Chilean Patagonia, Various Ascents. On Monday, December 29, I crawled out of my cave at 5 a.m. I didn’t think the weather was terrific, so I went back to sleep. I woke up and started to the gear stash cave at 9 a.m. I organized things and at noon decided I might head up the couloir and see how things would go, figuring I would just stash my rope and gear for better weather later. At 4:30 p.m. I arrived at the notch between the Central and North towers. I began up the Monzino route on the North Tower, combining the first three pitches in one 70- meter rope length—climbed, rapped, and jugged it in maybe 35 minutes. I soloed over some 4th class for about 150 feet, then stashed my pack and much of my gear rack, figuring I would go for it. I soloed to the top from there with the rope on my back for retreating. I topped out one hour and 31 minutes after starting at the notch (it was 6:21 p.m.). I knew it was light enough to see until 10 or so. I made it back to the notch in exactly one hour and 30 minutes, rapping the whole way except maybe 20 to 100 feet of downclimbing here and there on 3rd- class terrain. I stashed my rope and gear at the top of the couloir and headed to my cave camp, which I reached by 11:15 p.m.
The next day, December 30, Steve “Lucky” Smith and I left the cave at about 6 a.m. We made it to the top of the coulior by 11 a.m. or so and started the Bonington route on the Central Tower at about 1 p.m. I lead the first two pitches and Lucky the next three, then we simul-climbed to one pitch from the top, switching leads once. We topped out at about 7 p.m., having done the whole route from the notch in six hours, 15 minutes. We made it back to the notch in about three hours and were back to the cave at about midnight.
Two days later, on January 1, Lucky and I started up the British/Strappo unfinished route (see AAJ 1997, pp. 260-1) on the Central Tower at about 11 a.m. We swung a few leads each. When we were about 100 meters short of the Brit’s high point (where the booty bag is), snow was building up on my arms and protection. We decided to retreat, and did, without much trouble, other than messes of torn rope confusing us at times all down the route.
On January 12, Lucky and I started up the Cave Man route in the French Valley. It was about noon when we started the first pitch. There was snow covering the slabs leading up to the route and we had to belay four times before getting to the base of the route proper. We made it up six pitches; it was 7 p.m. We hadn’t really intended on getting this far when we left camp, so we didn’t have full bivy gear, or enough food. We opted to retreat. On the last technical rappel, we wrapped tattered rope around a thread and backed it up. Lucky went first; it held. Then I went, and, while “bumping” the knot around to avoid a snag, the thread of rock broke. I slid 30 feet, rolled onto the talus, and came out of it with a broken thumb and a bad road rash on each hip.
Hans Florine, unaffiliated