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Americans Send New Route on Los Gemelos

The Slash (IV+ 5.10b A2, 10 pitches, 1,200′), marked in green, and Audios Ayer (IV 5.10, Matthews-Turner, 2009), marked in blue, are the only recorded routes on Los Gemelos, French Valley, Torres del Paine National Park, Chilean Patagonia. Americans Ian Nicholson and Graham Zimmerman climbed The Slash on January 25 after poor conditions on La Hoja and Espada convinced them to pick a new objective. [Photo] Graham Zimmerman

On January 25, Americans Ian Nicholson and Graham Zimmerman climbed the east face of Los Gemelos in the French Valley of Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. Their initial objective was to climb La Hoja and Espada, peaks on the opposite side of the valley from Los Gemelos. However, typical Patagonian tempests delayed their climbing attempts for weeks. They attempted the west face of La Hoja four times, but were thwarted by icy conditions, poor protection and poor rock.

“Small bits of good weather passed through and we ran to the mountains only to be shut down by closing in weather or ice filled cracks,” Zimmerman wrote on his blog. “We barley even broke out the rope for weeks.”

So, with food running low and La Hoja and Espada still caked in ice, they decided to take a different tack when a small break in weather came on the 25th. The two set off that morning, aiming to climb Los Gemelos from the east.

By 2 p.m., they had reached the base of Los Gemelos and began to follow a ramp system across the east face until they reached the col between its two peaks. With darkness and weather setting in, the team moved slowly up the southeast ridge of the higher peak and topped out after midnight in heavy snow and extremely high winds. They had climbed 1,200 feet in 10 pitches with minimal aid climbing despite continual ice-filled cracks. Rappelling through the night in gale-force winds, which they estimated to be 100 mph, Nicholson and Zimmerman were back on the glacier by 4:30 the next morning and returned to camp after nearly 21 hours of effort.

The Slash (IV+ 5.10b A2, 10 pitches, 1,200′) is the third recorded ascent of Los Gemelos. In 2009, Mark Matthews and Dave Turner climbed Audios Ayer (IV 5.10) via the northeast ridge, which was then repeated the same year.


Zimmerman aiding high on The Slash. [Photo] Ian Nicholson