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The east face of Cerro Cota 2000 in the Valle del Frances, Paine. Marked is the new Italian route, Osa, Ma non Troppo (5.12b A3, 700m, 16 pitches, Cagol-Larcher-Leoni-Orlandi, 2007). The Keyhole Route (VI A4 5.10, 600m, 14 pitches, Heaton-Reichert, 1997) climbs the front face of the prominent pillar almost on the right skyline. Osa is the third route on this face and the first to be climbed in pure capsule style. [Photo] Spedizione Cota 2000

An Italian team, comprising some of the best known names in Patagonian wall climbing, has added a third route to the east face of Cerro Cota 2000 in the Torres del Paine National Park. This granite tower with an altitude of 2000m lies just south of Cerro Catedral (2200m) in the Valle del Frances and is believed to have been first climbed (from the west) in 1971 by Chileans. In 1993 Italians Robero Canzan, Svaluto Moreolo, Renato Pancierre, Alessandro Raccamello and Mauro Valmassoi sieged a line towards the right side of the sheer east face to reach the summit ridge after 500 meters of 5.10d and A3. The shale band below the summit was not climbed. Three years later Gardner Heaton and Joe Reichert, at first assisted by Eli Helmuth, attempted the central pillar directly below the summit. After climbing difficult aid, they established a camp around 200 meters up the face and then climbed capsule style to the top, with a portaledge camp in a prominent and curiously-shaped alcove high on the wall that gave the route its name: The Keyhole Route (VI A4 5.10, 600m, 14 pitches, Heaton-Reichert, 1997).

Elio Orlandi is 53 and has now visited Patagonia on 20 occasions; Fabio Leoni is 43 and has been 10 times. These two were joined in January by 44-year-old Michele Cagol, making his third visit, and the well-known big wall free climber, Rolando Larcher, on his second trip. The four hoped to climb a predominantly free route on Cota 2000 and spotted a beautiful line left of the central pillar. They began climbing in capsule style on January 21 and spent five nights on the wall. Because there are no ledges, and therefore no snow to melt, the team had to haul 40 litres of water. For two nights and one day they were stormbound, literally swimming in their portaledges. They also enjoyed a lightning storm, a real rarity in Patagonia. After 16 pitches, some of them 65 meters in length, the route finished on the flat summit ridge.

Leoni notes that although nine pitches required some aid, the overall amount was just a drop in the ocean. A roof on the third pitch (A2 and 5.10d) is the only place where four bolts were drilled in succession. Otherwise, a bolt was used to surmount a dangerous flake on pitch 14 and two were placed on each belay. However, the rock was nearly always fantastic, allowing some superb sustained free climbing, particularly on the crux 10th pitch–the Changing Dihedral–where a long sequence of hard moves across an overhanging section link two crack systems. Leoni likens the formation in many ways to El Capitan.

The new route, Osa, Ma non Troppo, has 700 meters of climbing and difficulties of 5.12b and A3, giving some of the hardest pure free climbing achieved in the Paine, and only surpassed by routes such as Riders on the Storm (5.12d A3, 1300m, 36 pitches, Kurt Albert/Bernd Arnold/Norbert Batz/Peter Dittrich/Wolfgang Gullich, 1991; all but Batz reached the summit) on the east face of the Central Tower.