American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Tierra del Fuego, Chilean Patagonia, Valle Bader, Note on Naming

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

Valle Bader, Note on Naming. There has been some confusion in the past few years regarding the naming of two distinct valleys within the Torres del Paine National Park, both of which have been called Pingo (“wild horse”) Valley. The original valley to carry this name is at the southern end of the Park and separates the Grey Glaciar from the Tyndall Glaciar andthe southern reaches of the Patagonian Ice Cap. This valley has been called Pingo Valley since its days as ranch land before the region became a park. It took its name from escaped horses that enjoyed its verdant green pastures in summer.

The other valley in question, and the more important one for climbers, is situated between the Ascensio and French valleys. This valley’s walls are made up of the Cuernos and the granite spires La Mascara, La Hoja and La Espada (the Mask, Blade and Sword respectively) on the southwest side, Fortaleza (the Fortress) on the northwest end and Almirante Nieto (Admiral Nieto) on the northeast.

Gino Buscaini and Silvia Metzeltin, long-time Patagonian explorers, list this valley as the “Pingo Valley” in their 1990 book Patagonien. They copied their map from a map produced by Billboudry in 1959. There are, I speculate, two ways that the valley could have originally received the name “Pingo.” Explorers could have been told by locals that the valley was “a pingo valley,” meaning that the valley was a place that wild, escaped horses would frequent. The other possibility is that it was named for the small glacial lake in the valley, which can be termed a “pingo” by geologists. In any case, the park service never recognized the name (there is reason to believe they were never given copies of Buscaini or Billboudry’s work).

In the 1995-’96 season, two Chilean climbers, Christian Oberli and Sven Bruchfeld, made the first ascent of Bohemian Rapsody on La Hoja in this “Pingo Valley.” Theirs was the second ascent of a tower within the valley. (The first ascent, Fist Full of Dollars on Cuerno Norte, reported in the 1996 AAJ, p. 227, was referred to as having been achieved in the “Pingo Valley.”) When Oberli and Bruchfeld approached the park service about climbing there, the only name they could find was from Buscaini’s book. Problematically, the park service did not want to call the valley Pingo (nor were they aware that it had been named that elsewhere) because it would be confused with the other, larger Pingo Valley and Pingo Lake and Glacier to the west. Oberli and Bruchfeld, having no other information to go on, used the name “Pingo” when they wrote up their subsequent account in the AAJ and other publications (see 1997 AAJ, p. 265, and 1998 AAJ, pp. 267-8).

In 1997,I spoke with the owner of the Hosteria Las Torres, Jose Antonio Kusanovich. His family has owned the access corridor to the Ascensio Valley and the valley in question for close to 20 years. He told me that the name of the valley was changed due to confusion and that the name “Bader” was the name of the original owner of the Estancia Cerro Paine, which is what the Kusanovich family now owns. To honor the original owner and to quell confusion. the valley was officially named Bader and placed on all park maps in 1998.

It is important to remember that this park is still evolving. It became a national park in 1959 and its uniqueness was fully recognized in 1978 when Torres del Paine was declared an international biosphere reserve by UNESCO. When I first came to the Park in 1994, the official park maps had many misplaced names of peaks and camps. Over the subsequent years, names have been clarified and their places on the map confirmed. CONAF, the Chilean park service, is also still in a state of evolution and is very underfunded. Because of this, the park rangers do not get out into the field as much as they should and need our assistance in helping the park evolve.

Climbers have the opportunity to greatly impact the policies, negatively or positively, that the park imposes on climbing. In the past, world-class climbing expeditions from a variety of nations have left fixed ropes and trash at base camps and on walls. This past season, Steve Schneider and I brought down approximately 200 pounds of trash and fixed rope left by Spanishand Italian expeditions on the Central Tower. To avoid over-regulation, it is extremely important that we climb with as little impact as possible. Report your ascents, treat CONAF and the local people with the respect they deserve and set a good example for those that follow.

Christian Santelices

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