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South America, Argentine Patagonia, Aguja Saint Exupery, Chiaro de Luna, Techada Negro, Attempt, and Shady Wilson Spire, House of Cards

Aguja Saint Exupery, Chiaro de Luna, Techada Negro, Attempt, and Shady Wilson Spire, House of Cards. Chad Gamer and I made an ascent of Chiaro de Luna (5.11, 25 pitches) on Aguja Saint Exupery. The route takes a line near an indistinct prow on the west face. We climbed the route in 15 hours and 35 minutes from base to summit and took about three hours to approach via an easy ramp and a wide snow couloir. Due to cold temperatures in the morning and no training because of months of rain and holiday gluttony back in North Carolina, we found the crux third pitch too troublesome to free; we did, however, free the rest of the route at 5.11b. The route included the usual stunning Patagonian features, splitter cracks systems, corners and an especially nice finger crack and layback flake near an arête high on the route. We summitted at sunset and rappelled leisurely in the light of the full moon to a wide rocky ledge at half-height, where we rested and shivered till sun-up. We reached the Polish Camp 36 hours after departure, having contended with a few stuck ropes.

Earlier in our trip, we attempted to climb Techada Negro from the Bridwell Camp only to find a grim band of chossy slate barring access to the easy snowfields leading to the summit. Unwilling to risk our lives for that particular chosspile, we opted to traverse east into a cirque ringed by a number of spires and cliffs. We chose a prominent spire in the middle and, armed with four stoppers and three tricams, charged the west ridge. Helmetless in double boots, we climbed two pitches of the most fractured and loose basalt imaginable. On pitch two, I dislodged a 60-pound block which actually shook the summit pinnacle. We opted to downclimb the route, as most every feature was about as trustworthy as a career politician. We dubbed our climb of “Shady Wilson Spire” the House of Cards (5.8, not recommended). The south face is much steeper and less blocky and may yeild some more difficult, and possibly more solid, routes in the future.

Frank Carus