La Mascara, For A Few Dollars More!, New Route. In 1994, we were lucky to be the first climbing team to climb in the Bader Valley. We were also the first climbing team to have to pay the new climbing fee to CONAF. We made the first ascent of the east face of Cuemos Norte by A Fist Full of Dollars (A3+ E3), which we climbed over a month in 18 days of climbing. In December, 2000, we again visited the Paine on our third trip to the area (our first was in 1992, when we climbed Caveman, a free route in the French Valley). Our intention this season was to climb a new route on the South Tower. After two weeks of endless snow, we changed our plans to the Central Tower’s east face. Another three weeks of heavy snow left us feeling it was time to go home. Five weeks, with only 350 meters of climbing, avalanches, collapsing snow bridges and waterfalls on the wall had left us dreaming of rainy Britain!
We packed our bags and tried to go home, but could not get a flight, so we returned to Paine with all our kit on our backs for a one-week blast. We staggered into the Bader Valley and camped at the Welsh Camp. The next day we camped at the base of La Mascara, a splendid pointy peak that had not seen a British ascent.
The following morning, we fixed our ropes for 150 meters and returned to camp, only to find a Spanish and French team who were planning to climb the same mountain. The following day, we tried to climb, but it stormed and snowed for another two days. After the storm, we had only three days before we had to leave, so with nothing to lose we climbed up for a further 150 meters and bivied on a snow ledge. We were pushed off the ledges in the night by falling snow, but by the morning it had stopped snowing.
The next day of climbing was very cold and extremely windy. The climbing was now slow, due to harder aid climbing. After another 100 meters, we reached a fine but small bivy ledge. Communicating on this day was very difficult due to the wind roaring through the col 100 meters to our left. By now we had only one day left to climb before we had to walk out. At first light, 5 a.m., we could not believe our luck: the day was perfect. The only day of 24 hours of clear weather in seven weeks and it was our last full day in the park! On January 19, we climbed from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m., when we stood on the summit. The whole of the Paine Massif was crystal clear. We climbed the pink granite on the left side of the face with some of the best free climbing we had ever done.
After four hours of abseiling we reached our bivy gear, totaled. The following morning, we abseiled back to the glacier and walked out to the bus. The next day we flew home. It was certainly one of our best walls and we felt particularly pushed by the weather. Our climb was 800 meters and 23 pitches of mostly free climbing, with all but one pitch of the aid going clean on nuts and cams. Hooks were used on one pitch. We found brilliant rock throughout. We called our route For a Few Dollars More! (VI E3 6a A3).
Mike “Twid” Turner and Louise Thomas, Wales