(MountEverest.net) On February 24, Russian Valery Rozov BASE-jumped off the 1400-m face of Torres del Paine in Patagonia. Back at home, Valery recounted his experience on Mountain.ru, along with a new set of stunning images. <cutoff>
<b>Valery Rozov: Patagonia dreaming</b>
We'd heard and known a lot about Patagonia, but the things that we could see surpassed all our hopes: the mountains, the weather, the scenery, the style of ascent...
The expedition began well; we got there really fast, obtained a climbing permit, and made a quick recon of the area. After three days, we had decided to climb via the Bonnington route (Bonnington-Whillans, 1963, first ascent) from the Valle del Silencio, up to the Central Tower, considered the "simplest" route on Torres del Paine. My plan was to reach the summit, climb back to the main wall, B.A.S.E.-jump, fly, and land on the only suitable landing spot I had seen, at the right side of a lake.
The weather was so-so, occasionally windy. But this is Patagonia, we told ourselves. Then we set off.
In two hours, we reached Japanese Camp, where were held up by rangers who had been informed about our expedition. Instead of wishing us Godspeed and a successful ascent, they declared we had a permit to climb rather than jump, and suggested we descend and get a new permit. That meant no less than 10-12 km away from our goal, plus two hours in a vehicle. We did not want to lose time, so I told them: "OK, I wont jump," with the secret hope that they would take me on my word. But the guys didnt buy it, and commanded that we descend for a new permit, or leave my parachute.
<b>The boys come up with a plan: The phantom parachute</b>
Denis Provalov and I quickly ran downwards for a new document. But at the office, they announced that our permit was cancelled, and forced us to leave the National park immediately. While I was thinking about that, the official calmed down a little, looking at my disconcerted appearance, and the tension slowly drained from his face. Finally, I signed a note that pledged to not jump and to leave my parachute with the rangers.
We were in low spirits all the way up and reached the team only the next morning. Then we came up with a brilliant idea. I took a BASE stage bag (that BASE-jumpers use for a parachute pack on approaches), filled it with duds, wrapped it preliminarily with polyethylene to make it believably rectangular in shape, and gave this work of art to the rangers with the words: "This is very expensive, keep a good look-out for it...and they let us pass!!! Everything felt like a childrens board game: stop for two days and run forward on the squares.
Base camp was settled on the glacier, 800 vertical meters below the beginning of the route. On the first day, we worked on the lower sections of the route and hauled up some gear. But then there was a day of the super windy weather that we could hear even just walking along the path. "It's Patagonia, we kept repeatingwe were trying to take it easy.
One day later, we started the climb.
<b>"The route was no big deal" - cold and wind were</b>
The route was like any other, nothing special, no big deal: Russian grade 5, but with two amendments: intense cold and strong wind. And both of them increased as we climbed higher. In such circumstances, the team leader could not afford fast progress. The others were quite overloaded, and we realized we were not going to make it in one day.
We found a ledge to sit down for the night in a small corner filled up with snow. The morning met us with sun and stronger wind. Fortunately, we had already climbed the hardest pitches, and by 5:00 pm we got the next campsite, described in the topo as a convenient bivouac. It was ledge inclined 15 degrees :-)
<b>Looking for a juping spot</b>
As we looked for a convenient tent site on the ridge just three pitches from the summit, I could see the headwall under my foot where I was going to jump. Like a hunter I began to feel the "Exit" instinct quite keenly. I could not help taking a rope and went to take a look around.
The summit area was rather flat, but I found a suitable jumping point two pitches below our bivouac for that night. I left the rope there in order to save time the following morning. That day, February, 23, I was going to make the B.A.S.E.-jump from Torres del Paine!
When I returned, the tent had been already pitched, the guys were inside discussing something lively, and a stove was hissing. I frequently notice during such ascents that after a certain moment I start fading away mentally from my partners. When we summit, they consider it a success, and get relaxed and excited. But I need to keep myself focused, since my main goal is still ahead. The closer the summit is, the more the feeling grows.
<b>The 1:00 am electric train</b>
Getting into the tent, I had time to notice that I did not like the weather. Then we had a bite and went to bed. Morning wakeup was scheduled for 5.00 am . At last we could sleep with our legs stretched out. "It's not too bad in Patagonia, I thought as we fell asleep.
At one o'clock in the morning, the first "electric train" hurtled past, our name for the churlish blasts of wind that sounded like hooting railway vehicles. We found ourselves among continuous rumblings and roars, inside a wind-bent tent threatening to burst or blow off at any moment. We put on all our clothes. We spent the rest of that night and all the next day shoring up the windward side of the tent, trying to keep the fabric and poles from breaking. If someone needed to answer an urgent call of nature and go outside, we had to pull our socks up to keep the tent! :- ))
<b>Doubts at the exit point</b>
The following morning came with no sun, but at least it was windless! We began to descend to the exit point. I reached it hanging on the rope because there was no ledge there. The wind was picking up. When we were almost ready to make a jump, the wind reached its usual force. Sergey reported to me from BC that periods of calm alternated with heavy wind gales there. One special feature of Patagonia is the strong, gusty and omnidirectional wind that blows at different heights. I stayed at the Exit for a really long time, practically ready to jump but feeling uncertain about what to do next.
I could see the whitecaps on the surface of the lake below, but the risk seemed too high. I thought I could jump without any problem, but could not make a safe landing in predetermined area. It was very cold. I did not have many clothes under my wing-suit.
I started to freeze got nervous. All the guys were waiting, and they had the grace not to dog me with their advice. It was clear to everybody: either risk it or... We would not get another chance to bite the cherry.
<b>No possible plan B</b>
It was my choice, so nobody hurried me.
I recollected that down by the moraine, the wind was a bit calmer than above.
The only possible plan was to try to fly, reach the landing spot, and draw my parachute as low as possible, hoping to be sheltered enough from the wind at that moment, that I wouldnt get blown up. But I still had doubts about that. Could I fly down there?
One, two, three - go! I failed a bit making the exit, but the flight turned out to be excellent. I did not get into the wind flow and reached the planned landing site without problems. I can tell that I was lucky...
Back down at BC we would face the real Patagoniafour days of continuous gale-force wind with snow. We couldnt even walk along the trail. If we had stayed at the summit, we wouldnt have had a chance of survival.
<i>On February 24 Russian Valery Rozov Base jumped off Torres del Paine in Patagonia. The climb was done by Alexander Ruchkin, Alexander Odintsov, Valery Rozov, Denis Provalov and Vladimir Kachkov on Feb 21-22, and reported on RussianClimb.com. Sergey Krasko remained watching the team from BC, and ensured safety on the landing spot. Only three hours after Valeri jumped, the storm broke, providing the climbing team with a complicated descent later that day.
Valery free-fell for 1400m during 57 seconds. Distance from his jumping point to the ground was approx. 2200m.
Valery Rozov has won Russias, Europes and Worlds championship in Parachuting. This climb and BASE jump were the latest stage in his Russian Extreme B.A.S.E. climbing Project.
Previously, Valery climbed and jumped from the Big Sail peak in Baffin Island (2002), Mt. Nalumasortoq in Greenland (2003), and Karakorums Amin Brakk (2004) that expedition was awarded among the best of the year by ExplorersWeb. Last year, he made the first BASE-jump from the Alps' Grandes Jorasses, after experts said the huge wall lacked a single spot safe enough to launch a free-fall jump. He had reached the sumit via the Croz Spur.
The acronym B.A.S.E. stands for Buildings, Antennas, Spans and Earth; the four types of platforms used in BASE jumping.</i>
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