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South America, Chile, Towers of Brujo, Clandestino

Towers of Brujo, Clandestino. From February 5-19, Toni Arbonés, Nicolas Meyer and I established Clandestino (ABO 7c+ A0, 400m), a free route in the Towers of Brujo in the Central Cordillera. There is no map of this part of Chile, and as far as I know our tower has no name. The area is regarded as a replica of Patagonia—but with sun. Indeed, in summer (February), the weather conditions are remarkably stable. It is not the least important advantage in the Towers of Brujo, the bases of which are at around 3300 meters, and surrounded by hanging glaciers and seracs on the northeast face of Brujo Falso. We carried a total of 250 kilos of gear and supplies to this very isolated area to put up a route reminiscent of Michel Piola’s routes in Chamonix.

The 13-pitch Clandestino (ten pitches of which are F7; the hardest is 7c+) is the fourth route in this difficult-to-access area. Waldo Farias, a Chilean andinist, was responsible for the first route, Reflexion Vertical (A1/6a), on a 300-meter tower. He made several attempts on the area’s largest tower (400 meters), but was put off by the particularly long and difficult approach, and a granite that is similar to Yosemite but the cracks of which are closed. In 1998, a team that included Jens Richter and John Brewer made the first ascent of the tower via an elegant dihedral (6c/A2+). Clandestino takes the vertical pillar on the right-hand side of the dihedral.

We established the route ground-up in seven days of climbing, sometimes lowering down to sleep at Base Camp, other times sleeping on the wall. The very sheer granitic face offers only one ledge of two square meters up to the fourth pitch, making the use of portaledge essential. The approach from Base Camp to the wall is composed of a walk up on unstable moraine, and then a three-hour “stroll” on a glacier with lots of crevasses. Certain pitches were opened on-sight on natural gear, while others were put up with aid. Since our intent was to establish a free climb, each aid pitch was revisited, and in some places retrobolted in order to be redpointed. We freed all but two ten-meter sections, both of which were bolted to go at A0, and pitch 10, which was climbed with one rest. The in-situ equipment (about 60 bolts) is designed for free climbing repetitions of the route; only additional cams are necessary to repeat the route. Bolting was done using an electric power-drill, the batteries of which were charged by solar panel.

The concept of establishing free climbing routes with more thought for the repetition than the establishment was initiated in Chamonix by Michel Piola, whose 1980s mega classic Le Voyage Selon Gulliver began the current focus on hard alpine free climbs in the Alps. We exported the idea to the Andes with Clandestino. Right now, the mountaineers and climbers of South America do not seem receptive to such an idea; the geography of the Andean summits makes for mountaineers who are not often rock experts, while the local rock climbers are mainly into gym or typical sport climbing. If mountaineers and rock climbers are good in their respective pursuits, the challenge will be for one or the other to reach the main tower of Brujo and climb it.

Jean-Minh Trinh-Thieu, France