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South America, Chile, Chilean Patagonia, Cerro Cota 2000, The Keyhole Route (a.k.a. Eli's Wet Dream)

Cerro Cota 2000, The Keyhole Route (a.k.a. Eli’s Wet Dream). On December 20, 1996, Eli Helmuth, Gardner Heaton and I arrived in the Valle Francaise of Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine in southern Chile. Cerro Cota 2000 is visible through the beech trees that provided shelter for our base camp at Campo Britanico. Following the usual load carrying in poor weather we climbed our first pitch on December 27. Over the following two weeks we were only able to fix three more pitches over two independent days of favorable weather. Those four rope lengths contained the difficult aid and all of the 18 holes that we drilled on the route.

Camp I was established under a roof 700 feet up. Gardner and I committed to the route on a clear January 16. Eli had run out of time a week earlier and had to leave to fulfill a guiding commitment. It took three days to fix the five pitches that brought us to the name-sake and the most prominent feature of the route: the Keyhole. This is an alcove/roof that is 30 feet wide at the top, pinches off 60 feet below and is recessed 20 feet. With sharp cracks all around, a more sheltered portaledge bivy could not be manufactured.

After a full day of hauling our two pigs into the Keyhole, we spent a marginal weather day in the comforts of the abode. We expected to fix several pitches on January 21; instead, we thoroughly enjoyed clean cracks on dry granite in the sun, and at 6 p.m. found ourselves straddling the knife-edge summit. On the descent that evening we left three ropes hanging and the next day enjoyed top-roping stellar cracks 2,000 feet off the ground.

We had finished more quickly than anticipated, and our descent was exciting due to the weight of the bags. After dumping 22 liters of water we still had 100-plus pounds going down! Eight more rappels, with only one stuck rope, found us back on the ground enjoying our mail in the comfort of the woods.

Over the next ten days Gardner and I packed our loads down from Cota, leaving only the rappel anchors. We made an attempt on Aleta de Tiberon and the Caveman Route but were weathered off both. The Keyhole Route (VI A4 5.10, 2,200 feet, 14 pitches) is the second route on the east face of Cota 2000.

Joe Reichert, Unaffiliated