The fol­low­ing art­icle was pub­lished in the Amer­ican Alpine Journal 2012.

Cor­dillera Darwin

Monte Buck­land (1,746m), north­east ridge and north­east face; Monte Niebla (1,430m), north­east face.

On Janu­ary 29, 2012, Daniel Gross, Markus Kautz, and I reached the mys­tical and rarely seen sum­mit of Monte Buck­land by a new route, the north­east ridge and north­east face (D). We have called our line Sil­berkondor after the plane piloted by Gun­ther Plueschow, a Ger­man pion­eer­ing avi­ator who took the first pic­tures of Buckland’s north­east face dur­ing his explor­at­ory flights in 1929. The only other reports on Buck­land come from the Italian mis­sion­ary Alberto M. de Agostini, who explored the area in 1912 — 13, and the notes from the strong Italian exped­i­tion led by Carlo Mauri, who in 1966 made the first and, until 2012, only ascent of the peak (sum­mit reached by Allipi, Fer­rari, Guidici, Machetto, Mauri and Pirovano). The Itali­ans approached the moun­tain from the south­ern Agostini Fjord, and made the first ascent by the south­w­est face. Scarcity of inform­a­tion, chal­len­ging inac­cess­ib­il­ity, nasty weather, and impen­et­rable rain forest couldn’t stop us explor­ing the fas­cin­at­ing wedge-​shaped moun­tain of Buck­land, loc­ated in the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego.

From Punta Arenas we made a 12-​hour drive on partly unpaved and rough roads to the south­w­est coast of Tierra del Fuego. To the south we caught the first glimpses of our goal, the snow covered peaks of the Cor­dillera Dar­win. Cross­ing the fjord next day with two inflat­able zodi­acs, and passing east of Isla Dawson, we reached Fit­ton Bay (Bahía Fit­ton). After we’d unpacked our ca 450kg of equip­ment, the boats returned, cut­ting us off from civil­iz­a­tion for the next three and a half weeks. Incred­ibly, it took five long and hard days just to estab­lish base camp (300m), less than five km from the beach. These exhaust­ing days were due to hor­rible bush­whack­ing through dense rain forests, which were often only pass­able with machetes, and nego­ti­at­ing open swamp­land. Added to this, the rain soaked us, made us freeze, and brought us close to despair.

Over the next few days we explored the nearby area and climbed a rel­at­ively low hik­ing peak south of Buck­land, nam­ing it Monte Bella Vista (825m) after the beau­ti­ful view of sur­round­ing peaks. Then Gross, Kautz and I made our first attempt on Buck­land. From base camp we went west to access the gla­cier beneath the east pil­lar. We then tra­versed the lower gla­cier, exposed to the fall of the ser­acs that over­hang the entire east face, to reach the north­east ridge, where we set up high camp at 1,100 m. The next day we climbed the first pitches of the ridge, but had to abort the attempt and return to base camp due to bad weather. On Janu­ary 29 we made a second attempt from high camp, climb­ing mostly ice and mixed ter­rain to reach the upper gla­cial plat­eau below the sum­mit head­wall. Passing a dif­fi­cult bergschrund (WI4), we fol­lowed the obvi­ous cent­ral couloir (up to 65°) to the nar­row sum­mit ridge. In nearly whiteout con­di­tions, we turned south and climbed the icy top con­sidered to be Buckland’s highest point. It was 12-​hours since we’d left camp but more than four dec­ades since this point had been reached.

After the ascent weather con­di­tions worsened, with snow down to base camp. Nev­er­the­less, on Feb­ru­ary 2 Franz Goer­lich, Gross, and I were able to make the first ascent of an unnamed peak we called Monte Niebla, a trib­ute to the bad weather at the sum­mit. We first fol­lowed the main val­ley south­east from base camp, then after two km went steeply north to reach a gla­cier west of the sum­mit. From here we reached the north­east face. A snow ridge and 30m of loose rock led to the sum­mit (AD-​). Weather now forced us to remain in our tents for the rest of the exped­i­tion, frus­trated after see­ing such splen­did unclimbed moun­tains as Monte Sella. Fur­ther details avail­able at www​.mtbuck​land​.com

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