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Posted on: July 1, 2006
I couldn't stop thinking about making a third attempt on the Avellano Tower's directissima (2,500'). During my first time in the valley as a climber, in 2004, I had made the first ascent of the tower's Conquistador Ridge (see Issue 8), with Dave Anderson, Steve Herlighy and Jamie Selda. Rain and snow that persisted for twenty-six days out of twenty-eight had allowed us only a short window, leaving us with just the taste of the valley's potential and giving Dave and Jamie a chance to make the first attempt on the directissima. Then the next year Marcelo Mascareno and I made the second attempt on the same route. Conditions were a bit better: there was no ice in the cracks this time and the glacier approach was more secure. A snow cave made for a great camp. Unfortunately the weather soon sent us back to Coyahique to enjoy New Years Eve.
That same season, a Basque team, Asier and Javier, spent about fifteen days in the valley, trying the direct route; weather conditions left them unsuccessful. When my climbing partner Nacho Morales asked me early in the season, "What about Avellano for the summer?" I started thinking about the bad weather, about spending time in the tent staring at the wall, cursing, eating, getting fat.... I said, "I'll do it."
I finished my trek on February 12 and two days later went back to the Avellano Tower. Along with us, an American couple and my French girlfriend settled into the same base camp that I had used the last two times. Now most of the snow had disappeared and the cracks looked clean of ice. On February 16 Nacho and the Americans Becca Roseberry and Brendan O'Neill scouted the area. Significant avalanches from the hanging glacier on the foot of the wall made the approach serious, and some route finding was necessary.
The next two overcast days had us eating under a tarp and filled me with foreboding. On the night of February 18, Nacho asked me to set the alarm for around 3 a.m. to do another weather check. That morning the skies were partly cloudy, but my anxiety to get up the climb was a bit stronger. We left camp around 5 a.m., starting with the approach, which involved some slabs, and then the glacier, which we managed to cross pretty quickly. Around 7 a.m. we exchanged plastic boots for climbing shoes. The line was pretty straightforward for the first four pitches, with a potpourri of cracks up to 5.10-. The next crack system led up to the summit for five more pitches with of consistent 5.10, and involved some roofs and face climbing in great granite. Around 5:15 p.m. Nacho's loud scream as he reached the summit put a smile on my face. The sky was still cloud covered, but the weather was stable, and we took the official summit pictures.
The way down, as is usual for such places, also involved some excitement. Our rope got stuck in a crack, and Nacho had to aid a section of the route in order to recover it. After twenty-two hours we arrived in our camp on February 20 around 3 a.m. At 4 a.m. the American team left camp in order to attempt a variation of our direct route, and they put up the second ascent of the northeast face. We named our route Avellano pal Verano ("Avellano for the Summer": IV,TD-, 5.10, 360m).
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