“Our route “Silberkondor”, named after German flight pioneer Gunther Plueschow’s plane. Plueschow took the first pictures of Bucklands northeast face during his exploratory flights in 1929; although since that time the faced has changed due to glacial retreat his pictures were useful because they were almost the only ones we had.”– Markus Kautz. [Photo] Markus Kautz
A seven-member team of young German alpinists successfully returned from their six-week expedition to the remote western part of Chile’s Cordillera Darwin on February 15. Over that time three of them, Daniel Gro?, Markus Kautz and Robert Koschitzki reached the mystic and rarely seen summit of Monte Buckland (1746m) by a new alpine style route, Silberkondor (Condor de plata), 65 degrees/D, on the peak’s virgin northeast face.
The nasty weather, impenetrable rain forest and scarcity of information couldn’t stop them from exploring this fascinating wedge-shaped mountain located in the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego. The archipelago’s Cordillera Darwin range is renowned for its atrocious weather. In 1998, a South African expedition to the range abandoned their attempt on nearby Monte Sarmiento (2246m) after twenty-nine days of rain. They saw the summit of their objective for a cumulative six hours over the course of their month long stay. Three years prior a pair of climbers attempting the same peak were blown off the summit ridge by extreme winds. While Monte Sarmiento has been attempted over thirty times, activity on its neighbor Monte Buckland has been nonexistent. (Read more about Monte Sarmiento’s recent history here.) Indeed, there is no record of any activity on the peak since its first, and (prior to Silberkondor) only ascent by a strong Italian expedition lead by Carlo Mauri and Casimiro Ferrari in 1966. At that time the Italians approached the peak from the southern Agostini-Fjord and made the first ascent via the mountain’s southwest face.
Daniel Gross (front) and Robert Koschitzki passing by huge seracs on the way to the upper glacial plateau.
[Photo] Markus Kautz
On January 29, Gross, Kautz and Koschitzki started their twelve-hour ascent from a high camp (1100m) on the north ridge, climbing mostly through ice and mixed terrain to reach the upper glacial plateau below the summit headwall. It had been decided early on that, should the mountain “show [the team] a cold shoulder,” the three most experienced climbers would attempt the peak. Passing a difficult bergschrund (WI4), their line follows the obvious central couloir (mostly moderate, up to 65 degrees) to the narrow summit ridge. In near whiteout conditions, they then turned to the southwest, climbing the icy peak considered to be the highest point at 1746m.
The team ascended two other minor peaks in the area around Monte Buckland before they finally returned by a Zodiac to civilization. Kautz believes that, “there is a huge potential of climbing in Cordillera Darwin.”
The team is grateful for the support they received from the German Alpine Club and all their other sponsors. More information will soon be available at: www.mtbuckland.com.
Our team: (back from left) Andre Kunert, Michael Nadler, Daniel Gross, Robert Koschitzki, (front from left) Markus Kautz, Barbara Schmidt, Franz Goerlich [Photo] Robert Koschitzki