Here’s a somewhat late blog post, of the remainder of my time in Patagonian winter, and the journey back to the Salish Sea.
While it was very cool to finally explore the Chalten Massif in wintertime, it wasn’t a highly successful trip for me in terms of climbing accomplishments. I made two attempts on technical, more serious objectives, but both times I was scared off pretty quickly – the ice conditions felt too insecure for free soloing. I did, however, have one last big day in the mountains shortly before leaving, when I made a traverse of the three summits of Cerro Electrico.
When I had climbed on Cerro Electrico a short while earlier, it had occurred to me that it was a perfect objective for a fun, technically-moderate alpine traverse. Both the approach and the descent are straightforward and quick. So, with a day of decent weather forecasted, I took off from the Rio Electrico bridge fairly early on September 20.
The traverse of Cerro Electrico tags three summits – first, the Cumbre Roja (the Northeast Summit, which I had made the first ascent of on Sept. 6), then the Cumbre Central, and finally Castillo Negro, which is the highest and most technical of the three. There are a handful of 4th-class mixed climbing sections, but it is mostly steep snow slopes and ridge-walking. I think it’s a great little tour, and I would definitely recommend it, although I’m sure it is always best in winter or spring, with more snow. I climbed Castillo Negro by the southeast face, which is the route of the first ascent, by Carlos Comesaña. For me, the principal difficulty was lots of solo trail-breaking through deep snow. I made the mistake at the end of the day of traversing all the way to Paso Guillaumet in deep snow below the south side of Castillo Negro – I realized afterwards that there is a very easy and fast looking descent directly to Piedra Negra from the col at the base of Castillo Negro’s east ridge.
I left Chalten a couple days after the vernal equinox, and on my way back to the Salish Sea, I made two stops: first in Santiago de Chile, and then in Ontario. In Santiago I gave a slideshow at one of the Patagonia retail stores, which was a special one for me because it’s the first slideshow that I’ve done in a second language. I spent a few days in Santiago, and on one of them my friend Nacho Morales took me out for some fun ski touring up in the Maipo Valley. The snow wasn’t amazing, but we definitely got in some fun turns amidst great scenery.
My last stop was meeting up with my girlfriend, Sarah, for a week in Ontario. Our trip was mostly about visiting with Sarah’s family and eating lots of food. However, we did get to spend four days climbing up in Lion’s Head, which luckily coincided with brilliant weather. The climbing in Lion’s Head is a bit logistically-challenged, in that most routes are done by rapping in to a hanging belay and then climbing out, which makes it difficult to log a lot of pitches in one day. However, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous (quite reminiscent of the Mediterranean, or at least what I’ve seen in photos), and the rock quality is excellent – definitely the best limestone that I have climbed on. I’m sure that many limestone venues in Europe are higher-quality, but Lion’s Head is for sure better quality limestone than the crags in the Canadian Rockies.
Now I am enjoying a brief stint of fall, back in the Salish Sea Basin. Fortunately the weather has been abnormally wonderful for this time of year, and Sarah and I have gotten in many days of rock climbing recently at Index and Squamish. The fall rains began yesterday, and that’s OK because in two weeks we’ll be back in El Chalten!
Getting scared and bailing off a new route attempt in the Chalten Massif:
Taking my heavy backpack out for a tour of the South Patagonian Icecap:
The Icecap involves a lot of monotonous, flat skiing, but at least it is pretty!
A view from near Paso Marconi of Cerro Electrico. Cumbre Roja is on the left, Cumbre Central in the middle (duh!), and Castillo Negro is on the right:
Hiking up the glacier on the east side of Cerro Electrico:
Heading up the Cumbre Roja for my second time:
The second ascent of Cerro Electrico’s Cumbre Roja:
Looking down the north side of Cumbre Roja – bigger and steeper:
For my second trip up Cumbre Roja I had the foresight to bring a small rope, and didn’t have to bother down-climbing this little mixed-climbing step:
Looking back at Cerro Electrico’s Cumbre Roja, from near the Cumbre Central:
On top of Cerro Electrico’s Cumbre Central during my traverse of the three summits:
Down-climbing the chossy 4th-class west ridge of the Cumbre Central:
Making a short rap off of the Cumbre Central:
Looking over to the southeast side of Castillo Negro, with Cerro Chalten behind:
Nearing Castillo Negro, and looking back at the Cumbre Central and Cumbre Roja of Cerro Electrico:
Climbing up the southeast face of Castillo Negro:
Looking east towards the Cumbre Central, from near the summit of Castillo Negro:
On the summit of Castillo Negro, with Cerro Chalten behind:
Looking down the chaotic west side of Castillo Negro:
A short rap on the way back down Castillo Negro’s southeast face:
Scenic but tiring post-holing over to Paso Guillaumet:
Farewell to Austral winter – cool clouds in the Electrico Valley on the first day of spring:
Nacho Morales skinning up near what I believe was Cerro Arena:
Nacho taking in a nice view – these peaks are just about an hour drive outside of Santiago:
Nacho getting some turns in:
Colin following a nice route at Lion’s Head. Photo by Nick Elson:
Colin and Sarah climbing the moderate classic “American Bucks,” at Lion’s Head. Photo by Nick Elson:
An easy, but nicely exposed route. Photo by Nick Elson:
It could’ve been Corsica! Photo by Sarah Hart:
Sarah enjoying some nice fall weather at Lion’s Head:
Couples shot: Sarah and I enjoying the evening light, with our friends from Squamish, Nick Elson and Karina Benavides lounging on the bluff behind: