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Central Andes Summit Finally Climbed

Fernando Fainberg on the south face of Cerro Chimbote in the Central Andes. Fainberg and partner Waldo Farias made the first ascent of the 5493-meter peak on April 1. [Photo] Waldo Farias

First attempted in 1944, Cerro Chimbote (5493m) has stood as one of the highest and most technical unclimbed peaks in the range, and has gained an almost legendary status after turning away multiple teams of Chile’s top climbers. At 6 p.m. on April 1 Fernando Fainberg and Waldo Farias, who has been pursuing the first ascent since 1985, celebrated on the summit of Chimbote. Located in the Central Andes and straddling the border of Argentina and Chile, Cerro Chimbote is easily recognized by its three distinct summits (5400m, 5493m, 5340m).

Fernando Fainberg contemplates his rack during the first ascent of Cerro Chimbote. [Photo] Waldo Farias

The Andes is the longest mountain range in the world, spanning seven countries, and is the second highest next to the Himalayas. The Central Andes hold some of the tallest peaks, many of them more than 6000m, making it a difficult place to claim first ascents.

Getting to Chimbote itself was extremely demanding for Fainberg and Farias. It required four days of trekking in subfreezing temperatures, including a hike over 5000m Las Pircas Pass. They descended nearly 1500m into the valley below spent another day trekking to high camp at 4969m, where they would spend the next four nights.

Beginning early on March 30, Fainberg and Farias started up the north face of Chimbote under a clear sky. They scrambled up through mostly snow and ice, and one ropeless pitch of poor rock to access the south face. After making an 80-meter traverse back to the north side of the peak, they climbed seven mixed pitches and arrived at the top of a “bad column of rock” with little protection. Running out of daylight and fearing frostbite, they bailed. The duo were unable to build a suitable anchor for a rappel, and had to down climb a pitch of 5.9 in what Fainberg described as a “tremendous effort for nothing.”

Setting out again on the morning of April 1, they repeated their route, and again found themselves atop the same pillar of rock that forced them to descend two days before. With the luxury of more daylight, Fainberg was able to build a “very poor” anchor that allowed them to traverse to the south face of the mountain where they climbed a final pitch of poorly protected rock to reach the summit.

Sources: Fernando Fainberg,

Waldo Farias on the summit of Chimbote. [Photo] Fernando Fainberg