In March, Sílvia Vidal completed the first ascent of Sincronia Màgica, a 1,180-meter A3+/5.10c, which she rope soloed. Vidal’s new route is the first passage up the west face of Cerro Chileno Grande, located in the Aysén region of Chilean Patagonia. She spent 33 days alone on the wall, climbing capsule style, from February 7 to March 10. Vidal was without a satellite phone or radio for the duration of her expedition, and had set out well before the COVID-19 crisis had been declared a global pandemic. She emerged from her remote and isolated climbing expedition to a changed world.
Vidal is 49 years old and native to Barcelona. She is a preeminent big-wall soloist, having taken up the discipline over 20 years ago with solo ascents of Zodiac and Wyoming Sheep Ranch on El Capitan. Since then, Vidal has completed big-wall solos all over the world, notably: Life is Lilac (A4+/5.10b) on Shipton Spire in the Karakoram range, in which she spent 21 days alone on the wall; Naufragi (A4+) on the Kailash Parbat massif in the Indian Himalaya, spending 25 days alone on the wall; and Espiadimonis (A4/5.10c) on Serranía Avalancha in Chilean Patagonia, spending 32 days on the wall.
In total Vidal spent 16 days portering 150 kilograms of supplies to the remote wall with minimal help. Three individuals—Andrea, Marco and Manu—who work in the area each carried supplies for one trip. Vidal told Climbing that she is deeply grateful for their work. The rest, Vidal carried on her own, covering more than 150 kilometers over roundtrips to the base of Cerro Chileno Grande.
Vidal recounted her experience of climbing Sincronia Màgica to Desnivel: “It is a complex wall and difficult to progress, not so much because of the degree of the climb, but because of the amount of maneuvers that are necessary to move through that terrain; many ceilings, crossings, pendulums… to link fissures and plates.”
A 330-meter section of the climb was covered in vegetation. Vidal used crampons and an ice axe to ascend with “void or difficult protection.”
Difficulties are often exacerbated and progress is slowed by the weather in this region of Chilean Patagonia, though Vidal considers herself lucky that it only rained during half of the days of her expedition. “Still I had quite a good time, raining 50% of the days (normal is more),” she wrote. “Between them were two storms of rain and strong wind. When it’s windy, being on the wall is dangerous.”
Vidal continues: “Reading the information seems like [it’s] a hell of a place. It is not. The place is beautiful and intense, and what I lived there is summarized by the name of the route, Sincronia Màgica.” (“Sincronia Màgica” translates to “Magic Synchrony.”)
In the time that Vidal was out of touch with civilization, the COVID-19 crisis evolved from a seemingly distant issue isolated to a handful of countries around the world, to a full-scale global pandemic. Countless countries have government mandated “stay at home” orders, and have instructed their citizens to practice social distancing and self-isolation. Oblivious to all of this, Vidal was practicing the highest form of self-isolation: climbing alone on a wall for 33 days.
“Returning from an expedition where you have been alone and incommunicado requires time and acclimatization to ‘civilization’ to adapt to changes,” Vidal wrote. “But this time it has been the entire planet that has changed. The world changed and we with it.”