CERRO MANGIAFUOCO, an adventure in Patagonia By Luca Schiera
We left Italy on December 24th, the program was to arrive on the 28th to Puerto Bertrand and have a gaucho on horseback accompany us for most of the valley. As always things did not go according to plan... Arriving in Coyhaique after a few days the gaucho told us that he was not available at least until 2 January. We waited a few days then we went to the last town of Bertrand. There we discovered that the delay would be prolonged further, the only problem: one of the rare windows of good weather was about to arrive within a few days. But we found a boat to cross the lake and we decided to leave on foot, obviously loads like animals.
We walked ten hours the first day, the good weather has already arrived, we reached the first glacier in the afternoon of the second and we lost hours trying to cross it while the crevasses lead us in the opposite direction to the one we would like to follow, in the evening we could get out but it's too late to reach Hielo Norte as we initially thought. The next day at dawn we were active again, we still have the hope of climbing something, but after a couple of hours we have to stop because the wind has already risen too much. We left without the climbing gear and in the afternoon we manage to climb up to the de Hielo Norte camp. We were at an altitude of 1600m, the day was beautiful, the place was beautiful but the wind is hellish, definitely not a very hospitable place.
We walked towards the walls but there was too much wind even to use the binoculars, anyway we took some pictures and we had an idea about the tactic to use, we went down and bivouac as we had done the night before. The next day we went back into the woods to the material deposited by the gaucho the previous day, we set up the tent and we remained there for five days in the rain. We had already done almost a hundred kilometres on foot, we were dehydrated and we had taken strong winds and sun. As a result, we had lips that were so swollen that we couldn't quite close our mouths and the skin of our entire face dries up and peeling off dead skin became a nice pastime for rainy days ... After forced rest something changed in the forecast that we got on the satellite and it gave us good hope, a window of a day and a half without wind for January 14 was coming. We set off fairly lightly with the aim of climbing the eastern edge of the mountain without a name that we want to climb, the only line we saw in the little time spent on the glacier.
We slept on the bivouac place on the Nef glacier, but at dawn the wind was still strong, we had to wait, or rather some snowflakes fell and we were forced to take shelter with plastic bags. We left late in the morning and, after another break due to the wind, we went up towards the Campo de Hielo. We arrived after sunset with the last lights, just in time to see the line and the conditions of the wall, we dig a hole at the base and slept in there.
In the night, the wind dropped and at 6 we left, the day looked to be perfect, warm and windless.
In a short time, we reached the hill where the edge starts. We climbed alternately on rock and snow and in a few hours we passed the first part of the route. The part in the middle, which seemed easy, was rather delicate due to the difficulty of finding the way between the towers and the snow ridges. The steepest rock faces with boots and rucksack became very demanding, but we reached the final wall in the early afternoon. There were two wide cracks in which water ran and a third one less wide and partly dry, we started in shoes from the ledge and with a nice initial runout we arrived under the last pitch, at two in the afternoon we are at the top.
We saw a boundless horizon of walls, snow and ice. The day was perfect, we started the rappels and with a good share of luck everything went well and no rope got stuck. At 18 we were back to our snow hole, we took the bivouac stuff and we went down towards the glacier. We arrived before midnight and finally slept peacefully without wind.
In the morning we set off again towards the Soler valley and the field in the woods, the weather was still beautiful but the first gusts of wind were already arriving. In the evening it was already completely cloudy and the wind was strong, at night it rained and the wind became really strong even in the woods but we were already in the wooden house at the beginning of the valley. At 5 we had breakfast a little worried about the strong wind and rainfall, we had to go down in the dinghy from the stream, waiting for more time could worsen the situation.
We quickly loaded the rafts in the rain and we left, there was a bit of white water but it was still quite easy, the problem was the wind that moved us. In the middle of the rapids I took a burst completely at the side and I threw myself up between the stones, I managed to turn around quite quickly but I saw the most important waterproof bag floating in the stream, Paolino who was in front and incredibly managed to catch it on the fly and wait for me on the shore of the river.
We started off start again and got to the psychologically hardest moment of these two weeks. We were wet, there was strong wind and it rained, we made a mistake in the stream and we found ourselves in too low water, we had to walk in the stream and drag the boats, we spent a good time trembling before we can paddle again.
From there on, everything got better, the sun went down further, we warmed up and there was a good current that in a few hours took us to Lake Bertrand where we waited for a boat ride.
Since we left the valley we first went down to Chaltén which is 800km further south and now we are here with the others. The mountain, according to our measurements, should be just under 2000 meters high, we have named it Cerro Mangiafuoco to stay in theme with the other neighbours, the route is called “L’appel du vide”, 6c M4 400m from the col to the top.
Article and pictures by Luca Schiera, January 2019.
Luca Schiera, 28 years old Grivel athlete since 2017. He is an alpinist and rock climber based in Erba (Italy).
Favorite Grivel product: Wire Lock TAU K12L carabiner.