Playing in the Paine—Dave Turner's wild rides in Patagonia
In 2009 I was fortunate enough to tag a few new summits in the Paine region of southern Patagonia. My original intention was to solo a new big wall route on the South Tower, but after sustaining a pretty bad tendon injury on a few smaller climbs, I was forced to eliminate the big wall climbing, and try a few different peaks instead.
There were only four independent virgin summits left in the park as far as I knew, and I was lucky enough to solo two of them and make the third with a partner. I also climbed two smaller virgin sub peaks as well.
First, Mark Matthews and I made the first ascent of the higher of the two “Gemelos.” The lower summit had been climbed once or even twice, but this 350-meter route on the higher tower, full of beautiful cracks and faces, had never been climbed or even attempted. We climbed the route free at 5.10, and named it Audios Ayer. It received a second ascent and was highly enjoyed.
I then soled the two highest virgin peaks in the valley, over three days in late January. On the 21st, my birthday, I made the first ascent of El Dorado, the first peak southwest of the South Tower of Paine. I gained the summit via a 250-meter set of cracks up the north side of the peak, and rappelled more or less the same way down. The route had two short sections of 5.10, but the rest was a bit easier. Just to the southwest, was another virgin summit that I climbed two days later, El Spartano. This great 400 meter 5.9 route had the coolest ridge feature I have ever climbed: for about 200 meters you are hand traversing this “wave” of golden granite that is amazing and exposed, and completely overhung on the other side.
I then climbed two more, smaller, previously unclimbed summits in the valley. I scrambled to the top of a small sub peak of the South Tower and named it La Mesita. This easy, and nearly non-technical climb added a nice afternoon treat to an evening bivy high on the flank of the South Tower one evening. A few days later, Pete Webb and I climbed a sub peak of El Spartano, via a fun four-pitch 5.8 route.
I also made four solo attempts on a new route on the South Tower of Paine’s west face. On my fourth and final attempt, I was able to climb 60% of the way up, only to be turned back by an impending storm. I will definitely be returning to the South Tower some day soon, it is a beautiful mountain that has yet another unfinished route on its flanks, just waiting to be finished.
Big thanks to the Mugs Stump Award for their generous help on this expedition.
Here is a small slideshow/movie I have put together to check out. It is a completely amateur production, but I hope you like it.
— Dave Turner