El Cuchillo

Anarquía Vertical


This summer in the southern hemisphere, my partner Sebastian Muñoz (Colombian), and I climbed a new route that we named Anarquía Vertical. It was a previously virgin formation in the Torres del Paine National Park, in Chilean Patagonia. The mountain is located in the southwest potion of the park, in the French Valley. The French Valley is the center portion of the well-known W trek, covering the highlights of the park. El Cuchillo (The Knife), the moutain we climbed, is positioned on the southern flank of La Espada (The Sword), with an altitude of approximately 2000 meters.

We approached the route by passing through Campamento Italiano and Campamento Britanico, and continued by hiking 65 kilograms of gear to our base camp, in a granite cave just below the western facing slabs leading up to feature. The following day, on January 23rd, we left from our base camp at four am and reached the route proper at ten a.m. We followed a dry couloir with rock climbing equipment, but it would be possible to approach by snow in different conditions.  It led us up through some fourth class climbing, eventually to 5.6-5.8 slab climbing.

The route we decided to climb follows a line right from center and direct on west face of El Cuchillo, in alpine style, with one rope swapping leads, in predominately free climbing technique. The crack system is beautiful, with great protection, and has passages of easy face climbing.  When the crack got thin, we were forced out onto the faces. We passed through one short section of aid, in a roof at the beginning of the route.  We could probably have gone free in it in different conditions, if there was a bit less ice on the first pitch. We followed this system from ledge to ledge through immaculate chimneys, splitter hand cracks, technical face climbing and ramps, to the top of pitch five. From pitch five, we traversed to the right, on one of the most beautiful granite handrails I have ever climbed. The fifth pitch was followed by a right traverse up and over a few blocks, and up through a dihedral with lots of positive edges, which finished in a narrowing hand crack.

At exactly 2 pm, we found ourselves on top of the formation, looking up at the summit block. The summit block looked impenetrable, standing tall with a thin seam in the middle that would surely be hard aid climbing. As I belayed Sebastian up to me, I wondered if our efforts had fallen short.  We quickly organized our gear, and I led out across the ledge to find a weakness in the rock. With dedication in our hearts and stable weather, we traversed left across the summit ledge and I found an alternative weakness.

The summit pitch consisted of a perfect hand crack in a funky chimney, followed by stepping out left into a finger crack.  As Sebastion summated, he yelled up to me, “Walker, you found the stairway to heaven, hermano.” We reached the summit of the 300 meter west face at 2:50pm, after 11 hours of climbing. We rated the route 5.10b A1. The line consisted of ten pitches, at 30-50 meters each. The rappels followed down the south ridge and into the line of ascent, at +/- 30 meters each. When we reached the bottom of the headwall, we down-climbed for a short ways, and made two 60-meter rappels, bypassing the steeper sections of slab. With smiles on our faces, we scrambled down the remainder of the dry couloir, and reached our granite cave at eight p.m. The climb in total, to cave and from the cave, consisted of sixteen hours of spectacular rock climbing on splitter granite cracks. 


Walker Mackey, Colorado

La Espada and El Cuchillo

La Espada and El Cuchillo


  1. Nice pic… Saludos al Noz… Feliz Navidad parcero, se le quiere

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