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South America, Argentina and Chile, Northern Patagonia, Chile, Cochamó, Valle Cochamó, Overview and Various Ascents

Valle Cochamó, overview and various ascents. At pitch 13 on the white granite of the 1,000m Trinidad wall, Argentine Esequiel Manoni and I were interrupted by a condor’s 2m wing span slicing the air, as the curious bird swept by our position. Below was the Cochamó River valley, a.k.a. the Yosemite of South America. The sun shone on the thick rainforests, waterfalls, and 1,000m walls dominating our views. The typically dry, stable February [2006] weather was here. Our predetermined line began on the west face of the north Trinidad Tower but worked its way over to the north face halfway up. The route began on flaring 5.10 butt cracks, later taking us to classic 5.10 face and dihedral-crack pitches. After we exchanged prolonged stares with the condor, we continued up. The following seven pitches ascended a mixture of cracks, including an easily protected 5.9 offwidth, an excellent 50m 5.10a fingertip splitter, and finishing with a perfect 5.9 hand crack. After a 14-hour push from the base, we inaugurated the longest fully free line in the valley: Bienvenidos a Mi Insomnio, 5.10d, 920m, 20 pitches, nine being 5.10. We walked the last 300m to the peak and took in the incredible views before the sun set. Volcan Tronador’s immenseness, capped by glaciers, stood out among other snow-capped summits: Volcan Orsono, Calbuco,Puntiagudo, and even far awayAguja Principal outside Bariloche, Argentina.

Other new and recommended routes include the German route Viaje a la Luna Creciente (5.12d A0, Jens Richter-Sabine Tittel, December 2004), which ascends 1,070m in 24 pitches, following a prominent crescent-moon dihedral on the south face of Cerro La Junta. All 24 pitches go free, except for one rappel/pendulum. The American route Camp Farm (5.11c, Andy Hoyt-Daniel Seeliger, December 2004) makes its way for 300m up less-than-vertical faces and dihedrals on the lower west face of La Junta. In February 2005, after getting shell-fish poisoning and visiting the local hospital in Puerto Montt, an Italian team established Nunca Mas Mariscos (5.12d, Simona Pedefenni-Giovanni Ongaro-Cristian Gianatti-Ismaele Fosti-Lorenzo Lamfranchi), which ascends 17 pitches up the center of Trinidad’s central tower. Another impressive Italian line, Vista del Condor (5.12b A2, Helmut Gargitter-Much Thaler-Bernhard Mock-Pauli Trenkwqloler, February 2003) climbs 15 pitches up the left side of Piedra de Gorila’s north face. The Brazilian route Vida de Ogro (5.10a A2+, Rian Mueller-Daniel Fernandes, February 2005) climbs nine pitches of a prominent left-facing dihedral on the north face of Trinidad’s south tower. Two climbers who have left their mark on Cochamó are Brazilian “Chiquinho” Jose Luis Hartmann and Sergio Tartari. While camped for months in the valley, they established new lines on or near Trinidad almost every year since the valley’s first route in 1997. One of their classic lines, Alandalaca (5.12b, February 2000) ascends nine long pitches up the left-side arête of Trinidad’s southern tower. Chiquinho’s newest line, Pegadito a la Pared (5.11c A0, Jose Luis Hartmann-Valentin Reimay, February 2006) climbs seven pitches up the right-side arête. Other Chiquinho-Sergio routes include the 340m Velho Alerce (5.11b A2+, February 2000) on Cerro La Laguna, the 800m Mucho Mucho Granito Arriba (5.l0d A4, February 1999) on Trinidad’s overhanging north tower and the 750m Tabanos na Cara (5.10+ A3+, March 2003) on Trinidad’s central tower.

This Patagonian valley lies in the Chilean Andes 100km east of Puerto Montt and 18km northeast of the town of Cochamó. The approach to the refugio by foot or horse takes four hours along a muddy, eroded trail. The Refugio is run by climbers, has topos and info for almost every route, and is strategically centered near the biggest and more developed walls. On rest days you can fill up on their homemade bread and beer. Cochamó is notorious for wet weather; the driest time of year is from mid-January to mid-March, February being the most stable. December 2005 and February 2006 saw almost no rain. For more information, go to www.Cochamo.com and www.StoneDance.com.

Daniel Seeliger, Bariloche, Argentina