Torre Central, Attempt, Conflageration, and Plain Hard Luck. A British expedition comprising Noel Craine, Simon Nadin and Strappo Hughes did not summit on the Central Tower of Paine in the Chilean Patagonia in February. If you like ghost stories, then read on.
After weeks of uninspiring weather, Noel and Simon refixed 1,000 feet of the pre-existing big corner system (tried by Italians and Japanese and climbed by Spanish; the only route left of Wild, Wild West on the west face) and Strappo led into a superb unclimbed corner/crack system to the left. The climbing, though hard, was path-like compared to the various mishaps that occurred back in base camp. A 25-foot tree branch snapped off above our (borrowed) Himalayan Hotel, fell 50 feet and bisected the tent mere inches from my toes. Two days later the cabin of the Japanese Camp went up in flames at 2 a.m. Totally inexplicable. Cases of propane, liters of white gas and three MSR stoves took to the night air as did much of the camp’s food and climbing gear.
A decent day arrived and we climbed our system to easy ground in three long pitches of 5.10 and 5.11 climbing. As another storm looked likely we started rapping off just after nightfall, having continued to fix to our highest point.
On February 22, Strappo learned of the murder of his sister in Liverpool and returned to England.
With 400 feet left to summit, Noel and Simon jumared the lines and discovered that one of the ropes had snapped. Practically all the gear was at the top of the wall, so reclimbing the route was out of the question.
The small metal crucifix that was found near Cerro Torre four years ago will soon be returned to its exact original location with humble apologies to its owner.
Strappo Hughes, unaffiliated