Valle Pirita, Pirita Right, first ascent, and Todos Los Caballos Lindos. If Paul McSorley wasn’t such a talented climber and guide I would suggest he pursue a career in motivational speaking. He has the uncanny ability to rally a crew on any mission, anywhere. During cocktail hour in Squamish, B.C., last summer, Paul ensnared me in his plan to visit the Turbio Valley, near Bariloche, Argentina. When he gets excited, Paul isn’t afraid to make up words or shorten words to get you on the same wavelength. “Yeah!” he enthused between swigs of beer, “It’ll be so soulful…big walls galore…untouched 'pine!”
Seven months later I sat on a street corner in Bariloche with 75 kilos of gear, waiting for Paul. True to form he showed up, excited as ever, and stuffed my packs into a taxi. Canmore-based photographer Andrew Querner arrived the next day, and we were on our way.
After a boat ride across Lago Puelo and two days of gaucho-assisted horseback riding we arrived at Oswaldo Rappaport’s hut. From there we made forays up Turbio IV to check out the Piritas, a tri-summited granite spike first climbed in February 2006 by Pedro Lutti and Bicho Fiorenza, via the easy east corridor on Pirita Central. A year later Bicho returned with Morsa Degregori to climb the 550m North Spur (6b+) of Pirita Left.
About a week in, in February 2009, the weather went from dismal Patagonian rain to absolute California blue sky. Caught off guard, we left our high camp at 9 a.m. After a few hours of hiking we were climbing white granite, perfectly glacier-scoured and splitter. By day’s end we had made the first ascent of the Pirita Right, by the west ridge, and continued along, making the first traverse of the three summits.
Back in camp we realized one of our ropes had taken such a beating that climbing as three was out of the question. Paul nobly backed out, leaving the opportunity to Andrew and me. We settled on a line in the center of Pirita Right’s north face, slightly right of the central corner. The route darts around on cracks and ramps, and a pitch below the top of the wall we jutted left on an exposed traverse, then climbed to the top of the wall. We estimate our route, Todos Los Caballos Lindos, at 350m high, including approach pitches, and it went all-free, to 5.11-, in a day. It was a wild feeling to be freestyling our way up a beautiful alpine face, in the middle of nowhere, that had never before been touched by human hands.
Afterward we headed down the Turbio River in rafts that were just a step up from the inflatable sea-horses kids use in swimming pools. After a day and a half maneuvering around submerged trees, we hit Lago Puelo safe and sound.
We extend our sincere gratitude to Bicho Fiorenza for his help. We also thank Mountain Equipment Co-op and Arc’Teryx for their support.
Will Stanhope, Canada