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In January 2009, Tom Holzhauser, Dominik Angehrn, my brother Michi Tresch and myself traveled to South America’s Valle Cochamó, Chile, for two months of big wall climbing on beautiful granite. We arrived without any specific plans only an article from the web and a few photos that inspired us but hoped to make a nice first ascent.
After checking out the area we decided that Cerro Capicua would be the wall to go for because there were only two existing A4 aid routes on the wall. Armed with a machete and lots of big wall gear we started fighting our way to thye base through the Chilean rain forest. The first 500 meters of the route went quite quickly. The first pitch was a vertical vegetation-fest followed by a few more pitches of 5.10. Hauling our bags “big mama” 1 and 2, plus our portaledge (which weighed 120 kg) up the wall was very strenuous and slowed us down big time.
Finally, after arriving at the big ledge half-way up the wall, we found a perfect water supply. We were ammused, annoyed, relieved that we’d carried 60 liters of water up the wall for nothing! The wall started to get steep above the half-way ledge. It took me a whole day to climb two pitches! We continued aiding up with our best friends: birdbeaks and a Hilti power drill. The rock was not really that first ascent friendly with many closed, grassy cracks. The second pitch off the ledge was a breakthrough. It looked impossible, a blank slab with a closed crack but it evetually went free at 5.12d. It carried on the same style birdbeak after birdbeak.
The next four pitches from the portaledge were not nice and consisted of steep, dirty, grassy offwiths at 5.10/A1 climbing. We continued up to the top of the wall, but not one of us wanted to clean and free climb the upper part of the route we had just completed. So, we decided that we would try another section to the right. It was a good decision because we found perfect pitches, a nice portaledge camp with a ledge and one of the best 5.12d pitches I’ve climbed anywhere! After climbing a really grassy crack on the left of our ledge I found a killer line straight up from the ledge on the way down. The first few meters of the ledge were blank and I almost gave up trying, until I used my bouldering skills. I found that the only way was with a full body dyno to a crimp, 800 meters off the deck! Perfect.
A few more tricky pitches higher, which Michi led, we arrived at the summit a second time, but this time all free. We named the route: Los Tigres del Norte (5.12d, 24 pitches, 1200 meters) and Los Gorilas del Norte (5.12d/A2, 24 pitches, 1200 meters). It took us 18 days on the wall with a few rests between. We placed 40 bolts and smashed 10 birdbeaks during our first free ascent of the wall. After that, I had to go home but after a few rest days, and fresh skin, Dominik and Michi returned to Los Tigres del Norte and climbed it free in one push making the ascent in eleven hours completing a perfect trip.
To provide assistance and support to the community that protects this pristine Chilean wilderness please dotate to Conservación Cochamó. A plan to build a dam and flood the valley, or criss cross it with massive power lines could ruin Cochamó for everyone, forever.
To protect Valle Cochamó, visit www.cochamo.org for more informtion