South America, Argentine—Chilean Patagonia, La Catedral, East Face

Publication Year: 1993.

La Catedral, East Face. We saw a picture of La Catedral on a postcard. With no more information than that, John Catto, leader, Peter Gallagher, Max Kendall and I arrived in Patagonia on New Years Day, 1992, intent on making the first ascent of the striking east face. [The only previous ascent had been made by British climbers via the west face in 1971. See AAJ, 1971, page 432.] A week later, we had established Base Camp in the Valle del Francés. The face proved bigger and harder than we had imagined it, over 3000 feet high with no obvious weaknesses. Working from a snow cave at the base of the wall, we spent ten days slowly fixing lines up the beautiful white granite. Typical Patagonian weather kept progress to a crawl; we were continually buffeted by high winds and rain. After we had used up all our fixed lines, we began the waiting game for a spell of settled weather. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long. Four days of challenging climbing brought us to the summit on January 26. The east face is slightly concave; our route goes up the middle, following corner systems till we reached the summit ridge a bit left of the top. The climbing was mostly aid till the last few pitches where we were treated to delightful free-climbing on perfect rock. Another day was spent rappelling the route. (VI, 5.10, A4+; 29 pitches, 1000 meters.) We were followed by Italians. [See below.] They took a line to the left of ours, up a buttress that defines the left edge of the east face. Their route angled right at the top joining our route at our third bivouac and following it from there to the top.

Charles Fowler