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El Cuchillo, Anarquía Vertical

In the French Valley of Torres del Paine National Park, Sebastian Muñoz (Colombian) and I established Anarquía Vertical on a previously virgin formation, El Cuchillo (the Knife; ca 2,000m), located on the southern flank of La Espada (the Sword). On January 23 we left base camp, a granite cave below the west-facing slabs below the face, at 4 a.m. and reached the route at 10 a.m. Though it would be possible to approach by snow in different conditions, we followed a dry couloir that led us through some fourth-class and eventually 5.6-5.8 slab climbing. We climbed a direct line on the west face, in alpine style with one rope, swapping leads, predominately free-climbing. The crack system is beautiful, with great protection, and has passages of easy face climbing. When the crack got thin, we were forced out onto the faces. We passed through one short section of aid, in a roof at the beginning of the route; with less ice it should go free. We followed this system from ledge to ledge through immaculate chimneys, splitter hand cracks, technical face climbing and ramps, to the top of pitch five. Then we traversed right on a beautiful granite handrail, and again right up and over a few blocks, and into a dihedral with lots of positive edges, finishing in a narrowing hand crack. At 2 p.m. we were nearly on top of the formation, looking up at the summit block. It looked impenetrable, with a thin seam that would surely be hard aid climbing. I wondered if our efforts had fallen short. We traversed left across the summit ledge and I found a perfect hand crack in a funky chimney, then stepped out left into a finger crack. As Sebastian followed, he yelled, “Walker, you found the stairway to heaven, hermano.” We reached the summit of the 300m west face at 2:50 p.m., after 10 pitches, and rated the route 5.10b Al. The rappels followed the south ridge to the line of ascent, ca 30m each. With smiles on our faces, we scrambled down the remainder of the dry couloir and reached our granite cave at 8 p.m.

Walker Mackey, Colorado, AAC (AAC Mountain Fellowship Grant recipient)