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South America, Argentina and Chile, Central Patagonia, Chilean Patagonia, First Ascents

Chilean Patagonia, first ascents. Piloting his green Hilux like a rally car driver, Jim Donini told me, “I already have our first objective picked out. It’s the most impressive thing on this side of the lake.” The peak came into view, and I got that familiar nervous feeling. I was taking time off, before starting college, to help Jim with his project of “climbing the view” from his new house on Lago General Carrera near Puerto Guadal. We have found no information of any of the stunning panorama of peaks, aside from San Valentine, having been climbed or named. On none of our routes did we find signs of previous passage.

Our first objective, Peak 2,067m on our map, was 40km east of Puerto Guadal on the road to Chile Chico. The straightforward approach headed from the road up the most prominent northeast-facing gully onto good morning snow that made for fast travel. When the snow- fields ended, we traversed left and climbed a gully of loose sharp rock, then traversed right and climbed three pitches to the summit. The gully was too loose for anchors, so a terrifying down- climb gave the peak its name, Cerro Choss.

During the same 16-day spell of excellent weather, which lasted from late November to early December, we found better rock on a prominent pinnacle on the northwest side of the lake. About 18km up the Leones Valley we crossed the swift Rio Leones in one-man Alpaca rafts that looked like the flotation devices found under airplane seats. Several hours of vertical bushwhacking, and a constant battle against swarms of tabinos, brought us to snow line. We pitched our tent on the southwestern side of Peak 1,918m and did moderate climbing to its summit via the southeast ridge. From the top we had a wonderful show from several condors that inspired us to call the peak Cerro Condor. Early the next morning we traveled several kilometers on snow and glacier to the southeast face of a 2,128m pinnacle, where we climbed several moderate solo and roped pitches to the summit of what we called Pisco Sour Tower.

My brother Weston arrived, along with Patagonia weather. But years of climbing in Patagonia have turned Donini into a walking weather station, and Jim saw a small window opening, so Weston and I paddled 6km down from the bridge at the mouth of Lago Bertrand. After a rough landing we stashed our inflatable kayaks near a gaucho’s hut and hiked toward the twin peaks labeled 2,254m. We followed a drainage up through a beautiful untrammeled forest; when we reached tree line the wind literally blew us off our feet. The next morning we lucked out and had good weather. Above the glacier we climbed a six-pitch route, Take Your Flota and Go to Pluto, up the center dihedral of the block-shaped peak. It was moderate climbing with a 5.9 summit pitch up a nice hand crack. The next day we climbed the higher, pyramid-shaped peak. Starting at the top of the glacier, we climbed four moderate pitches on the northwest ridge and then scrambled to the summit. The following day we descended and paddled out; upon our pickup at the bridge we learned that my father’s best friend, Peter “Cado” Avenali, had passed away while we were climbing. Cado was a larger-than-life alpinist, skier, and fun hog whose lifelong passion for adventure brought us all down to this stunning part of the world that he loved. We named the higher peak Cerro Cadito for our dearly missed friend and mentor.

Morgan Boyles, AAC