South America, Far-Flung Travels. In 1999, I did three new routes in the Condoriri Valley of Bolivia’s Cordillera Real. All three were from 1,000 to 1,300 feet long; difficulties ranged from M3 to M5 and WI3 and 75-degree snow. In Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, my brother Willie climbed a new route (WI4 M4, 3,000') on the south face of Oshapalca. He also did some new routes on perfect rock (and some jungle) just in front of Huascaran Norte.
This year, Willie and I had an awesome trip to Aconcagua. I summitted four times; Willie summitted four times in one month and five times in the season overall, bringing his total number of Aconcagua summits to around 30, more than anyone else. Willie did the first one- day ascent of Aconcagua from trailhead to summit to trailhead (ca. 32 miles to the summit and a 13,000-foot vertical gain) in 23 hours. Then, after the Aconcagua season, we rented a truck and drove for 2,000 miles on a awesome road trip. We explored a new limestone area four hours from Mendoza and some killer lava caves with 40-foot roof cracks. From there, we drove 100 miles south of Bariloche into the Lake District. We found an awesome valley that required some intense exploration and trail finding to get to. Some 12 people have been in this valley. The place has an amount of rock similar to Yosemite, with 3,000- to 4,000-foot walls, all topping out in snow ridges and ramps. Roughly 25 of the summits don’t have names or ascents. This place is unique!
Also in 1999, we did some exploration in a valley near the famous river of Futaleufu. The walls in this area are just huge, but the approaches are very hard. In the area of the Chubut River (Chubut province), Northern Patagonia, about 120 kilometers from the town of Esquel, is a valley in the middle of the desert. This place has a ca. 800-foot tower called Piedra Parada (Standing Rock). I did the first ascent of this rock back in 1993 via a 5.10 route. In 1998, 1999 and 2000, I climbed three more routes, all around 5.10 and A3. This year we wanted to do the hardest route on the rock. The result was Barridos por el Viento (Swept by the Wind, 5.13a, 5 pitches).
Damien Benegas, Argentina