American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Hielo Continental, Cerro Murallon, The Lost World

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

Cerro Murallon, The Lost World. Finally, after nearly three weeks of waiting and repeated shipments of gear and food, we stand before the Cerro Murallon with its wide north face. This immense face starts at the clearly defined northeast ridge and ends after nearly four km at the northwest pillar. Casimiro Ferrari had laid out a super climbing route there. Robert Jasper and Stefan Glowacz had already started setting up base camp. The cameraman Sebastian Tischler and I pulled the last haul-bags into camp with the pulka. In two days we dug a snow cave that had room for four people. However Stefan and I preferred the tent out front to the snow cave. Robert and Stefan made the first attempt onto the wall in order to examine it up close. They were gone a whole afternoon, and crossed the north wall from the Ferrari route to the back of the northwest pillar looking for a worthwhile route. When they returned to base camp the euphoria was dampened.

In the front part of the wall only Ferraris pillar looked interesting. The middle part of the wall is overhung by seracs, which make a climbing route impossible. The northwest pillar looked like the only place one could risk an alpine style first ascent.

Early in the morning of December 3, Stefan, Robert, and I marched off. We followed the rock outcrops to the right past the pillar and then we could quickly climb on in easy terrain. At about 7 a.m. we already stood on the summit of the first pillar. The sun made Cerro Don Bosco radiant with its light. We took a rest and considered the way from there. Robert reconnoitered the best entrance onto the pillar.

Blue sky, and not a cloud to be seen; it was our day. Robert got to work and lead for the first three rope lengths. Stefan cleaned the pitches and I jumared to the belays. The terrain became difficult. Robert was able to push his way up the cracks with his crampons on. After three lengths it was Stefans turn, who preferred rock shoes. Stefan faltered during a traverse, where the protection was scant. To make matters worse he was moving into mixed terrain. Cursing and with great strain he got through this rope rope- length and was able to fix the next belay.

In good granite one can build super belays. Even the protection was easy to fix. The steep parts were behind us. Stefan and Robert alternately lead. As soon as the fissures were full of ice Robert continued climbing in a mixed style. About 5 p.m. we climbed out of the rock terrain. Over snow mushrooms and steep high expanses we reached the summit of Cerro Murallon. Our joy was immense. In the distance we could see the Lago Argentino and Fitz Roy. Robert planned the descent on a northeasterly direction over the glacier. In this direction we could get to the glacier that lay between Cerro Murallon and Cerro Don Bosco quite easily.

However already on the descent we encountered tremendous cloudbanks on the Chilean side. The wind picked up and soon we were more and more shrouded in icy fog. We had already descended one flank, however we could no longer find the way down. We waited and hoped the clouds would clear enough that we could find a safe way down. It became critical. Should we wait and look for a place to bivouac, or should we return to the summit and rappel via our ascent route? We decided to rappel. On the summit and to the north the visibility was still very good.

After a final rest and preparation we descended via our ascent route. Robert looked out for safe belays and then we rappelled in mammoth fashion into known territory. We needed the whole night for the rappel. Three times the rope got caught up in the rocks as we pulled them down. We needed to cut off a good 30 meters of rope, as we couldn’t get the ropes free.

The new day had already arrived as we reached to our base camp exhausted after nearly 27 hours. In our new route “The Lost World“ (1,000m, M8) we left behind a good rappel route. That same afternoon our cameraman Sebastian and I hiked out 14 hours from base camp to the “Rifugio Pascale” via the inland ice glacier. We slept there briefly and then hiked a further five hours back to the Estancia Christina. Sebastian reached his return trip on time and I had two days to wait until Stefan and Robert also returned safely.

Klaus Fengler, Switzerland

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