First Ascent of Much-Tried Patagonian Peak

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Approaching one of the largest crevasses on Volcan Aguilera. Photo by Evan Miles.

Approaching one of the largest crevasses on Volcan Aguilera. Photo by Evan Miles.

9/30/14 - An international expedition has done the first ascent of one of Patagonia's most isolated summits, in the middle of winter. Volcan Aguilera was the last major volcano in the Andes to be climbed—it had been attempted six times since the mid-1980s.

In their third "Uncharted" expedition, exploring the wildest regions of the tip of South America, Camilo Rada (Chile) and Natalia Martinez (Argentina) teamed up with Ines Dusaillant (Chile), Viviana Callahan (Chile), and Evan Miles (USA) for a 25-day expedition to climb Volcan Aguilera and other peaks.

Volcan Aguilera (2,480m/8,136') rises nearly 5,000 feet over the icefield. Although it's only 10 kilometers from tidewater, the dense vegetation along the approach and the region’s fickle weather had repulsed six different month-long expeditions since 1986, allowing only one team to even establish a camp at the mountain’s base. Taking note, the Uncharted team instead employed a counter-intuitive approach and started from much farther away, leaving Lago Agrentino and traversing 47 kilometers (29 miles) of icefield, over previously unclimbed passes, to reach the mountain’s north side.

The first ascent of Volcan Aguilera, rising 5,000 feet above the ice cap. Photo courtesy of Uncharted.

The first ascent of Volcan Aguilera, rising 5,000 feet above the ice cap. Photo courtesy of Uncharted.

In a 25-hour round-trip summit push, all five members of the team were able to negotiate the mountain’s seracs, gaping bergschrunds, and ice mushrooms to attain the summit at dusk on August 29. Their route, Concierto de Rimayas, ascends the volcano’s north ridge before crossing onto the heavily glaciated northwest face. It was named for the complex navigation required to find a path around, over, and through at least five bergschrunds (or rimayas).

With fantastic weather and time for more exploration during their return journey, the team subsequently climbed two unnamed peaks (Peak 2,420m and Peak 2,440m), Cerro Spegazzini’s East Peak (2,290m), and Cerro Esperanza (2,520m), all believed to be previously unclimbed.

The Uncharted project is working to preserve the stories of exploration and clarify errors in the history and maps of Patagonia’s mountains. In 2013, team members did a new route on Monte Sarmiento, making only the second ascent of the main peak in 57 years. The year before they completed extensive exploration and new routes in the Cordillera de Sarmiento. As with the previous expeditions, the team expects to produce a new, highly accurate map of the Aguilera region.

Date of ascent: August 29, 2014 (Volcan Aguilera)

Sources: Camilo Rada, Uncharted expedition, American Alpine Journal