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South America, Argentina, Central Andes, Nevado del Plomo, El Sendero del Léon and East Ridge

Nevado del Plomo, El Sendero del Léon and east ridge.

A remarkable ascent has been made on the 6,050m (also given as 6,070m) Nevado del Plomo (a.k.a. El Plomo), a high peak in the Juncal Group, located east of Santiago on the Chilean-Argentinean border and 5km south of the better-known Juncal (elevation often given as 6,110m), which have the most extensive glaciers in the Cordillera. The first recorded ascent was in 1910, by German geologist and explorer Frederick Reichert. He reportedly climbed from the Argentinean side, which is technically much harder than an approach from Chile, where the west flank, above the Olivares Valley, is no more than a walk. Inca ruins remain just below the summit. In Jill Neate’s scholarly work, Mountaineering in the Andes, it is noted that the mountain has an impressive southeast face, presumably unclimbed.

No more. In an 18-hour ascent on January 7 the resident German climber Jürgen Straub made a solo ascent of a direct line on this huge face. He reached the foot of the ca 2,500m wall with a Chilean partner early in the day, but before they had even come to grips with the ascent, the Chilean’s crampon broke, and the pair was forced down. After some discussion, Straub decided to go it alone, while his friend made the probable first ascent of the much easier east ridge. After a glacier approach and mixed climbing interrupted by snow/ice fields, Straub came to the crux, a 350m rock pillar high on the wall. He climbed this, reporting difficulties up to VII, after which the angle relented, and easier climbing led to the summit. The route, christened El Sendero del Léon, was considered to be harder than the south face of Aconcagua.

Lindsay Griffin, High Mountain INFO