First Ascent of Last Summit in the Torres del Paine Massif

Three soaring spires above a meltwater lake in Patagonia have arrested visitors’ attention for almost a century. In late January, three climbers stood atop the Torres del Paine massif’s last known unclimbed peak.

The three main towers of the Torres del Paine punch skyward from the Chilean Patagonia like massive jagged needles. With 1,200m of near-vertical relief, the Torre Central is the hood ornament of the surrounding massif, which bristles with imposing shale-capped peaks.

Mountaineers first stood at the summit of Cerro Almirante Nieto (about 2,600m) in the 1930s. This January, a team of three submitted the massif’s last unclimbed peak via a moderate but “intense” first ascent.

Sebastian Pelletti, Romano Marcotti, and Pepo Jurado’s “Vacaciones Metamórficas” (600m, 5.11- or 6b+/c) tops out Cuerno Este at over 2,000m. Though multiple routes dot the lower granite walls, only a few continue upward into the shale headwall. How no one had found the summit before Pelletti, Marcotti, and Jurado, wrote climber news outlet Patagonia Vertical, “is anyone’s guess.”

 

Several attempts

The ascent did require a few attempts. Pelletti and Marcotti started up the formation in early January, forging a line alongside the five-pitch “Bailar con el Viento.” But they descended after reaching the headwall and came back with Jurado, pitons, and a hammer.

Patagonia Vertical’s description of the headwall climbing made their apparent desire for stout protection look sensible. Loose rock litters the 300m wall and produces some overhanging sections that are difficult to protect. The resulting climbing was intense.

The 181,000-hectare Torres del Paine National Park is one of Chile’s largest and busiest protected areas. Of the park’s roughly 250,000 yearly visitors, over half are foreign. The Cuernos del Paine, including Cuerno Este, surround the Torre Central to the southwest.

torres del paine

Overview of the Torres del Paine area. “Mirador Torres Del Paine” (marked) is the location where this article’s lead photo was taken. Torre del Paine Norte is the rightmost tower in that photograph. The red arrow indicates the Cuernos del Paine.

 

For Pelletti, “Vacaciones Metamórficas” was another notch in the belt. In February 2020, he joined Cristobal Vielma Sepulveda for a similar first ascent called “Despierta y Lucha” on Cerro Peineta.

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents' evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.


Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments