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Cochamó Madness

2009 season highlighted by the first free ascent of Cerro Capicúa, 4,000-foot 5.12d.

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For over a decade the Cochamó Valley, in northern Patagonia, roughly four hours from Puerto Montt, Chile, has been attracting the attention of climbers keen to explore its collection of 3,000-foot walls, multi-pitch trad routes, sport climbs and boulders. With over 100 established routes, including several El Cap-sized walls, many people come to the valley simply to repeat the classics like Bienvenidos a Mi Insomnio, a 20-pitch 5.11a that climbs the Cerro Trinidad formation. Each year, however, a few intrepid souls venture into unexplored territory to open new routes. This year has been no exception.

Two expeditions in particular made 2009 a notable year. A contingent of climbers from the U.S.—Sevve Stember, Jonathon Estep, Tyler Overby, Benjamin Deering, Chris Harkness and Jim Toman—hacked their way into the untouched Paloma Valley, three hours’ hike from the main Cochamó Valley, and established 10 routes from 5.7 to 5.11 A2 and varying in length from 100 to 2,000 feet. The four big lines hooked up by the team were En La Senda de Gigantes (5.9) 1,980 feet; Nueva Perspectiva (5.9 A2+) 1,650 feet; Joe’s Pocket Monkey (5.11 A2+) 1,485 feet; and El Heffe de Estrange (5.10b A0) 1,155 feet.

The most notable route of the season was established by the Swiss team of Jvan and Michi Tresh, Tom Holzhauser and Dominik Angehrn. Over the course of two months, including 18 days on the wall, they ascended a 3,960-foot line on the Cerro Capicúa formation, and made the first free ascent of the massive wall: Los Tigres del Norte (5.12d), 24 pitches.

Jvan Tresh solved the crux, which he described in an e-mail: “The first few meters off the ledge was blank and I almost gave up trying, till I used my bouldering skills and found that the only way was a full body dyno to a crimp, 800 meters off the deck! Perfect.”

Jvan Tresh had to return home to Switzerland soon after the successful ascent, but his brother Michi and Dominik Angehrn remained in Cochamó, rested up and returned a few days later for an all-free, 11-hour ascent of the route.