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Confusing History Impacts Recent Sarmiento Ascent

The north face of the west summit (2145m) of Monte Sarmiento, Tierra del Fuego, Chile. In green is the 1986 Italian route of first ascent, according to Salvatore Panzeri; red marks the 2010 German route which, after reaching the ridge, descended down the south face before climbing the summit ice mushroom from the southwest. Conflicting reports about the 1986 expedition–from the date of ascent to the members of the expedition–have obscured the early history of this peak. [Photo] Ralf Gantzhorn

In the May 2, 2010 NewsWire, Alpinist reported that three Germans had reached the west summit (2145m) of Monte Sarmiento, Tierra del Fuego, Chile. Our story also said that the Germans believed they had made the first ascent of Sarmiento’s north face. However, further research suggests that a 1986 Ragni di Lecco Italian party–the first climbers to reach Sarmiento’s west summit–had also ascended the north face.

Now, if only we knew who they were.

Normally with a discovery of this nature, simply posts a correction. But our investigation has led to numerous conflicting stories regarding the 1986 Italian ascent.

The first ascent of the west summit was reported in the 1988 American Alpine Journal. The account said that four Italians had summited on December 8, 1986 via the west buttress. Seven years after that first report, a correction appeared in the 1995 Journal. The amendment stated that not four members but six–all of them with different names than previously given–had summited that day, December 8, 1986.

The 1995 correction also mentioned that the party had ascended the north face, not the west buttress.

The 1988 report read: Italians finally climbed the west peak of Monte Sarmiento. The east summit (2234 meters, 7730 feet) had been climbed by its south ridge on March 7, 1956 by Carlo Mauri and Clemente Maffei. Giuseppe Agnolotti led three expeditions, in 1969, 1971 and 1972, to try the west peak, but all were unsuccessful because of the frightful but typical weather and overhanging ice mushrooms. In early December of 1986, Daniele Bosisio, Marco Della Santa, Mario Panzeri and Paolo Vitali occupied Base Camp and carried loads to the foot of the climb despite very bad weather. On December 6, 1986, the four attacked the face, gaining 700 meters in a couloir and then climbed another 300 meters to the base of the west buttress. The weather was clear but the wind was strong and cold. After bivouacking on the spur, on December 8, 1986 they climbed the remaining 700 meters up the very difficult west buttress to the summit (2210 meters, 7251 feet).

The 1995 report read: On page 178 of AAJ 1988, the names of the Italians who climbed the western summit of Monte Sarmiento by its north face were incorrectly given. They should have been leader Luigi Alippi, Pinuccio Castelnuovo, Lorenzo Mazzoleni, Salvatore Panzeri, Bruno Pennati and Clemente Maffei, accompanied by Drs. Franco Baravalle and Gian Mario Confalconieri. The first six reached the summit on December 8. 1986. Maffei had made the first ascent of the slightly higher east summit on March 7, 1956 with Carlo Mauri.

The Ragni di Lecco climb the north face of Monte Sarmiento’s west summit in 1986. [Photo] Luciano Bovina

Salvatore Panzeri, one of the 1986 summiteers, confirmed that the Italian team climbed the north face via a direttissima, a route that may have been shared in small part by the 2010 team.

To make matters more confusing, Panzeri’s correspondence to Alpinist suggested further amendments to the 1995 correction. He wrote that five–not four or six–had reached the summit, including Confalonieri, who was not included on the summit team in the 1995 AAJ correction. Also, Alippi and Maffei were not on Panzeri’s summit list; he said that Alippi and Maffei were at base camp at that time.

Expedition video footage from 1986 suggests that at least five climbers reached the top.

Panzeri’s correspondence also stated that the ascent was made on December 24, 1986–more than two weeks later than previously reported. He said the ascent took 24 hours round-trip; the weather had kept them in base camp for 30 days prior.

Sources: Salvatore Panzeri, Ralf Gantzhorn, 1988 AAJ, 1995 AAJ,,,