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South America, Argentina, Central Andes, Mt. Tupungato, First Winter Ascent

Mt. Tupungato, first winter ascent. Mt. Tupungato (6,570m) stands in front of Santiago, Chile, on the border with Argentina. It is famous for its bad weather, being swept every day by furious western winds, moistened by Santiago’s smog.

After an investigation in both countries showed no previous winter ascents, we planned to go for it and film a documentary. The group was comprised of five Argentinians: Diego de Angelis, Fernando Garmendia, Guillermo Glass, Rolando Linzing, and me.

We approached Tupungato from Argentina, even though it demands crossing the Cordillera Frontal, a lower range directly to the east, then descending to the Tupungato Valley. On August 31 we departed from Refugio De la Plaza, a military post at 2,090m. Our backpacks weighed 45kg, as we needed to take filming and mountaineering gear, including glacier, skiing, and avalanche equipment, in complete self-sufficiency.

After some days acclimatizing in lower valleys, we followed the Las Tunas, Pabellón, and Grande rivers and crossed the Cordillera Frontal through the Portezuelo del Fraile col (4,746m). Then we followed the Tupungato Valley to its source at the mountain’s southern glacier. A couple of stormy days followed, but on September 13 at 4:45 a.m. we left our last camp, pitched at 5,500m on the southern ridge, and starting climbing the southern route, a glacier up to 45°. At night the weather got stormy once more, and this time also very cold. We kept climbing and, at 10:30 p.m. Glass, Linzing, and I reached the main summit in a storm with -50°C temperatures, while DeAngelis and Garmendia reached the 7m-lower eastern summit.

Two days later we trekked to Tupungato’s eastern glacier, where a plane disappeared in 1947 and was discovered by Garmendia and Pablo Reguera 51 years later, at 4,500m. Despite the amount of snow, we found a tire, still inflated.

We returned to Refugio de la Plaza 18 days after leaving it, having climbed 7,200m total and walking 95km.

Dario Bracali, Argentina, CAB, AAC