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South America, Chile, Northern Patagonia, Lake District, Mt. Trinidad, Eides of March, Ascent, and Exploration

Mt. Trinidad, Eides of March, Ascent, and Exploration. Cochamo is part of the Chilean Lake District, or Northern Patagonia, and lies two hours inland from Puerto Montt in central Chile. The climbing area was first discovered by Crispin Waddy after a tip-off that came from a former U.S. Air Force pilot he had met on a train who had flown over Yosemite and later the Cochamo Valley, noting their similarity.

Armed with a local map, a machete, and a grid reference, Crispin set off into the jungle. Three days later, he hacked through the final few meters of forest to stand on a small pebble beach at the base of the impressive 2,000-foot granite dome of Mt. Trinidad. In 1998, after two further visits to the valley, Crispin succeeded in topping out on Mt. Trinidad with Noel Craine to create the 2,200-foot route Eides of March (E4 A3).

The unexplored valley of Cochamo offers excellent opportunities for new long face climbs (2,000'-plus). There are many more valleys, peaks, and faces upon which to establish new lines.

Leo Houlding and I had as our original plan the idea to free climb new routes on Mt. Trinidad and in the surrounding valleys. Our first aim was to familiarize ourselves with the wall by attempting to free Eides of March. This is one of the central lines up the wall and follows the crack and flakes up the left-hand side of the central prominent finger. After that, the line pendulums left and follows a crack system to the top of the wall.

We were informed that the weather this season had been particularly unsettled, but during our first days it looked as though we had arrived just in time for the good weather, February and March being some of the best months. On our first day, we started up Eides of March and managed to free several pitches, climbing to the top of a large chimney at about 800 feet before we were forced to pendulum leftward into a crack and corner system. We fixed ropes and descended to the valley floor.

On the second day, we re-ascended to our high point, but after freeing one further pitch (at E5 6b) we found that the cracks were so choked with mud that we estimated that it would take a day apiece to climb, clean, and free each of the remaining five aid pitches. Considering the poor weather record for the season, we decided to first climb the route as fast as possible and then free climb the aid pitches at a later stage. That day, we climbed a further five pitches using a mixture of aid up to A3 and free climbing (French free style). We bivied on a ledge at two-thirds height. The next day, we aided one further pitch before free climbing the remaining six pitches to the top. Several unclimbed peaks were seen from the summit of Mt. Trinidad. Descent was by way of a couple of abseils and a scree gully left of the wall. We added no further fixed equipment to the route and left no ropes in place.

One further day of good weather followed in which Leo climbed farther up the valley with some Brazilian climbers on a route they had established earlier that season. I had to rest due to sunstroke. Later, we walked up to the head of the valley, finding much new route potential. Most of these routes would be shorter and less impressive than those on the main face of Mt.

Trinidad. From the ridge between the Cochamo Valley and the adjoining valley, a 1000-meter unclimbed wall could be seen. We planned to return the next day to open further new routes higher up the Cochamo Valley on the walls and faces behind Mt. Trinidad. Poor weather continued to prevail, preventing us from climbing again before our departure.

Hard free climbing in the Cochamo Valley is possible, but would require a significant amount (days, if not weeks) of cleaning, since many of the crack lines are full of mud, grass, and heather. Most of the major lines on Mt. Trinidad have already been climbed over the last few years, although some possibilities still exist for hard new aid routes and hard face climbing using a stance-bolting approach on the blank faces between the crack systems. The rock on the faces will be clean and is well-featured with many scoops and edges. It is worth noting that most of the existing routes follow cracks and corners which during (even relatively light) rainfall rapidly become waterfalls. Because of this, it is advisable that ascents should be carried out in two or three days during stable weather by a competent team. It would be advisable to fix ropes on the lower pitches, so that a quick push to the top could be made from the ground. Despite our having brought a portaledge, the unstable nature of the weather and the subsequent waterfalls that develop during rainfall prohibited its use.

Seb Grieve, United Kingdom