Until now we were sure that Buckland´s short climbing history was already told. But it was not!
Investigations by Camilo Rada´s project “Uncharted — Cordillera Darwin” revealed that there was a non-published unsuccessful attempt of climbing Buckland´s virgin north face previous to our expedition! A team of well-known American climbing veterans formed by Jim Wickwire (*1940), John Roskelley (*1948) and Chris Kopczynski (*1948) – all of them experienced in several notable ascents in high altitudes worldwide – started the small expedition in late southern summer of the year 2000. Already five years before, Wickwire organized a successful expedition where Roskelley, Stephen Venables (GB) and Tim Macartney-Snape (AUS) made the 2nd ascent of Monte Sarmiento´s West summit by a new route.
As Jim Wickwire told us, they approached with the help of a police helicopter directly to the western foot of Monte Buckland. Their planned route followed ramps and ledges in the lower north-west face up towards a hanging glacier, and then upwards to the obvious col in the north ridge (the location of our 2012 high camp). From there they hoped to gain access to the summit headwall although they have never found out for sure about the feasibility of the route above the col. From their base camp in the valley they got a “good view of the final few hundred feet, and it was very steep – easily 65 degrees, if not more, for the upper section to the summit ridge”.
An estimate which turned out to be precisely accurate! However, rotten and greasy rockin the lower parts, and later on hard ice made it difficultjust to reach the col. Finally, the party had to retreat half way up the hanging glacier (approx. 950 masl.) without reaching the col. A second push was later prevented by bad weather and lack of time. After their expedition they concluded that “it is no surprise that this mountain has been climbed only once.”
Thanks to the research of Camilo and the contribution of Jim, Buckland´s chronicle now counts on three expeditions in total: the first ascent via south-west face in 1966, the 2000 attempt, and finally our 2012 north face ascent.The time series of photos shows how the course of time impressively changes the aspects of the mountain. Glaciers retreat incredibly fast, ice gullies convert into mixed-climb challenges, icy flanks become bare (mostly bad quality) rock – in most cases this means enhanced difficulties and less protection for climbing.
So maybe one day only winter conditions will be the appropriate ones to climb Plüschow´s Queen of Tierra Fuego.
Created on Thursday, 27 June 2013 Written by Markus