La Dama Blanca and Grupo La Paz, West Summit, Ascents

Chile, Tierra del Fuego,
Author: Iñaki San Vicente. Climb Year: 2020. Publication Year: 2000.

La Dama Blanca and Grupo La Paz, East Summit, Ascents. Jose Carlos Tamayo and I left Puerto Natales on November 13 in our sea kayaks, pointing our bows toward Resi Fjord. The Cordillera Sarmiento de Gamboa was our final destination. Meanwhile, our climbing partner, Jesus Martin, got under way on the fishing boat La Katita with all of the equipment to survive for two months at the foot of the virgin mountain called La Dama Blanca (the White Lady), the highest summit of the range.

The objective of this expedition was to try to arrive at the summit of the mountain, filming the entire endeavor for the Spanish television program, “Al Filo de lo Imposible.” For that, the film team, made up of Sebastian Alvaro, Esteban Velez, Manolo Rojo and Daniel Salas, intended, aside from surviving the climate, to film the kayak crossing, the set-up of Base Camp and the approach to the mountain. Fortunately, the weather did not prove to be too severe, and, after some intense experiences, we managed to accomplish this objective.

On November 15, the film crew made the return trip, leaving the three of us with everything ready for the climb. We had the luck of living through a spell of very adverse weather that did not leave us the slightest possibility of trying the route. After various attempts at setting up intermediate camps, the severity of the conditions made it clear to us that it did not make sense to fight against the great elements.

At this point, the day arrived when Jose Carlos and Jesus had to leave. On December 28, we abandoned the Canal de las Montañas aboard La Katita. We left a tent installed at BC in anticipation of new reinforcements. On January 18, with a new climbing partner, Rafael Quesada, we left Puerto Natales aboard a fishing boat. We used a local ferry to arrive at the Canal de Las Montañas. With our kayaks, we soared up the canal in two days and were able to paddle right to BC. The weather continued without respite and was so cold that we were only able to explore the lower surrounding areas and paddle around in the kayaks.

On February 8, we left at 3 a.m. from a bivouac at 715 meters above sea level. A calm night of high clouds permitted us to climb to the plateau at the foot of La Dama Blanca to see a beautiful sunrise at 1330 meters. The route was obvious; a spur that begins between the south and north summits kept us safe from the sunbathed seracs. The north summit is the higher of the two, and only the last 120 meters were difficult. After numerous bergschrunds, we arrived at a 60-degree scoop with more vertical sections. The final 80-degree couloir put us on the secondary summit eight hours after leaving our bivouac. The summit and the landscape were worthy attributes of the savage, Patagonian beauty. The reading we got at the summit (1925m) was a bit higher than our map from the Chilean Maritime Geography Institute, but this inspired more confidence in me in view of the rapid atmospheric pressure changes.

In a few hours we had put an end to the excuse of occupying this peninsula. After gathering up BC, we left, towing our equipment to the Grupo La Paz on the rock peninsula—rock towers that had accompanied us in this country for so many days. The barometer reached its highest point on the trip and on February 15 we climbed the west summit on the first splendid day of the whole season. In a twisted landscape, an easy climb permitted us a lovely view of the panorama of these savage mountains. One more time, the exacting governess of Patagonia invited us to return.

Iñaki San Vicente, Spain

Editor's Note: The title and final paragraph of this story were corrected to say the climbers ascended the west summit of Grupo La Paz. The original report originally said the east summit.