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Chile?s Avellano Towers, showing The Conquistador Ridge (IV 5.10 80?, Anderson-Grez-Herlighy-Selda, 2004). Hidden by cloud when cartographers mapped the area by plane, the 2,500-foot walls remained a literal ?blank spot? on the map until discovered by Chilean climber Ignacio ?Nacho? Grez. [Photo] Ignacio Grez

Chilean climber Nacho Grez discovered the 2,700-foot golden granite walls of Chile’s Avellano Towers while leading a trek in the area. Two years later, Grez returned with Jamie Selda, Steve Herlighy and me. On March 14 we started ferrying 1,000 pounds of food and gear into the mountains, then established camp near tree line at the base of the 4,000-foot Avellano Massif. The weather was extremely unstable, even for Patagonia, but we took full advantage of the few hours of good weather we did receive. On March 20, the rain stopped for fourteen hours. Climbing in two separate rope teams, we ascended steep snow and rock to gain the north col of the Avellano Massif, then traversed across the west face. At the south ridge we combined forces and reached the summit of the Avellano Tower just after sunset. The rest of the night was consumed by rappelling and down climbing back to base camp. We named the route the Conquistador Ridge (IV 5.10 80 degrees).

After nine more days of rain and snow, the clouds lifted for twenty-three hours, allowing Jamie Selda and myself to attempt a direct line up the 2,500-foot northeast prow of the tower, but the previous week of storms had encased the granite cracks with snow and ice, and after climbing 1,000 feet up the wall (5.10 A2), we were forced to retreat as a new storm front blew in.

The temperatures plummeted, and the rain turned to snow, compelling us to pack up camp and hike back to the roadhead before the approaching winter season made us permanent residents in the mountains.

— Dave Anderson, Lander, Wyoming