South America, Chile, Central Andes, Torres del Brujo, El Condor

Publication Year: 2005.

Torres del Brujo, El Condor. Elena Davila, Riccardo Redaelli, and I finally reached Santiago, Chile on December 20 after a long flight from Milan. Our goal was to open a new route in the Azufre River Valley, home of the extraordinary Torres del Brujo. We reached the town of San Fernando by train and bought provisions that would see us through the ten days we expected to spend at base camp. On December 21 we met Don Segundo, who provided two mules and accompanied us to base camp. Since we didn’t have much equipment (a few friends, six pitons, nuts, and ten 8mm bolts), two mules would suffice. We reached base camp after two days of walking and a worrisome river fording. The place was fantastic!

On December 23 we reconnoitered the area and promptly observed a beautiful granite pillar furrowed by clean dihedrals and cracks. The pillar was about an hour and a half from base camp, on the virgin walls in front of Torres del Brujo. The approach was tortuous, but the trade-off was not having to cross the glacier, which would prove demanding and dangerous, because elevated temperatures triggered constant avalanches. The next day we fixed the first two pitches. The ascent seemed doable and the climb so far was both unhindered and uncomplicated. We decided to only use bolts to equip belays.

Christmas is a holiday, but for us it was mainly a day of rest. We had equipped 150 meters, halfway to the top of the pillar. From there, a ridge of huge, unsteady boulders leads to the summit. We decided to end our ascent by reaching the top of the pillar the following day.

On December 27 we left our tents and faced a nasty surprise: the weather had changed. We couldn’t see more than 5m in the heavy fog. The mountains had disappeared! We were forced to take a rest. Our spirits dropped along with the temperature. But it improved that evening, and the morning after was stupendous. We finished the route, leaving the belays well equipped. We descended the route and returned to base camp satisfied. We named the route El Condor (V 5.9 A1, 300m) after one of them flew overhead during our homecoming.

Silvestro Stucchi, Ponteranic, Italy Adapted from Alpinist magazine,