Wilderness First Ascent in Remote Patagonia

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Rafting across Lago Mariposa to reach the wall, with the threatening glacier visible. Photo by Matthew Van Biene / vanbienephotography.com

Rafting across Lago Mariposa to reach the wall, with the threatening glacier visible. Photo by Matthew Van Biene / vanbienephotography.com

Canadians Marc-Andre Leclerc, Paul McSorley, and Will Stanhope, along with Matthew Van Biene from the U.S., have climbed an 18-pitch new route in a super-remote valley in northern Patagonia. The four men's wilderness adventure involved horsepacking, machete-wielding bushwhacks, rafting, and numerous river crossings—just to reach the foot of the 2,300-foot granite wall. After completing the probable first ascent of Cerro Mariposa, they then rafted out a river to escape the mountains.

The wall rises above Lago Mariposa, near the headwaters of one branch of the Rio Turbio in Argentina. McSorley and Stanhope, along with Andrew Querner, had climbed several peaks in the nearby Piritas Valley in early 2009, following much of the same approach.

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Paul McSorley climbing La Vuelta de los Condores on a splitter Patagonian day. Photo by Will Stanhope.

This time, they spent over a week shuttling loads into the upper Mariposa Valley, including pack rafts that they used to cross the lake and reach the base of the wall. This they climbed in one long day. (One day earlier, Leclerk and McSorley had fixed the first five pitches.) Stanhope said they were "pretty spooked" about rockfall caused by the glacier sitting atop the wall, but they were able to find a line they felt was safe. "It ended up being a good idea, as one of our original ideas for a line got nuked by rockfall when we were on the route," he said. They called the route La Vuelta de los Condores (5.11 A2), "after a group of good-luck condors that swirled around us on the wall," Stanhope said.

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The line of La Vuelta de los Condores (700m, 5.11 A2). Photo by Matthew Van Biene / vanbienephotography.com

After the long day of climbing, the team had an open bivy on top before descending. They packed up and then rafted out the Rio Turbio to return to civilization.

"It was a really wild adventure," Stanhope said. "We didn't have a SAT phone, but fortunately nailed a two-week stretch of perfect weather."

Date of ascent: January 2014

Sources: Will Stanhope, Matthew Van Biene (vanbienephotography.com)