Trip Report
North Tower of Paine, TR and Video!
Thursday March 18, 2010 7:06pm
Here is a slightly dated TR from our ascent of the North Tower last December, but with a new video! Now you can watch a couple of warm weather Valley climbers get schooled by the elements, hopefully with a beer in hand a smile on your face. Enjoy!

Link to Vimeo video:

As the sun shines in Puerto Natales, and we chop tomatos and avacados for a fajita feast tonight, I take a moment to realize how lucky I am to be here in Patagonia, climbing the towers that for so long have inspired, intimidated, and ultimately drawn me to their faces.

Credit: Hoots

After the last attempt on the North Tower, Josh and I took several days of much needed rest in town, waiting for good weather. When the forecast looked good, we dashed back up to Campamento Japones, and after enduring a cold night with lots of snow, moved to our high camp up on the moraine in the Val de Silencio.

Approaching Central Tower.  How good do those ski tracks look?!
Approaching Central Tower. How good do those ski tracks look?!
Credit: Hoots
Approaching below Central Tower.

Waking at 3.30am to high winds, we went back to sleep. At 6.50 I awoke again to calm and clear skies, and we made a hasty breakfast and began the long and arduous slog up to the Torres. Our friend Matt showed up around this time, intent on solo climbing the North Tower. Harder snow made the gully much easier, and we made much better time than on our first attempt. At 11.30 we began the mixed snow and rock pitches up to Col Bich, and arrived there at 1.30pm.

After a short break for food and warming of feet, we began the harder climbing out of the Col. Josh led a fantastic thin splitter crack for a full 60m pitch, then we began swapping leads in blocks. The route-finding was a bit difficult at times, and the conditions were (d)icy, but manageable.

After many long but technically easy pitches, we stood at the base of the final summit block. The wind was beginning to pick up and the clouds were starting to envelop Fortaleza and Escudo. At 7.15pm we were standing on top of the summit of the North Tower of Paine. Matt joined us shortly thereafter, I fueled up with several espresso GU packs, and we began the long series of rappels together.

Credit: Hoots

The term "Tat-agonia" is not a misnomer. Rappel anchors in Patagonia are shitty. And after the first ascent of the Tower of the season, we got a chance to see how badly ravaged they become after being subjected to the elements during winter here.

Credit: Hoots
Sport climbing never looked so good.

Replacing most of the cord on all the rap anchors, we made many rappels down the circuitous ridge, dealing with some stuck ropes on the way, and put two major core-shots in Mattīs new rope. Darkness is falling, and the winds are escalating.

With two more rappels to go, we begin to pull my rope (still in one piece), when it becomes hopelessly stuck above us. The winds are reaching 50 or 60 miles an hour, and wind-driven spindrift is stinging our faces as we huddle on the exposed ledge. Unwilling to spend any more time to free the rope, we make a hasty anchor to bail from and make another series of shorter rappels on Mattīs damaged rope to the bottom of the gully. The rappels seem like a twisted version of Russian Roulette, placing one more bullet in the chamber the longer you stay in the game.

It was so windy I was having trouble keeping my hands on the rope!
It was so windy I was having trouble keeping my hands on the rope!
Credit: Hoots

Two long hours of plunge stepping take us down to the ice band bisecting the approach gully. Forced to downclimb this section of steep ice took patience and composure, and was certainly my personal crux of the day. At 3.00am we arrived at the bottom of the gully on the moraine and collapsed. Matt stayed to brew up some water, as Josh and I made the hour long drunken stumble back to our camp, post-holing through snow instead of staying on the moraine. Just before 4am we arrived back to camp and threw ourselves down, completely exhausted from so many hours spent too close to the edge. With a camp-to-camp time of 20 hours, ours was not the fastest ascent of the Monzino Route, but we are proud of making the first ascent of the season, in difficult conditions, and making it back to camp safe.

Credit: Hoots
Junk show.

With good weather forecasted last this coming week, we hope to return to climb on the Central Tower, with a new respect for the power of the wind in this beautiful yet savage land.


POSTSCRIPT: The weather never got better, at least not for us on the Central. A couple mini windows arrived, enough for a few teams to climb the Monzino route in, but conditions were fairly grim. In early February I bailed to Argentina to climb in the Arenales Canyon (see other trip report), and Josh headed for more snow wallowing in Bolivia. Not until mid February would any teams have success on any other routes besides the Monzino route- Sebastian Munoz and Walker Mackay (as well as 2 other Chilean dudes) nabbed the coveted second ascent of the Kearney/Knight. Well done boys!

  Trip Report Views: 5,204
About the Author
Hoots is a climber from Toyota, Tacoma.

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Oakland, CA
  Mar 18, 2010 - 07:55pm PT
Approaching Central Tower. How good do those ski tracks look?!

Really good.

Thanks for this! Wild!

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Mar 19, 2010 - 01:30am PT

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Mar 22, 2010 - 08:49pm PT
That was a sick video. It really seemed to capture your trip. Thanks for posting.

Ice climber
  Mar 23, 2010 - 01:27pm PT
Way to git-R-done. Awesome scenery there. One climb a year (or more) like that is sweet.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
  Apr 4, 2010 - 10:41pm PT

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Apr 6, 2010 - 01:20am PT
Well done! Way to stay stoked and fight for the summy. What an adventure!

Big Wall climber
the range of light
  Apr 7, 2010 - 08:38pm PT are the f-ing man!!!

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Apr 12, 2010 - 07:25am PT
Really impressive. Glad to hear you tell the tale despite core shots. Great pictures! Thanks!

Trad climber
  Apr 30, 2010 - 03:31pm PT
Hell ya.

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
  Nov 12, 2010 - 10:49pm PT

Social climber
Wilds of New Mexico
  Nov 13, 2010 - 03:39am PT
Awesome Hoots, I missed this one the first time around. We did the North Tower several years ago. Such a cool place.

Trad climber
  Nov 13, 2010 - 10:29am PT
Myles Moser

Lone Pine, Ca
  Nov 1, 2012 - 01:22pm PT
oh snap!

Totally geekin'!
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Jul 15, 2016 - 10:25am PT
Bump for climbing content
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