refugio Meiling for helicopter evacuation. This has been a very sad year for the talented young Argentine climbers. Before his fatal accident, Teo Plaza had earlier nearly completed a new route of Cerro Stanhardt when he was struck by a falling cornice, as is described also in AAJ, 1994. The descent in his injured state was an epic. A second victim of this avalanche was Omar Moscoso, editor and publisher of Escalando, doubtless the best Latin American mountaineering magazine. Horacio Bresba was returning from an attempt on the Franco-Argentine route on Fitz Roy when he slipped and fell to his death. Their very good friend and frequent companion, the South African Phillip Lloyd, fell to his death from the Torre Norte del Paine when his rappel anchor pulled out.