AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

South America, Chile, Cochamó, Capicua, Gato Negro Lo Mejor Vino En Caja

Capicua, Gato Negro Lo Mejor Vino En Caja. Matt Touchette and I returned to paradise in January 2008 to try to find a route on the breathtaking, beautiful, serene Capicua, a 1,000m granite wall in Cochamó. There were two existing routes on the wall [photo p. 266, AAJ 2006], by a Catalan team and a German team, but both routes were 20 pitches, A4+, and called for 24 beaks. We wanted something more accessible and less intense, with less suffering.

Our discovery could not have been better. After some searching, we approached our line via two 30m pitches (dirty crack and moss, 5.10, then an easier second pitch) in the Mate Landia cragging area (below Capicua), which took one-tenth the time of the previous parties’ vertical bushwhack, plus we got to climb. Another hour of scrambling over 4th class rocks and bushes then brought us to the base of Capicua, and we put up four pitches (25m 5.8, 60m 5.8 AO [pendulum], 40m 5.9+, 30m 5.10) of beautiful free climbing at a moderate grade on a sunny morning. The first three pitches angle up right to the base of the big left-facing system. Work was slow but rewarding. Pounding in pitons (the route doesn’t need many, and we left two fixed), hand-drilling bolts, and cleaning dirty cracks doesn’t sound like fun to many people, but we were onto a soon-to-be classic Cochamó climb, and the feeling could not have been better. After our first day we came down to camp exhilarated, excited to jumar up our fixed ropes and continue in the morning.

Ignoring the constant buzz of the huge biting horse flies (tabanos) was difficult, but we thought of the welcoming people down in the valley and their positive energy. The brilliance of the jungle surrounded us. Atop our fixed ropes we climbed a beautiful, wet, mossy chimney pitch to an enormous ledge (25m, 5.9), then a crack system on the right (25m, 5.9), then a steep aid corner and a final pitch to a huge, prominent ledge with a waterfall pouring down to the right. We reached the ledge at dark, feeling satisfied, content, and exhausted. IV 5.10+ A1+, 10 pitches (including the two approach pitches). Gear: standard free rack with extra TCUs, plus a knifeblade and sawed-off baby angle for the aid corner.

Though the ledge marked the end of the corner system and seemed like a logical ending, there is potential for more climbing above. The terrain looks vague and would likely require more bolts, though, and the waterfall could get you wet and cold if it is flowing at high volume. We had planned to sleep on the ledge, until the winds picked up and drenched our minimal clothing. We brought out our Nalgene bottle filled with Gato Negro wine, hence the route name: Gato Negro Lo Mejor Vino en Caja (Black Cat the best wine from a box). We rested on the ledge for a bit and then rappelled in the dark to eat lentil soup with sausage.

Winter Ramos