Cerro Castillo in winter

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By Tomás Moggia
Editors Note: The following is from Issue 8
At a distance, Cerro Castillo reveals itself almost like an inexpugnable fortress, covered with peaks and needles that jut deep into the Patagon sky.  However, it’s strong central peak rises with even greater prominence.  The name of this mountain matches perfectly its imposing figure, which is often pummeled by inclement weather.  It is not uncommon to see clouds beating and whipping its vertical walls.
Located about 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of Coyhaique, this colossus is the lord and master of the Cerro Castillo National Reserve.  The proximity to the regional capital of Aysén and its intricate shape has transformed the mountain into an obsession for mountaineers.  In the summer of 1966, a group of Chileans that included Gaston Oyarzun, Osvaldo Latorre, Antonio Marcel and Raul Aguilera made the first ascent after reaching the summit of 2675 meters (8776 feet) along the west wall.
José Dattoli, member of the Selknam mountaineering club of Puerto Montt, was part of the team that in the winter of 2012 reached the summit of Cerro Castillo on the west side.  He remembers that the expedition lasted about seven days. On their first attempt, the sky suddenly darkened when they had just begun the most exposed part of the climb.  They then had to wait for two days in the New Zealand campsite until the storm passed before they ultimately reached the summit after a 14-hour day of climbing.
The Chilean mountaineer says that in the most complex and vertical stretch of the ascent they had to climb over rock of poor quality.  The wintry conditions of cold, snow and ice in the cracks made it impossible to climb without gloves, so it took more time than expected to overcome that particular stretch, which is located precisely on the peak leading to the top.
"One of my partners took off his gloves to try climbing and it almost froze his hands.  We had to back up a little, regroup, and attack once again.  For a moment, we thought about whether to continue trying to climb the peak or not, but stubbornness was greater and luckily we made it to the top," explains Dattoli.
From the summit, the view of Patagonia is amazing and magical.  Ice fields and the Cerro Castillo mountain range come into perspective as never before.  But the time on those heights gives no pause and quickly Dattoli and his team were forced to descend.  "Suddenly a very strong and aggressive wind came. The entire time we were descending there was a swirl of wind that seemed like being inside a washing machine,” he recalls.
Difficulties like these make the Cerro Castillo so attractive for climbing.  A mountain that Dattoli says feels like its straight out of Mordor - the volcanic region of the Lord of the Rings - due to its dark peaks and menacing gray clouds that slip between its needles.   "For me, it is a classic of Patagonia,” he said. “From a technical point of view, it is not as difficult as the “Giants of Patagonia,” but it is similar in its appearance and the difficulty of the rock.  Comparatively, it has no reason to envy them.”

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