South America, Argentina, Southern Patagonia, Hielo Continental, Cerro Dos Cuernos, First Ascent

Publication Year: 2005.

Cerro Dos Cuernos, first ascent. The Cordon Mariano Moreno is a range located in the middle of the Southern Patagonia Icecap, 25km southwest of Cerro Torre. During October and November, Karen McNeill, Amy Bullard, and I skied in to this range and climbed Cerro Dos Cuernos (3,074m). We believe this was the first ascent.

Our goal was a ski traverse of the Southern Patagonian Icecap from Paso Marconi to Estancia Christina on Lago Argentino, with three weeks spent on the east side of the Cordon Mariano Moreno, attempting three new routes on the Dos Cumbres/Dos Cuernos face. We chose these routes based on Rolando Garibotti’s photos. A Swiss/German team climbed the East Pillar to the South Summit of Dos Cumbres in 2000. We altered our plan in Chalten after Park Ranger Adrian Falcone showed us recent photographs of the icecap, revealing vast expanses of bare ice along the southern portion of our route.

On October 22 we began shuttling our gear up to Paso Marconi from Piedra del Fraile, then spent several stormy days in the shelter of the new Chilean refugio located at 490942S, 730822W on the north side of the pass. From the pass we traveled on skis, pulling sleds for 32km, to our base camp between Nunatak Viedma and the Cordon Mariano Moreno.

This season the east side of the range from Dos Cumbres to Punta Brava was composed of steep, loose rock, with numerous ice lines and nearly continuous seracs guarding the ridgeline. On sunny days temperatures reached nearly 60° F in the shade at our camp, and the range was continuously active with falling debris. We decided on the only safe route we could see: up the southeast ridge of unnamed P2,800m and up the north ridge of Dos Cuernos to the summit.

Although many days had fine weather, we experienced a couple of storms at our camp, with high winds, snow, and even rain. We retreated from several attempts before being successful on November 15. The route we took, although long (1,524m elevation gain and 5km long), was relatively safe, scenic, and moderate. We encountered chossy rock to 4th class, snow to 45°, and ice to WI2. We found passage through the summit mushroom on the northwest side. It took us nine hours for the ascent from our camp, and five hours to descend the same way. We left our base camp on November 16, retraced our approach route through Paso Marconi, and arrived back in El Chalten on the 20th.

Peter Carse, AAC