Ramada Range, Pico Polaco North, Cheto Alpino
South America, Argentina and Chile, Central Andes
On Tuesday, October 5, with the great enthusiasm and motivation of Ivan “Topo” Rocamora, we left his flat in Mendoza for the mountains, and with 23kg on our backs—no mules in our low budget—and three hours of daylight remaining, we started up the Rio Colorado gorge. The next day we continued the remaining 30km to the icy and very windy Santana Base Camp, “Pirca Polaco,” at 3,600m.
Thursday started sunny and windless, so with some food and one sleeping bag we went to the base of the northeast face of Pico Polaco (6,000m), and shivered through a windy night at 4,700m. At 6 a.m. on October 8, we began climbing, first on easy rock and then into an ice runnel between rock towers, leading to a 40m ice cascade at 5,400m. We bypassed the ice with 55m of hard-to-protect rock to the left, then reconnected with the ice, which led to about 150m of 50° snow, another step of rock, and more ice and snow finishing in some large towers. We navigated the towers via some rock on the right leading to a couloir that took us back left with a narrow strip of 70° ice. We continued connecting snow and ice gullies to the summit ridge, where we climbed some rotten rock and, after 18 hours of climbing, gained the North Summit and reveled in the colorful beauty of the desolate landscape.
It was a nice evening with some clouds rolling in, and we descended the route of first ascent, climbed by Antonio De Nigris and Edgardo Beorchia Yacante in 1958, carrying firewood with them up the mountain. We carefully descended the couloir, with some ice steps to 60° and excellent snow taking us to the glacier and the awkward moraines, where we could feel water running, and we spent a dark and quiet night with our one sleeping bag and no food. But still we were happy, having climbed a new route on a beautiful mountain. Cheto Alpino (1,000m, D+ 70° 4+(ULAA rock)).
We continued down on Saturday, and on Sunday we enjoyed a day of cragging by Los Colorados, with maté, food, and more food….
Note: Soon after this ascent, Ivan Rocamora fell and died while he and Fava were climbing on the south face of Cerro Mercedario.