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Monte Sarmiento: Photos from Tierra del Fuego

The most beautiful mountain in the world? The ca. 1500-meter pyramid of Monte Sarmiento’s east summit (ca. 2200m), Tierra del Fuego, Chile, as viewed from the east. The first and only ascent by Carlo Mauri and Clemente Maffei in 1956 took the southwest ridge, visible at left. Photographer Ralf Gantzhorn, who climbed a new route on Sarmiento’s west summit earlier this year, said that even with modern equipment, that route to this summit looks impossible. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

While there has been much confusion about Monte Sarmiento’s past, a few parts of its recent history are clear.

German climbers Ralf Gantzhorn, Joern Heller and Robert Jasper made a rare ascent of the mountain’s west summit (2145m) during a 39-hour alpine-style push on April 2, 2010. It was Gantzhorn’s fourth attempt on his fourth expedition to the remote Chilean peak–a summit he nearly abandoned after injuries and inhospitable weather denied him every previous effort over 10 years.

This year, Gantzhorn did more than just reach the summit. Fortunately for us at Alpinist and our readers, he also took dozens of stunning photographs during the Germans’ month-long stay in Tierra del Fuego. The 16 images here are just a taste of “Inexplorado,” Gantzhorn’s essay in the upcoming Alpinist 32. The issue will be available at the end of September 2010. Subscribe today to read “Inexplorado” as soon as it comes out and to take advantage of our special promotion: for a limited time, get two free issues of Alpinist with your paid two-year subscription.

Good morning: Tari II carries Ralf Gantzhorn, Robert Jasper and Joern Heller out of the bay of Yendegaia, east of Monte Sarmiento, as the day’s early waves roll in. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

Joern Heller crosses one of many streams in the dense rainforest below Monte Sarmiento. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

Dawn on Monte Sarmiento’s north ridge. Joern Heller follows to Robert Jasper’s belay, nearly hidden behind an ice mushroom. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

2000 meters above the ocean: Joern Heller and Robert Jasper on the north ridge
of Monte Sarmiento, with the Straight of Magellan in the distance. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

Joern Heller and Robert Jasper trek through the Valle Blanco rainforest between base camp at Bahia Escandallo and Monte Sarmiento. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

Sailing through the Straight of Magellan. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

The east summit of Monte Sarmiento, as viewed from the north ridge. The Germans crossed the clearly visible bergschrund to access the middle of the north face. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

Robert Jasper climbs above the bergschrund. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

“Huge and incredible ice formations” on Monte Sarmiento’s north face. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

Heller and Jasper rest on board Tari II. “For our ascent of Monte Sarmiento we climbed 39 hours in a single push,” Gantzhorn said. “Afterwards, we slept for nearly the same time.” [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

The wet, slippery approach through Valle Blanco. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

Joern Heller traverses along the bergschrund. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

In the ice world of Sarmiento’s north face. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

Ralf Gantzhorn with a torn Achilles tendon during his first trip to Monte Sarmiento in 1999. It took Gantzhorn four expeditions before he would reach the summit. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn collection

“An unknown mountain and target for the future,” Gantzhorn said of this striking 2000-meter peak. The Germans dubbed it Shark’s Fin and are guarding its whereabouts. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn