Petzl RocTrip 2012 : site description
History of development of the site
Martin "Fideo" Molina is a mountain guide in Mendoza. He and his friends put up some of the first routes at the site.
The first ascent of La Piedra Parada goes back to 1993, when the 200 m volcanic monolith was climbed by Damian Benegas and Pablo de la Fuente. In 1997, when Fideo was training to be a guide, his colleague Martin Gretsh showed him some photos he had taken of La Piedra and of the immense La Buitrera Canyon. And so the project of developing the site was born... Two years later, he arrived and discovered the site's incredible potential. Since then, he and his friends come once or twice a year to put up new routes. Mickey Mouse, their first sport route, is located on the north side of the canyon, next to the archaeological digs..
One year, we couldn't cross the Rio Chubut. The tiny old bridge had been destroyed, and in the middle of winter the water was really too cold to swim. We had to turn around empty-handed.
Fifteen years ago, it was extremely difficult to find bolts and hangers in Argentina. Before the March 2012 trip in preparation for the Petzl RocTrip, there were a little over a hundred routes.
Today, thanks to the work of route-setters, there are 210 routes waiting for you!
Current routes by grade (March 2012)
Grade 5 routes: 12 pitches
Grade 6 routes: 76 pitches
Grade 7 routes: 75 pitches
Grade 8 routes: 19 pitches
Many projects left to free.
A series of great sport routes was put up on the South Face (in the shade) of La Piedra Parada. Most of the routes are in the La Buitrera Canyon, with sport crags spread out along the two sides, allowing climbers to always play with sun and shade. Several crags are located in small tributary canyons.
There are also multi-pitch routes in the cracks and needles for some wild climbing.
The entire site was formed by an ancient 30-kilometer-wide volcano that erupted to create an enormous water-filled crater. When this crater gave way, the Chubut River forged a valley and a canyon, leaving only the hardest rock exposed. Some of the rock layers are riddled with "taffoni" holes of all sizes, a real treat for climbers. In general, the sites are located in uniform areas, but be careful, everything is not climbable.
The entrance to the canyon is five minutes from the campground. Within fifteen minutes, Mickey Mouse is the first crag. To reach the other end of the canyon, count on forty-five minutes flat.
On the right side, the sharp needle of La Virgen can be climbed in several sustained 7b pitches.
The Totem crag and its West arete can be found a little farther, directly above the trail. Then, there are the Ortigas, Circo, Parlamento and Anfiteatro, etc. crags, where many sport routes have appeared.
A crag with beautiful moderate routes is located in a meander toward the end of the canyon, on the left side, in a fairly steep mineral gully full of pockets and knobs: Jardin del Eden, five grade 6 routes that are not to be missed.
One of the high points of the trip will certainly be the La Calavera crag, at the end of La Buitrera, on the left bank. This is actually the entrance to a small secondary canyon, distinguished by the unmistakable shape of a crane. The mouth of the canyon presents very overhung routes on pockets on one side, and on the other, long, steep walls full of cracks and crimps.
About a hundred meters farther into the tributary lies the local jewel. At the spot where the canyon narrows and becomes darker, the left side is transformed into an immense overhung wave full of pockets, while the right bank becomes a lot less steep. There are definitely moments in the day when it is almost pitch-dark, but in the afternoon, the furtive rays of the sun sneak in and offer a soft golden light. The La Calavera crag presents routes between 5 and 8, with every alternate possible. All of this with a mix of sun and shade, a feast for the eyes, and a shelter from the wind.
The sport routes are equipped with bolts, and the anchors are fixed with maillons. Bring about fifteen draws, a 70-80 meter single rope (necessary for most routes), and a rope bag to protect against the extremely abrasive dust. Remember to bring extra chalk, and a helmet is essential. The routes are new, holds can break, and rocks may also be dislodged by the wind or by wild animals, such as the "Chinchiyon" that lives in the cliffs. During the RocTrip, everyone will be asked to wear a helmet at the base of the climbs.
Conservation and archeology: The Petzl Foundation's commitment
The La Buitrera canyon is a fragile zone that needs to be protected; car traffic, domestic animals and fires are forbidden. There is rich fauna and flora in the sheltered areas. You will undoubtedly come across families of chinchiyon, a wild rabbit with a long tail and powerful claws. He likes to position himself on top of a boulder to observe traffic, but one false move will make him run into the cliff at lightning speed! You may notice small lamas in the area, or a wild guanaco, or more rarely, a herd of nandus, small wild ostriches. Although always invisible, the puma still populates this wild place...
This exceptional site merited a visit by the Petzl Foundation, to encourage the development of a crag where the climbing is respectful of the environment and history of the site.
The goal is to focus on the balance between practice and conservation. Supporting development of tourism in the broad sense, while respecting historical, heritage and environmental elements, is part of The Foundation's role. So its mission here has been directed to three major areas:
- Supporting the political process that will guarantee access to climbing crags, which are located on protected land, while protecting the environment
- Helping protect the archaeological site in the La Buitrera Canyon. The rock shelter, located outside the river's flood zone, served as a dwelling for the area's first inhabitants some five to ten thousand years ago. Although important discoveries have been made at the digs, the site is presently not protected, in particular from animals seeking shelter from the rain.
The Foundation will help implement protection and distribute information on the digs.
On the other hand, some climbing routes were too close to the archaeological site, and the footsteps of climbers could have compromised future research. In agreement with the archaeologists, these routes were taken down and will no longer be climbed. These agreements thus defined a climbable zone. This way it was possible to keep the first historical routes, like Mickey Mouse, left of the cave's entrance. Win-win negotiations!
- Contributing to an better welcome for climbers. Presently, the campground near the canyon has no infrastructure. The Foundation will participate in creating a sustainable set-up that is respectful of the environment (dry toilets, for example), while the owner of the campground will provide a better welcome for visitors.
Then a user plan for the site will provide rules for visitors and climbers. The climbing topo, which will be published in time for the Petzl RocTrip, will also contain information on the site, on its history and on how to preserve it.
For more information on the activities of The Foundation for this site, go to www.petzl-foundation.org
Petzl invites climbers from all over the world to participate in this international gathering.
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