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South America, Argentina and Chile, Torres Del Paine, Torre Central, South African Route, First Free Ascent

Torre Central, South African Route, first free ascent. On February 2, 2009, Ben Ditto, Sean Villanueva, and I summited the Central Tower of Paine via the South African Route, making the firstfree ascent of the 1,200m east face. The route was first climbed in 1973-4, repeated once (that we know of), in 2004, and takes a striking line that follows a huge dihedral splitting the middle of the east face. We had heard of grades from A3 to A4, with knifeblade seams, but we left our assumptions on the ground and followed our instincts. We encountered some amazing free- climbing, sustained mostly in the 5.11 range and almost never below 5.10+. The two hardest pitches were maybe 7b+/5.12c, one a fingertip enduro corner and the other a spectacular face-climbing boulder problem away from the aid line. (We added a bolt to protect our free variation.) Another crux was a mega-sustained 5.11+ of- fwidth, very run out with our single #6 Camalot. Due to icy conditions, we redpointed three of the pitches after summiting. We spent 13 days on the wall accompanied by mandolin, tin whistle, and harmonica.

Before leaving the ground, we spent one day fixing ropes and then moved in capsule style, making two portaledge camps: one atop the Shattered Pillar (pitch 10), where we stayed for seven days, and another on the Boeing Ledge (pitch 17), where we spent six days. While on the route, our respect for the first ascensionists grew. They left the route clean, with a minimum of bolts and fixed pitons. There are only two bolted anchors. However, we did find a lot of old fixed ropes strewn about the east face (not just this route), and we brought down as much as we could (a few hundred meters). It’s a pity that climbers trashed the wall like this.

Nicolas Favresse, Belgian Alpine Club, AAC