First complete crossing of the Torres del Paine

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 31/03/2013
Pedro Cifuentes followed the complete skyline of the Torres del Paine, from the notch on the right, to the South Tower on the left, then a descent of the rounded buttress facing the camera.

Spanish climber Pedro Cifuentes, on his third attempt, has made the first integral traverse of the three main Paine Towers.

Cifuentes tried this project first in 2011 with Adrian Ayllon, and again, solo, in 2012. This year he completed the traverse, solo, over 29 days during January and February.

Cifuentes began with an ascent of Espiritu Libre (500m, 5.11 and A1), which climbs the north ridge of Torre Norte, arriving on the subsidiary northern summit. He backroped, hauling his sac, which at the start weighed more than 45kg.

He then descended 100m to the gap before the main top and reached the latter via Cuenca es Unica (250m, 5.11 and A1), a route that he had put up himself, with Ayllon, in 2011 after the pair had made the second ascent of Espiritu Libre.

Rappelling the standard Monzino Route on the south ridge, he reached the gap below the Central Tower, the same day fixing the first pitch of the original Bonington-Whillans Route (800m, 5.11d and A2).

He reached the Central Tower summit on the 24th January, where he received a forecast that a storm was moving in. Next day he descended the Kearney-Knight Route to reach the gap before the South Tower.

Here, he had already placed a cache of food, ice gear, and some bolts, all of which he anticipated he would need to make the difficult traverse of the South Tower.

Then the weather moved in and he spent the next eight days confined to a portaledge, rationing his supplies.

In early February he started up the normal Aste Route on the South Tower (900m, 5.11 and A1) and, methodically backroping, he reached the top seven days later.

Again, he was informed that another weather system was moving in. Speed was now essential to complete perhaps the most difficult and dangerous part of the journey, the descent of the Southeast Buttress via the line of Hoth.

Hoth (1,100m, 27 pitches, 5.10+ A4 WI2/3) was put up over 24 days in 2000 by Canadians Conny Amelunxen and Sean Easten.

One he'd started down the difficult rappels, Cifuentes threw off his sac. The descent was full of tension, as there were four major rockfalls, one stone scoring a direct hit on his arm.

He safely reached the Torres Glacier, retrieved his sac, and headed down valley to where a friend was waiting.

In 2002 American Steve Schneider climbed all three towers in a single crossing. In a 51-hour round trip from the Campamento Japanese, he climbed the Monzino Route, up and down, to the south summit of North Tower, the Bonington-Whillans to the Central Tower, and then the Aste Route, up and down, to the South Tower. However, no one prior to Cifuentes appears to have followed the complete skyline of all three towers.

Thanks to José Mendieta for help with this report



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