Cordillera Quimsa Cruz, Monte Rosa, Minute Men, and Saturno, Plaza Alonso de Mendoza
South America, Bolivia
The northern fringe of the Quimsa Cruz comprises Bolivia’s stash of alpine granite. North of the mining town of Villoco, spires and gendarme-protected ridges occupy the sky between 4,000m and 5,000m. Josh Garrison and I visited this area twice between May 1-10. The information we’d collected online and around La Paz before our trip suggested that some of the best climbing was located one ridge north of Villoco in the Mocoya Valley. We completed two new routes there. In our first stay we climbed Minute Men (350m, III 5.8) to the top of Monte Rosa’s (4,710m) south face. The route begins on slabs rising from Laguna Blanca’s northern edge. It trends right on mossy splitters (mostly 5.4/5.5) before moving back left to the ridge at the top. After that, weather closed in so we returned to La Paz to recharge.
We returned three days later to climb the west buttress of Saturno. The sketchy guidebook I got in La Paz lists Saturno at 5,011m, though the seemingly more reliable report from the 2007 Imperial College group [AAJ 2008, pp. 238-239; their full report can be found online—Ed.] puts it at 5,340m. It is obviously the tallest peak around. From the base of the formation, we easily followed parallel crack systems (5.7/5.8) to the top of the buttress in seven pitches. Though we were unable to find any record of previous climbs on the buttress, we found two pitons with slings on pitch one, and a sling on pitch six. Many route possibilities exist on the features we were climbing, though we thought it unlikely that our line had been taken to the summit before. From the top of the buttress we traversed down a narrow bridge of loose rock to the summit pyramid. The final 150m consisted of vertical rubble, taking us five more pitches to finish Plaza Alonso de Mendoza (580m, IV 5.9) at the summit. We reached the talus at midnight after six hours spent rappelling the mountain’s north face, and were back in camp two hours later.