24-07-2018 / 15:30

Caro North – First ascents in Minialaska

At the start of the year, the Mammut Pro Team athlete Caro North swapped freezing conditions in Europe for the Argentinian summer. Just two hours from the famous climbing area of Frey, she and her friends discovered an almost untouched climbers’ paradise. Take a look at the video and read Caro’s report here in the blog.

Text: Caro North

December 31, 2017, making our way over cracks and ridges, we climbed awesome granite into uncharted terrain. Nobody had ever climbed these lines before, despite the fact that they were just two hours from the Refugio Frey, one of Argentina’s best-known climbing areas. We managed to open four new lines that day, just a fraction of the potential still waiting to be explored here. I could hardly believe it, as it's now impossible to find valleys like these with so many unclimbed routes in Europe. There is just one route, dating back to 1993, on one of the many rock stacks, the rest of the terrain is unclimbed.

"Nobody had ever climbed these lines before."

As I cast my gaze over the valley while belaying, the realization grew that I wanted to do some first ascents here with my Argentinian friends. So, on the last day of the year, I decided not to take my flight back home at the end of January and to extend my time in Patagonia.

This marked the start of an amazing summer in which great friendships were forged and more than 55 routes were climbed for the first time.

In winter, skiers call our valley Minialaska, so we used this name too. We set up our camp in an idyllic spot, between blocks of rock with a crystal-clear stream flowing through. The weather was so good that we slept outside and enjoyed the great starry canvas above us. While, just a few hours away, summer tourism was booming and countless hikers were out in the great outdoors, we were completely alone here in “our valley” and could enjoy nature in all its wild and beautiful glory.

"We spent the entire month of January opening routes here"

Every morning, we were awakened by the heat of the sun's rays, drank our “mate” and decided which line we would open. It was an amazing climbers’ paradise. The lines here are characterized by cracks, ridges and ledges. We started our first ascents from the bottom, as far as possible using only mobile securing aids. And we were often surprised to find unexpected options for placing protection. If we didn't manage to find anything, we placed bolts from the climbing position or on shaky hooks or climbed far above the last protection. Our motivation was untiring and we spent the entire month of January opening routes here and then climbing them without falling. This took a lot of energy and so we usually climbed in our valley for four to five days and then set off to collect food supplies and rest for one to three days before climbing again.

I had got together with a group of Argentinian climbers from Bariloche. An amazingly strong friendship developed between us all as we lived out this great dream. In the evenings, we would often sit around talking, excitedly discussing our new routes and listening to guitar music. We would sometimes take the guitar with us to the face. For the full moon, we all climbed to the summit of a freestanding stack, called ET due to its shape, carrying a guitar, bivouac equipment and a melon. To reach the summit, we completed a first ascent of two pitches of top granite with cracks and a roof. The routes here are between two and four pitches long and we set up rappelling lines from all rock stacks and gave them names, as most of them had previously been nameless. The result was many new pitches of unbelievable quality and different difficulty levels up to around 7b on the rock stacks of Gordo, Ciego, Chino Bateador, ET, Mini-ET, Indomnita and Hermanita. A great summer in Argentina had come to an end.

Video and Pictures: Alan Schwer

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