American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Chile, Southern Patagonia, Torres Del Paine National Park, South Tower of Paine, East Face, Self Right to Suicide

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

South Tower of Paine, east face, Self Right to Suicide. In January and February 2004 Boguslaw Kowalski, Wojtek Wiwatowski, and I found ourselves in deserted Torres del Paine. Since we had heard much about bad weather in the area, we came ready for hard conditions. Either the reports are exaggerated, or we were lucky. With so much rock and nobody in sight, we had numerous options. We decided on the South Tower, since it has the highest summit and is the most remote of three towers. Besides, it hosted only three routes and a number of unfinished projects, compared to tens of routes on the other towers. At first we wanted to climb on the unclimbed south face, but it turns out to be several hundred feet shorter than the larger east face. Therefore, we shifted our interests to the east face and began our climb in the middle of the wall, intending to put a direct line to the top.

There was an old Swiss line (Piola-Sprungli, 1992) running through the middle of the wall until the upper portions, where it bears slightly to the right. We more or less, having no information on this route at the time, followed it for several pitches, though also climbing harder ground to the left and right of the Swiss line. Only higher up, where the wall became steeper and more compact, did we head through the most monolithic rock on the face, leaving the Swiss line to our right. We came across trashed gear and rappel stations in the middle of nowhere, obviously from past attempts on the east face direttissima.

After eight long days of a good fight we covered the crux four pitches leading us to the “Roof of Hope,” the most prominent roof on the wall. It was the only hope for us, struggling through a featureless sea of granite, as it seemed that beginning at the roof we would find a continuous system leading to the summit.

Once we placed our hands in the cracks above the roof and put the crampons into the hard ice of the final headwall, we were on top in no time. Drinking beer, of course!

We climbed in capsule style, with a week of fixing and 13 days on the wall. We reached the summit on February 12. We named our route Self Right to Suicide (VI 5.10 A4 55°). It gains 825m vertical, but the climbing distance, with traverses, pendulums, etc., is about 1,100m. We hand-drilled dozens of bat-hook holes to connect disappearing cracks and to hook around fragile features. A few bolts, besides the belay stations, were placed as well. Most of the route was an excellent expando adventure, and the entire trip was a first-class course in wall logistics. It took us two weeks to get our loads to the base, and a week down. The three weeks of climbing were challenging as well, with snow-swept slabs of the lower apron, waterfalls running through thin expandos in the middle wall, and freezing dihedrals on the upper headwall.

Incidentally, the South and Central Paine Towers are smaller than has been claimed. Their east faces at their highest are about 825m and 1,100m high, respectively. The unclimbed south face of the South Tower is therefore no more than 700m high. Although its base is lower than that of the east face, its steep portion ends much lower.

Chris Belczynski, Torun Climbing Club, Poland

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