In a bleary eyed state I awoke and sat bolt up right trying to remember where I was. It came to me fast when my head smacked into the cave’s roof a couple of feet above my head where I lay. The crags and the pinnacles across the valley were coming into the sun. I dragged myself from the sleeping bag and went in search of a cup of tea.
The previous day we had driven north from Bariloche, the chocolate heaven of Argentina, for 60km when the valley began to close up and the rolling hills began to be cut by cliffs, walls and ridges. We turned the corner and there on the other side of the river was an incredible valley with alpine characteristics shrouded by a Latin American veil. We stopped the truck. In amongst the huts at the foot of the valley was a grounds man
trimming the lawn of the estate. We shouted across, and once we had his attention I motioned for him to row across the 100m wide slow moving Rio Negro. It turned out after translation, hand signals, drawings and a satellite phone call that we were allowed to explore, climb and camp on their land. It took 2 hours for the 10 boat trips and 6 journeys with a quad to ferry all the gear needed for 20 climbers to camp, eat and climb for 5 days. The package was made complete when we found the cave I mentioned earlier which was big enough to live in. In fact there were two caves. The left hand cave had beds laid down for us, all with Kerosene lamps hanging from the walls.
The waterfall flowing ten meters to the left of the entrance provided a suitable bathroom with clean water for drinking and washing, albeit a bit cold. The right hand cave had a bar set up on the back wall, complete with wine racks and an icebox. There was a fire in the centre and a kitchen to the left. The fire warms the cavern with a homely glow that stops at the entrance where the moon lit night takes over and the silhouettes of the jagged, pillared ridge on the opposite side of the valley can be seen when the enveloping mists and cloud part.
The rock: although often loose we still filled the days with climbing, finding what solid rock there was and exploring the towers, scrambling, abseiling and at one point a doing Tyrolean traverse.
Before this we spent weeks in the Torres del Paine area and in El Chalten. El Chalten is a village a mere 4-hour walk from the Fitzroy Massif. We have put up 25 new routes mostly following impeccable cracks; all unclimbed although only a 1.5 hour drive from Santiago. The next crag we climbed at was Torrecillas which is much like the conglomerate towers of Meteora in Greece, with the Andean extras of condors, 4,500m peak back drops, thermal springs, fine red wines, blaa blaa blaa …
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