Ascent of Cerro Tenerife on 2018-12-19

Climber: Connor McEntee

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Cerro Tenerife
    Elevation:5217 ft / 1590 m

Ascent Trip Report

On a trip through Patagonia, I came to the area to hike in Torres del Paine National Park. From both the town of Puerto Natales, which acts as a hub for the area, and the environs of the park, Cerro Tenerife is prominently visible in part because it is so distinctively conical. Allegedly, an early settler of the area was from Tenerife and named it such, because it reminded him of the volcano from his native home. Though there isn’t a trail, it is a worthy objective and on a clear day provides expansive views of Torres del Paine and the Southern Patagonia Ice Cap to the north.

Other than knowing that it was there and near a road leading to the park, I didn’t have much beta on how to climb it. After asking around a little bit in town, I discovered that it is regularly climbed and even skied in the winter. (The log book suggests that maybe 30 parties a month attempt it in the summer.) Access is provided through an estancia just off the road, where you can park your car and use a cow trail to gain some elevation. However, I was cautioned that there is a thicket extending a couple hundred vertical meters that has to be navigated before reaching alpine terrain.

After a short four day trek in Torres del Paine, I discovered that I had one free day before needing to catch a bus south to Punta Arenas. The weather was forecasted to be partly sunny, which was the best forecast in over a week. So, after walking around town for a few minutes we were able to find a last minute car rental even though most places were sold out. At 9pm we drove out of town all the way to the T junction with the estancia and another artery leading to Route 9. Rather than bother the folks at the estancia at that late hour, we found a beautiful turnout near a ranch gate just to the east and spent the night in the car.

As predicted the weather was beautiful in the morning, and after a brief hot breakfast and a variety of camp chores we drove for a few minutes back to the estancia. The road was gated but unlocked, so with the knowledge that public access has historically been provided I unlocked the gate and drove in. Just a little past 9am, no one was readily visible from the car. However, there was an obvious parking area near a flagpole and some trees. Despite knocking on a few doors, we weren’t able to find anyone to let them know that I would be climbing Tenerife, though several friendly dogs came to greet us. After a few minutes, a few farmhands walked our way and greeted us. Again, I was cautioned that there was no trail, but it is possible to climb the mountain. I just needed to sign a register. The register was located in the estancia’s mess hall, which was the first building in a row of three just across the farm road to the north of the flagpole. After a brief interaction, I was ready to go. (As a note for future visitors, everyone on the estancia was quite laid back and seemed to take little notice of strangers.)

The start of the route is a dirt road clearly visible from below that switchbacks up the mountain a couple of times. Getting there involves crossing a few gates, and I was able to pick my way through the pens. The road quickly becomes a well established single track trail that comfortably climbs up. The trail is pretty obvious and is occasionally marked with flagging or posts with white paint. There were several fast-flowing streams to cross on a long traverse to the north, which could be water sources. Though, there were sufficient signs of cow grazing down low that I would be tempted to treat any water until much higher in the thicket.

Eventually, the vegetation opened up and I could see the tree line 300m above. Initially, I assumed that the marked trail was a climbers route; however, it appeared that it was no longer heading up the mountain consistent with the warnings that there was no trail to the top. So, I backtracked a little bit and set out straight up the mountain. This turned into a bushwhack after a few minutes. The hill is fairly steep and the vegetation is just dense enough in places that I had to push through it or grab branches to pull myself up. About two-thirds of the way it exclusively became a lenga forest, which was more open and easier to route find through. As I’d later discover on my descent, the best tactic is to go right up dry stream beds, which act as channels through the underbrush. The last obstacle is a small cliff band at the tree line. Again, I climbed right over it on my way up, but on the descent, I found a nice clear dryfall that was easier. Overall, as far as bushwhacks go, it wasn’t very bad.

Now above the tree line, I continued up toward a spot on the summit ridge a little south of the summit. The terrain was consistently loose, though the composition of scree and talus changed several times. Lower down footing was more secure, but higher up there were places where I would slide down and I planted a foot. There were a few soft snow patches that I took advantage of to bypass loose terrain, but otherwise, it was a consistent class 2 scramble to the ridge. Stunningly, there was almost no wind at the ridge, and I was easily able to scamper north to the summit which was marked with a couple of sizable cairns. Amusingly, I saw someone reach the summit just a few minutes before I did. It turned out that a party of four local Chilean guides decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and summit on their day off. We spent a few minutes comparing the routes that we took since it took me three hours less to ascend. As I understood it, they continued to follow the well-established trail which went on a meandering traverse north, though they did eventually stumble across an old irrigation ditch coming down the mountain. They were able to take that through the thicket and attain the summit from the north. The going sounded much easier, but also quite a bit longer.

The views cleared up as a cloud that had settled on the summit blew away, and we were all treated to expansive views of the lakes and Torres del Paine to the north. Unfortunately, the west was still mostly shrouded in clouds, but Cerro Balmaceda’s imposing summit poked through. After an hour on the summit, I made a quick descent finding a much better path through the thicket. The only section that required care were the loose rocks right below the summit ridge. Since I got back to the car by 2:30pm, we had enough time in the day to continue to explore before returning to Puerto Natales. So, we drove up to Rio Serrano, which is on the southwestern boundary of the park and has spectacular views. Since the buses don’t go there it was strikingly quiet compared to the rest of the park, and I greatly enjoyed the afternoon by the river.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5342 ft / 1628 m
    Extra Gain:112 ft / 34 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7.4 mi / 11.9 km
    Route:Ruta Normal
    Trailhead:Estancia Complejo Torres del Paine  99 ft / 30 m
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 19 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 51 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Connor McEntee
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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