‘Wall of Paine’- The First ascent of a Big Wall Climb up the South East Face of the South Tower of Paine. (Summit eluded)
British Climbers Mike ‘Twid’ Turner, Jerry Gore, Calum Muskett and French cameraman Raphael Jochaud climbed to the top of the Big Wall of the SE Face of the South Tower (tallest of the 3 famous Towers of Paine). Certainly the last great problem of the Patagonian region of Torres Del Paine. Unfortunately, after climbing 900m to their high point at the top of the wall, on their final day a ferocious storm (150kmph winds) prevented the team from standing on the elusive summit, only a 100m of easy mixed climbing away.
It was a major climbing effort to scale this previously unclimbed Big Wall monster. Storms raged throughout the duration of the Expedition with only 2 days of perfect weather. The 18 pitch climb was continuously difficult with many taxing A3+ pitches.
The South East Face (1000m+) of the South Tower of Paine (height 2500m) in the Chilean National Park of Torres Del Paine has been one of the most sought after unclimbed faces in the whole of Patagonian region. It is a kilometre wide and high, of compact granite and has no obvious continuous crack systems on its smooth face. It feels a formidable wall to climb. Combine the sheer blankness of the cold exposed South East Face face and the prevailing Patagonian weather and you get one of the hardest Big Walls in the world to ascend. You need luck, weather and perseverance to ‘hang in there’ when the winds start to blow.
Over three weeks the team climbed the steep rock wall in a variety of weather conditions. There was plenty of loose difficult expanding pitches of granite on the lower/middle section to negotiate. The upper pink granite in contrast provided some excellent rock and some fine sections of free climbing. Young Welshman, Calum Muskett, on his first Big Wall trip to Patagonia produced some sterling free climbing efforts in freezing cold days while Twid and Jerry shared more of the challenging loose and scary aid pitches. It’s important not to forget the major contribution climbing and filming made by Raphael Jochaud. Raphael only joined the team last minute but proved to be the social lynchpin and culinary consultant for the Expedition bringing a fine flavour of French humour and cooking. It was a big team effort
The climb initially followed Twid’s previous route, climbed in 2006 with Stuart McAleese but this time continued to the top of the rock wall. With only easy climbing remaining to the summit, hopes were high. However true to Patagonian form on the final day the extreme weather and cold prevented any final steps to the actual mountain summit
This hard Big Wall climb and ‘suffer fest’ epitomises Patagonian Big Wall climbing. The Team survived climbing the wall and the constant abuse of the Patagonian climate. Came home alive without frost bite or serious incident and more than happy with their successful climb of the Wall of the South East Face.
The Team would like to thank the sponsors who helped with the Big Wall project: Montane; Lifesystems; DMM; English Braid; The Mount Everest Foundation; The BMC and the Alpine Club.