Siebe Vanhee, Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll, Nicolas Favresse
ROUTE El Regalo de Mwono (5.13c; 1,200 meters) LOCATION East face of Torre Central, Torres del Paine, Patagonia
Nineteen days of Patagonian suffering, rationed food, freezing temps, and difficult free climbing brought Siebe Vanhee, Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll, and Nicolas Favresse the first free ascent of El Regalo de Mwono, established by UK climbers Paul Pritchard, Simon Yates, Sean Smith, and Noel Craine in 1991/92 at VI 5.10 A4. After fixing the first three ropelengths on the steep, continuous crack line, the team committed to the wall, climbing capsule style and completing the route in 26 pitches, placing no bolts and using small wires for protection. On February 14, their fifteenth day on the wall, the team summited, yet the 5.13 thirteenth pitch ( pictured, with Vanhee on lead), a slight variation to the original line, remained unfreed. With dwindling rations, the trio returned to their portaledges and waited out four days of storm to try the 30-meter tips crack. “It’s not the obstacle that makes the suffering,” O’Driscoll said. “It’s the attitude toward the obstacle.” On day 19, Favresse freed this money pitch, completing a teamfree ascent of the wall. The trio descended, hiked out, rode a bus to Puerto Natales, and slept under the stars, until the middle of the night when rain ripped them from their sleep.