Torres Del Paine "Living the Dream Expedition 2010"

Patagonia: the land of the large footed natives; the land of terrible weather and beautiful splitter granite spires. Ian Nicholson and I embarked on the 'Living the Dream Expedition 2010,' heading to the French Valley of the Torres Del Paine National Park in Southern Chile. Our intention was to crush new routes on those beautiful towers, specifically the Espada and the Hoja. Simple right? Of course not...

Seattle to LAX to Lima to Buenos Aires... 18 hours in Buenos Aires, running about with Ros, then off to Califate. A bus to Puerto Natales and we're there. The boys at Erratic Rock hooked it up with a sick place to stay. We bought more food and headed into the mountains. With loads in and out of the 15km approach, we gained some serious walking fitness and before we settled in the French Valley at Campo Britanico.

Then, sitting... in the rain...

The mountains were encrusted in ice. The wind was howling. We festered.

The Russians were stoked on their wine supply. Mason and the Brits were up in the boulders. We read and chilled. Atlas Shrugged was thought provoking and satisfyingly long.

Small bits of good weather passed though and we ran to the mountains only to be shut down by closing in weather or ice filled cracks. We barley even broke out the rope for weeks. Remaining stoked to send, we stayed honed and ready.

Food was running low, so we decided a run to town was in order. We cruised to the boat only to find a weather forecast showing a potential window for the following day. We were there to send, not to head to town in good weather, so we ran back to camp (read 30km roundtrip) to huck ourselves again. Alas no love... we headed back to town and bought all the food we had been yearning for, no more hunger.

Morning of the 25th, it poured till 10am. The sun came out. We ran to the mountains. Hoja and Espada were still encrusted in ice so we ran to the other side of the valley to Los Gemelos; a peak to the North of the massive Catedral. It was first climbed last year by our mate Dave Turner via it's NE ridge and had seen one subsequent ascent via the same route. We aimed for the S ridge. Reaching the base we got started immediately, at the early hour of 2pm. A ramp system led us across the East face, icy pitches up flakes led to some beautiful cracks which led us to the col between the two peaks of Los Gemelos. Up the ridge! The weather was coming along with the darkness. The climbing stayed rowdy. We had to aid, hooking through flakes and cruising through more cracks.

Graham Seconding Low on 'The Slash"

Graham getting into the aid higher on "The Slash"

Night fell, the wind howled. Above us an unprotectable 5.12 slab bloked our path. It started to rain. A mossy crack lead us out the right, around the corner. I aided out into another system. On the east face there was less wind. Finally, I could think unencumbered by its barage. Up another dihedral and back to the ridgeline and the wind. With the summit in sight, one more pitch took us through a beautiful 5.10 OW to the cumbre. It was wicked. We were stoked.

Graham aidding out the horizontal crack in full conditions.

El Cumbre!

Down we went into the winds. The rope pulling was a fearful affair, but all went well to the col. Ropes took flight into the dark emptiness as we reeled them in. Then down we went into the coulior. With manky rock ice and snow anchors, a bollard failed (before we loaded it). We downclimbed, more raps, before reaching the bottom safe and sound.

Los Gemelos with "The Slash" marked in green and Audios Ayer
(IV 5.10 Turner-Matthews Jan 2009) in blue.

As we walked back the sun was coming up.

21 hours of pushing resulted in ¨The Slash¨on Los Gemelos, IV+ 5.10b A2, Stokage.

One more marginal weather window appeared before we rallied.
It was my 24th Birthday.

It had just dumped snow... rime ice was everywhere. After wallowing in deep snow we made it to the col between Hoja and Espada, intent upon making the FA of Hoja´s N Ridge. Snow covered mixed slabby made climbing hard and scary. It led to a pitch that I threw myself at... aidding, tooling, freeing, nothing would do. Agro... I called down to Ian that it was time to go down. Ian brought the stoke back...

It was time for Ian to leave. His expedtion was over and I was done with the Paine. All in all we'd had an amazing time in a beautiful valley. Life is SO RAD.

We sat in Puerto Natales and savored the experiences we have had and dreamt of the future... pitches, mountains, girls, beers, jobs... we were back to the real world for a minute. Before I know it, Ian is gone and I am on my way to Chalten for another 6 weeks in the Andes.

Now I am chilling here in another promised land. The worst weather that anyone can seem to remember in Patagonia is still raging over the peaks. But a weather window is on the cusp, we are primed, stoked and ready to send.

This trip would not have been possible without the amazing support that we received from the New Zealand Alpine Club, Petzl and Second Ascent. Huge thanks to those guys!
Second Ascent

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