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Pushed to the Limit in Paine

Posted on: March 17th, 2010 by admin

High on the Kearney-Knight Route on the Central Tower of Paine. The South Tower is behind. Courtesy of Walker Mackey

AAC member and Mountain Fellowship recipient Walker Mackey reports on his alpine-style ascent of the Kearney-Knight Route (850m, 5.10 A3) on the Central Tower of Paine in February 2010, possibly only the second ascent of this route. Mackey has now climbed all three of the Torres del Paine.

I had reached the point where I no longer cared about climbing the Central Tower. My motivation was gone, and I was thinking I would change my ticket and head back to Yosemite, where I could actually climb instead of just carrying heavy backpacks up rocky talus slopes and wading through snowfields up to my chest.

The season had been brutal. I was exhausted mentally, and physically my body hurt more than ever before. My left knee had taken some serious abuse and felt like it was going to give out at any moment, and my back was destroyed. Sebastian Muñoz and I decided we were going to go down to town. We carried out everything except the summit kit. It had been a long two and a half months, and I was 100 percent convinced that we were done.

Patagonia is a strange place—it forces you to dig deep inside yourself and discover what you are really made of. It exposes all your weaknesses. While in town we checked the weather and discovered that on February 15 and 16 there was going to be a weather window, the first of the season. I shuddered at the thought of hiking back up the Valle del Silencio. But Patagonia does not wait for you to be psyched. When a weather window comes, it is time to go, whether you are ready or not. Sebastian is a unique individual, very driven and motivated for the mountains. He told me, “We have one last chance, let’s make this dream come true.” I knew he was right. If we were going to climb this mountain, now was the time….

Click here to read the rest of this story. You can see a video from the climb here.

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