Remote Patagonian Peak Climbed

By Dougald MacDonald ,

An American-Chilean team completed the first ascent of striking Avellano Tower, in what was probably the first climbing expedition to the Avellano Valley of northern Patagonia. Americans Dave Anderson, Steve Herlighy and Jamie Selda, along with Chilean Nacho Grez, spent 27 days in this valley 80 miles south of the town of Coyhaique. Grez had discovered the massif while leading a NOLS trek in the area — there literally was a blank spot on the map where the towers were located, because cartographers had not been able to see the peaks through the clouds. The team hoped to climb the 2,500-foot walls on the eastern side of the formation, but extremely unstable weather constrained them — it rained or snowed at least part of every day they spent in the area. On March 20, during a half-day respite from the storms, the quartet climbed Avellano Tower via a complex ridge route, which they named Conquistador Ridge (5.10 AI 3). Summiting just after sunset, they spent the night rappelling and downclimbing. Nine days later, Anderson and Selda attempted the northeast pillar of the tower, climbing about 1,000 feet on heavily iced cracks before another storm forced them down.Anderson said the area offers great climbing objectives of all types and difficulties. The mountains, he added, “are not subject to the extreme winds of other, more exposed climbing areas in Patagonia, but the valley does receive abundant precipitation.” The expedition was supported by a Mugs Stump Award, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and the Mazamas.

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