South America, Chile—Central Andes, First Ascents, 1991-1993

Publication Year: 1994.

First Ascents, 1991-1993. Aside from some pleasant repeats with Chilean climbers, I made several first ascents in the upper Río Negro and Río Colorado basins in Central Chile. Isolated and with only medium-sized peaks, these areas seldom attract visitors. On December 22, 1991, I started from the thermal baths of Colina, crossed the Carreño Pass and camped in the upper Río Negro valley. A long storm, a rare occurrence in the Chilean summer, dumped two feet of snow on the valley, forcing a retreat over swollen rivers. I managed on December 29, 1991 to climb only P 4109 (13,380 feet), northwest of the Nevados de Arhuelles. A year later, I was back, starting from the ski resort of Portillo. Heading north, I crossed the Juncalillo Pass and descended into the Pajaritos valley. From a 3650-meter camp, on December 28, 1992 I climbed the northernmost peak of the Tres Hermanos massif on the Argentine border. On the summit (c. 4300 meters, 14,108 feet), I found a cairn with a paper left by five Argentines who had made the first ascent on February 16, 1985. They had measured the peak by aneroid as 5610 meters! Mine was a new route from the northeast. I then traversed to P 4300, northeast of the former, a first ascent. Descending north and then turning east, upstream in the Cañada valley, I reached the moraines at 3750 meters north of the Contrabandistas Pass, where I camped. On December 31, 1992, I made the first ascent of a snow pyramid, P 4413 (14,477 feet) by its south side and west ridge. I then retreated back to Portillo. Later, I headed again alone for the northern end of the central Andes. A mining truck took me to their base near the Columpios del Diablo creek. I walked to the Argentine border, reaching the Leiva Pass. I failed on unclimbed Cerro Techado and Cerro Pimentón, but did on March 1, 1993 make the first ascent of P 4317 (14,164 feet), which lies south of the other two. There are many unclimbed peaks between 4000 and 4900 meters, but the rock is poor and rivers are difficult to ford in the early part of the Chilean summer (December to mid-February.)

Evelio Echevarría