Gore, Muskett and Turner narrowly miss summit on Patagonian first ascent

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 22/11/2013
The three towers of Paine. On the far left, in profile, the south face of the South Tower lies in shadow. The team reached the more moderately angled snow and mixed ground below the summit. Arkadiy Seregin
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Supported by expedition grants from the BMC, MEF and Alpine Club, British climbers Jerry Gore, Calum Muskett and Mike 'Twid' Turner, with French cameraman Raphael Jochand, reached the top of the big rock wall forming the south face of the South Tower of Paine, but were unable to stand on the summit.

After climbing 900m to their high point at the top of the wall, a ferocious storm on the final day prevented the team reaching the summit, only 100m of easy mixed climbing above.

The team battled with the steep rock wall over three weeks in a variety of weather conditions. Storms raged throughout, giving only two days of perfect weather.

The four climbed the right side of the wall, its southeast aspect, in 18 continuously difficult pitches, many taxing A3+.

There were plenty of loose, difficult, expanding pitches on the lower and middle sections, but in contrast the upper wall of pink granite provided some excellent rock and fine sections of free climbing.

Muskett, on his first trip to Patagonia, produced a sterling effort, free climbing on freezing cold days, while Gore and Turner shared the challenging loose and scary aid pitches.

Jochaud made a major contribution to climbing and filming. He only joined the team at the last minute, but proved to be the social lynch-pin and culinary consultant, bringing a fine flavour of French humour and cooking. It was a big team effort.

The one-kilometre-wide and ca 1,000m high face is considered the "last great problem" of Patagonia's Torres del Paine region, but its aspect, which ensures very little sun and the uninterrupted full force of the Patagonian elements, together with its steep monolithic walls, have kept serious attempts to an absolute minimum.

In fact before this year there was only one.

In 2006 Stu McAleese and Twid Turner arrived in the Bader valley to attempt the face but during the next four weeks experienced only eight hours of good weather, eventually climbing 15 pitches to a high point ca 300m below the summit.

Having been relentlessly battered by fierce conditions and then sat out a storm in their portaledge for four days, they ran out of time and retreated.

This October-November the team had planned to complete this line, and once they had climbed above the end of the major difficulties, hopes were high.

However, true to form, on what was their last day, a ferocious Patagonian storm  prevented them reaching the elusive 2,500m top, the highest of the three Paine towers.

 



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