La Ramada Range, Rio Colorado Valley, Ascents
South America, Argentina, Central Andes
La Ramada is a remote, little-visited range in Argentina, 200km northwest of Mendoza, without a precise map. With Argentine climbers, I’ve climbed in this area, specifically the Rio Colorado Valley, three times. Access involves a four-hour drive from Mendoza to the nice village of Barreal and then thegendarmerie post of Santa Anna, the beginning of the walk. Then a two-day, 30km, trek with 1,400m elevation gain, to base camp (3,600m). In 2005, with an Argentine climber, we repeated two existing routes: the South Face of Pico Negro and the East Face (Serac Route; French D) of Pico Polaco, considered the most beautiful mountain in the area. Then, in January 2008, Anibal Maturano (Argentina) and I climbed a 5,700m peak that had no known previous ascents; Anibal called it Pico Franco-Argentina. Our route, St. Jean de Passy, begins at 4,100m, above the upper valley, and climbs the east-northeast face. It was nice, but not technical (French PD). We made two camps above base camp (4,300m and 4,900m; a porter came with us to our highest camps on these trips), explored the glacier, and climbed two parallel couloirs (45°) en route to the summit.
It was a pleasure to return in December 2009 for 10 days, with Gabriel Fava (Argentina) to the valley’s fantastic landscapes, home of the agile guanacos, and our calm base camp dominated by the impressive south face of Mercedario and the pyramid of Pico Polaco. Above base camp we established two camps on the Italian Glacier to reach the base of La Mesa, distinguished by its long summit ridge. We climbed a direct route to its central summit (6,130m) on December 15, gaining 1,130m on the northeast face near a ridge, difficulty D-/D. It was 45°/50° max, with a final 10m of 60° to reach the ridge. In the absence of previous known ascents, we named the route Veronica y Seis Hijos, dedicated to my wife and six children. The best time to climb this mountain is usually November and December; November could be colder, and in January the Italian Glacier can be impassable and the faces icier.