Undiscovered rock climbing in South America

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of August 6-12, 1998
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Undiscovered rock climbing in South America
Question: I’m an avid rock climber and mountaineer and would like to learn more about undiscovered and undeveloped climbing areas of Southern South America. I’ve never been to the area and have only heard reports of legendary places like Paine and the high volcanoes. Besides aimlessly wandering, how might a person get some information on the vast wilderness in the region?

David Wood Pateros

Climbing the highest undiscovered peaks of the Andes
Adventure Adviser: Aimlessly wandering sounds like the best way to find the stuff of legends, but as a backup, here’s what I’d suggest: For an introduction to the vast and starkly beautiful region of southern Argentina and Chile, find the book In Patagonia, by Bruce Chatwin (Penguin USA, $13). Though not everyone is a fan of Chatwin’s prose style, it’s fair to say that this particular tome contains some of the most evocative descriptions of a sparsely populated, larger than life wilderness. Plus, the book also has some colorful anecdotes and notes on the history of the region. A more hands on climbing book to consider is High Andes: Guide for Climbers (Andes Press, $32). The first comprehensive climbing guide to the highest peaks of the Andes, this book is essential, especially to those who are traveling solo. You’ll find route descriptions for the normal routes on all 99 of the major 600 meter summits, accompanied by helpful maps, diagrams, and photos. The book covers climbs in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, and Colombia. Last but not least, check out Mountaineering in Patagonia (Cloudcap, $30), by Alan Kearney. Not only does this book offer a thorough history of ascents of major peaks, but a personal account from Kearney of the mountains he’s climbed.

All of these books can be ordered through Adventurous Traveler Bookstore (800-282-3963). For nuts and bolts tips on traveling in Chile, check out Tony Perottet’s Chile Insight Guide (Langenscheidt Publishers, $23), a lively and user-friendly guide on where to eat, sleep, dance, drink, recreate, and commune with culture. For other essential guides to travel in South America, check out the Lonely Planet guide series, available at any major or specialty travel bookstore. When you tire of reading, you may want to consider calling a few adventure travel outfitters or climbing schools that offer mountaineering trips to South America. The American Alpine Institute (360-671-1505), which offers expeditions, climbs, and treks in Patagonia, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Mexico, is the best place to start. Aventuras Patagonicas (907-835-4976) and Summits Adventure Travel (360-569-2992) are two more to consider. If they don’t have time to talk, ask them to direct you to another source.

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