Climbing in Piedra Parada
Time to head East…yet again. As we crossed the border between Chile and Argentina for the 7th time we had our toughest test yet in the form of a stern border guard with a handlebar mustache. He spent 30min looking over every word in our vehicles paperwork and inspected our car quite thoroughly. In the end he was quite friendly/bored and we were probably the most interesting thing to happen to him that day. After chatting for a bit about Cielito Lindo we were on our way.
At the border crossing we said goodbye to precipitation for the next couple of weeks. Almost immediately the terrain changed from lush green mountains to the land of sagebrush with wandering rivers flowing through. Our first stop was Esquel. I can’t say that it was my favorite town but it was located close to so many cool things; Futaleufu, skiing, epic fly fishing and the Piedra Parada where we were soon to be headed.
After replenishing our supplies we took off for Piedra Parada which translates to standing rock. Piedra Parada is often cited as the best sport climbing destination in Argentina and exploded onto the scene after the Petzl Rock Tour 2012. The tour put up a bunch of new routes and there’s a seemingly infinite number of routes throughout the picturesque canyon. We arrived late and camped at Mario’s where we were told we could find a guidebook to take pics of. The campsite was essentially deserted in mid March but from what we heard it is pretty packed during high season. After taking some pictures of the guidebook the following morning we made the long walk(5min) to the climbs.
Imagine all of the climbs at Smith Rocks lined up in a row in a completely flat canyon and amplify the number of crazy hueco routes and you have a pretty good picture of what Piedra Parada is like. Max approach time for us was about 10min. Slightly easier than the 6hr approaches we had become accustomed to. There are amazing climbs with interesting movement and features in all grades and we found a seemingly endless number in the 5.11/12 range to test our endurance. We only had 3 days to climb there but made the most of them to the dismay of our screaming forearms and fingertips.
The majority of the climbs are single pitch but many are long or have harder extensions which finally gave our 70m rope some action. There were multipitch climbs in the canyon that looked great but with our short amount of time we opted to climb the iconic Piedra Parada instead.
We chose the original ascent route, Sueno Lento, which winds a circuitous 260m and 6 pitches all the way to the top. The climb is 6a/5.10a or so but the terrain is pretty adventurous and it would be easy to get off route. There are a number of pitons/bolts on most of the pitches but a light rack and alpine draws came in handy. It is not the highest quality rock we have ever climbed but it was really fun and gets you to the top of a super unique feature. Definitely recommended.
Like so many stops on our journey we must leave sooner than we would like to. There are benefits and challenges to Kelsey working while we travel and one of the biggest challenges is to make sure we are back in the land of internet in time for her normal work week. We bid a quick farewell to Piedra Parada and the friends we made there and Northward we go towards Bariloche.