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South America, Argentina and Chile, Central Patagonia, Cerro Castillo, East Face

Cerro Castillo, East Face. Joan Sole (Santa Oliva, Spain) and I were inspired upon seeing the face from the Cuesta del Diablo switchbacks that descend into the Villa Cerro Castillo Valley (elev. 400m), Chile, when traveling south from Coyhaique. With help from Manuel, a competent local arriero, on October 6 we horsed-pack our gear to snowline at 930m, directly above town. Our tiny camp was below the saddle leading to the small tarn below the south face.

At 2:30 the next morning, under a star-filled sky, we climbed the South Glacier and traversed over a low point on the southeast ridge, rappelled 35m on the other side, and gained the East Glacier. We crossed the bergschrund in the center of the face and simul-climbed the long snow cone into the narrow couloir, when suddenly a spindrift avalanche rumbled from far above and washed over us—a startling beginning to our climb. We sprinted through short water-ice bulges and a 20m constriction of superb mixed. Though I believe the mountain is a volcanic plug (it reminded me of Shiprock), we were surprised by the decent quality of the rock. After pitch seven we bivied, and then more classic water-ice steps, a 15m waterfall, and insecure mixed climbing brought us to the plateau about 75m below the summit. We scrambled to a sub-summit, then crossed a deep, narrow, and exposed notch from where Joan led the final step (5.9) to the true summit. Our altimeter read 2,680m (East Face, 600m, VI 5.9 WI4 M4). Our rapid descent of the low-angle gully of the North Face (New Zealand Route) was a hoot, finishing with 500m of bum-sliding in perfect snow toward the Estero Parado Valley. It was among the best glissades I’ve ever done.

We bivouacked in the forests and then slogged down to Rio Ibanez and radioed Manuel. Soon we were back to Villa Cerro Castillo for a great bistec a lo pobre at the converted bus restaurant, El Bus de la Sole (Soledad is the friendly owner) along the main road.

Carlos Buhler, AAC