Three Back-to-Back Big Wall Ascents in Patagonia

Belgian climber Siebe Vanhee has completed three big wall ascents in the Cochamó Valley of the Patagonian Andes in Chile. In 10 days, he free-climbed repeats of Sundance on Cerro Trinidad and El Condor Pasa on Trinidad Central with Diego Diazaguilera and Max Didier, respectively. He then completed the first known ascent of Jardines de Piedras and Cerro la Sombra in Valle la Luz, with Max Didier and Ian Saidak.

Siebe Vanhee. Photo: Siebe Vanhee


The first free ascent of the trip was Sundance, the Northwest face of Cerro Trinidad (5.12a (7a+) A2+, 22 pitches). Vanhee tackled this climb with local climber Diego Diazaguilera, reaching the summit of Trinidad after 16 hours of “strenuous, steep, weird climbing”. This legendary climb was first put up by Grant Farquhar and Simon Nadin in 1998.

Since that initial ascent, the route has never been repeated. The chosen line is on the steepest face of the wall and includes five challenging aid pitches. The first two both took Vanhee two attempts to complete. He has also said that pitch nine “was a big fight through flared and steep cracks”.

Sundance. Photo: Siebe Vanhee


Free ascent number two was El Condor Pasa on Trinidad Central (8b, 20 pitches). This is known to be the hardest free climb in Cochamó. Vanhee initially attempted this with Max Didier in early January, but they failed to redpoint the crux pitch and had to abandon the attempt because of weather. When they returned later in the month, they managed the full free ascent in 10 hours, with only had one fall, when a handhold broke near the end of the 50m pitch.

To complete the Cochamó trilogy, Vanhee wanted to climb a high, virgin wall. He, Didier and Ian Siadak scouted walls in Valle le Luz from the river and they quickly decided that their goal was the unnamed, unclimbed peak North of Capicua.

From the river, they trekked through dense jungle for an hour to reach the base of the climb. They slept in a gully to the left of the wall, ready to start the following day. All three said it was one of the best bivouac spots they had ever seen, a 20-square-metre platform surrounded by pools, flowers and cascades they called the Japanese rock garden.

Jardines de Piedras. Photo: Siebe Vanhee


The next day, they completed the first ascent of Jardines de Piedras, Cerro la Sombra in Valle le Luz (7b+/A2, 16 pitches) in 16 hours. Although the start of the wall looked easy, the ledge system involved highly technical climbing. They managed the first 30m free at 7b+ but required aid for the following 30m section, which was much steeper. The piton placements made this the hardest pitch of the climb, said Vanhee, but pitch 11 was also difficult due to slab runouts and a steep, flared crack.