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Home » Climbing Notes » AVELLANO TOWER


I could never get comfortable with the eerie, thunderous sound as
fragments of the hanging glacier tumbled into miles of scree. Although
climbers have visited the Avellano base camp for the last three years,
prior to Nacho Morales and Nacho Grez’s complete ascent of the northeast
prow, one day before ours, this fractured alpine granite held only one
route (a mountaineers’ line up the back side). On the northeast prow,
however, four pitches had already been established to the top of a
prominent pillar.

Brendan O’Neill (my boyfriend and climbing partner), Nacho Morales
and I spent two rainy days assessing the objective hazards and weaving
our way up fourth-class slabs and fifty-degree snowfields to find the
most efficient approach route. When Brendan and I entered what was
dubbed the “jaw,” a section where the snowfield narrowed beneath the
glacier’s fall line, that thunderous crack of ice breaking pierced the
air. Brendan, slightly ahead and above, cramponned quickly toward a rock
outcrop. I ran toward him, and he screamed at me, “Plunge your axe!” The
avalanche picked up speed, unleashing blocks of grit-filled ice. A
toaster-sized one hit my left quadriceps.

At 3 a.m. the next morning Brendan and I could hear the “Nachos”
stirring and preparing to make their bid at a new route. My leg
throbbed. I couldn’t climb this formation today. I tried to convince
Brendan to go without me. He refused, insisting we were a team. That day
was hard. We watched our friends climb higher up the tower, summit and
descend slowly well into the night. They had completed their goal.

That night, while we packed to leave early the next morning, the
pressure held. We both knew such weather was rare, and even though my
leg still bothered me, we tacitly agreed this was our only chance. When
we woke for oats and coffee at 4 a.m., the Chilean climbers finally
returned. We exchanged a few words, gave our congratulations and learned
some details about their line; we wanted to avoid their route and
establish our own.

As we approached, the pressure slowly began to drop again. Brendan and I
decided that, however grim the swirling, gray clouds appeared, we
wouldn’t turn back until our hair was soaked. This determination set the
tone for our ascent. We climbed quickly, leading and following every
pitch clean, and when we were given the opportunity to choose the
steepest crack, we did.

We began the technical climbing left of Avellano for the Summer in a
grass-choked finger crack (5.10). After one more independent pitch, we
climbed two established 5.9 pitches to the top of the pillar. When we
moved out left from the pillar’s summit, we were back in untouched
terrain. An overhanging wide-hands crack took us closer to the east
face. Brendan and I climbed directly through some roofs at 5.10c and
continued up an unprotected 5.9+ offwidth. The climbing then became more
sustained, mostly at 5.10+ with the occasional 5.11- crank.

We made the summit at 4 p.m. The descent was just as epic as we
expected: our ropes got stuck on almost every pull. After freeing and
retrieving them so many times, by the time we returned to camp at 1
a.m., Brendan had come close to climbing the tower twice.

Yet the fatigue and hunger made this day spent together, completing our
dream, a gratifying one. Brendan describes the climbing as a combination
of the Teton’s broken nature with the Wind River Range’s splitter
sections. Although our route on the Avellano is not the same caliber as
some of those on Fitz Roy, it’s not a bad Dress Rehearsal (IV TD- 5.11-,

–Becca Roseberry, Jackson, Wyoming