Torre Norte (North Tower of Paine)

  1. Route
    1. Our high camp was at the base of the glacier in Valle del Silencio. This camp (Salmon Camp) provided us a straight shot at the summit from the base of the couloirs. It was located just out from the base of Escudo between two mounds of glacial ice. The ice mounds and a wall we constructed from rock successfully protected us from the wind.

i.     This camp was named Salmon Camp because of the abundance of streams that ran directly through the camp. When approaching the camp one feels like a salmon swimming upstream. As far as we know we are the first party to establish a high camp in this area.

  1. Routes- There is some information on routes within the park but you have to contact specific people to find it. The locals at Puerto Natales call the guide book “The Book.” It consists of paper napkins and small pieces of paper collected from many climbers throughout the years. We found the local population to be the best source of information on routes.

i.     Couloir- Follow the left rock line up through the hourglass and to the base of a rock arête. This Couloir starts at about a 50⁰ angle and increases to about 60⁰ or 70⁰ at the top. At the rock arête you can continue up the snow and ice or opt for continuing on the rock. Since the rock was covered in snow we took the Couloir all the way to the col. This Couloir funnels all sorts of falling rock and ice so it is necessary to be very aware of what is happening above you. Our gear stash was at the base of the Couloir. There is a good rock bivi on the southwest side of the gully leading to the col. Depending on conditions, this Couloir can be climbed between 4 and 6 hours.

ii.     Mixed Climbing- There are four pitches of mixed climbing. Once You reach a three piton anchor set in the middle of the coulior you are at the first pitch of the mixed climbing. Depending on conditions you might want to lead with rope. The route follows a groove in the center of the coulior. There is a good stance halfway up the third pitch where you can build a very sturdy anchor (#3 Green and Yellow Alien). This anchor is where we switched from boots into rock shoes.

iii.     Technical Rock Climbing- From the col there are two pitches of hard rock climbing, a series of simo-climbing, and a summit pitch. The Climb consists of eight pitches.

  1. The first pitch follows up a system. This system curves around some rock and has one piton hammered in the route. The system turns into a right facing corner and is really well protected with fixed pitons (5.9).
  2. The second pitch is slightly more difficult. This pitch follows another obvious system with lots of protection. There is one little runout in the beginning of the pitch (5.9R). After the runout, the route continues up a right facing corner. This right facing corner turns into a series of splitter cracks. Ring lock through this section until it opens up into hands.  Then place a #3 for the final mantel move up on top of a good belay ledge(5.10a).
    1. After the crux, start to simo-climb. We simo-climbed, switching leads, all the way to the summit ridge. This climbing is relatively easy and can be done very quickly if your system is dialed.
    2. The summit pitch is also relatively easy (5.7), however be ready to deal with some rime ice. The route climbs up the southeast face of the summit block. This face is very exposed to any potential bad weather. Be prepared to climb up rime covered edges on runout climbing. There are two fixed pitons halfway up the block and I was able to set a yellow alien under a flake.

iv.     Descent: From the summit, rappel to the summit ridge (25m). Traverse the summit ridge on lead. Do another rappel straight down and you will reach a chock stone with slings around it (25m). The rappel of the chock stone is the scariest rappel on the route, particularly because it can be covered with rime ice (15m). From there you will do another rappel off a stopper and a piton anchor down a ramp to the east side of the tower. At the end of your rope you will need to build an anchor and do a down climb to the next rappel anchor. From the rappel anchor, do another rappel and another down climb. Finally, do one more rappel to the fourth class ramp. From there you can down climb to the two piton anchor at the top of the crux pitch. This anchor drops you directly into a smooth rappel system. Do six rappels down. And at the end of these rappels you will be at the top of the couloir. On our summit day the snow had heated all day and the conditions allowed us to glissade down to the base.

North and Central Towers of Paine

North and Central Towers of Paine

 

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