Chile From Within

History of the Juncal Valley

  • F and D Marmillod on top of Alto Los Leones

Note the tip of the Juncal Glaciar at the bottom of the photograph. Looking north, along the glistening Juncal River, through the Mardones Valley to Mt. Aconcagua. Laguna del Inca, of the Portillo Ski Resort, is in the upper left.

Frederic and Dorthy Marmillod, a Swiss couple, had extensive experience climbing in the Valley of Juncal during the 1950’s. In Chapter 2 of their biography, they describe in great detail and incredible photography their fascinating first ascent in 1939 of Alto Los Leones (5445 m, 5380 m, 5400 m) and its 2500 m high vertical face, with the Chilean climber Carlos Píderit.

Ulrich Lorber

Noted climber who has vast experience climbing the peaks of the Juncal Valley. Read his detailed Nevado Juncal: Monografia de una Montaña

Jurgen Straub

Cerro Juncal Sur (6004) 1st Ascent (nr)
Jürgen Straub (Germany)
Alto de los Leones (5380) New Route (“El Pillar del Paradiso Muerto”, 7/7+, A2/A3) (nr)
Jürgen Straub (Germany)

Federico Reichart on Alto de los Leones

…from Andeshandbook

“El Alto de los Leones, de 5400m y ubicado al interior de Río Blanco, ha despertado el interés de montañeros desde muy temprano. El famoso Federico Reichert, quien exploró y escaló numerosos cerros en esa zona, en su obra maestra le dedica un párrafo muy especial (“Auf Berges und Lebenshöhe”, pag 252):

“Dirigiéndonos hacia el norte, los ojos se detienen por una aparición de aspecto fascinante, ocasionado por la arquitectura agreste y los colores sombríos de las torres del Cerro Los Leones, situado al otro lado del divortium en territorio chileno. En forma de paredes lisas e inaccesibles, se levanta esta magnífica montaña, dominando como obelisco gigantesco todo el valle Juncal chileno. Acorazado por todas partes por paredones casi verticales de mas de 1100 mts. de altura, el Cerro Los Leones, que puede figurar como simbolo de las llanuras chilenas precordilleranas, nunca perderá su virginidad, pues la accesibilidad de su cumbre nos parece quedar fuera del limite de lo posible”.

From Mountaineering in Chile, by Jill Neates

” firstly comes the Grupo Alto del Rio Blanco, headed by Leòn Negro and Leòn Blanco. South of this group is Nevado Juncal which is the point from which springs a great network of peaks reaching almost to the streets of Santiago. To the north-west, bounded by the Rio Blanco and Rio de los Leones, is the Rio Blanco group, dominated by Alto de los Leones, one of the cordillera’s most formidable peaks, itself overlooked by Nevado Juncal.”

“One of the earliest scientific visitors to this part of the Andes was the naturalist Charles Darwin who, in March 1835, travelled from Santiago up the Yeso valley, over the Piuquenes and Portillo passes to Mendoza, returning via the easier Uspallata Pass just south of Aconcagua. This trip, mainly made on horseback, lasted twenty-four days and resulted in the first scientific geological survey of central Chile. Other scientists, employed by the Chilean government, were the French and Polish geologists Amadée de Pissis and Ignaz Domeyko, who was the first to attempt the ascent of Tinguiririca. In 1831 F.L.J. Meyen almost reached the crater edge on Maipo, a climb which was completed by the German mountaineer Paul Gűssfeldt in 1883. In 1895 the Germans G. Brand and R. Lűck climbed El Plomo, the peak on which was subsequently found the mummified body of a sacrificial victim. In 1897 Stuart Vines and Mathias Zurbriggen, members of Edward Fitzgerald’s Aconcagua expedition, made the laborious but easy ascent of Tupungato. By this time the Chilean Boundary Commission had been set up, under the direction of the eminent Chilean geographer Luis Riso Patròn, charged with mapping the boundaries with Bolivia and Argentina, a task which filled the years 1895-1909. Riso Patròn himself participated in the field-work, helping to place iron markers (mojons) on border passes upto 5000 metres high and, in the Cordillera Central, ascending the volcano Tupungatito. In 1924 Riso Patròn published his famous Diccionario Geogràfico de Chile, a work of great merit and erudition which contains 28,215 Chilean geographical names.

“In 1906 the German scientist Frederick Reichert, who worked for the Argentine government, turned his attention to the section of the Andes lying between Aconcagua and Tupungato. His previous expeditions had been to the Puna de Atacama, and in 1914 he was to make the first of his visits to Patagonia. During the intervening years, usually with the Swiss engineer Robert Helbling as his climbing companion, he discovered, explored and mapped the Juncal group, which has some very large glaciers, as well as making first ascents of several high peaks, including Leòn Blanco, Cerro Doris, Nevado del Plomo and Nevado Juncal. Further south he explored and climbed Polleras and Tupungato; all his expeditons were made from the Argentine side.

Reichert and Helbling were enthusiastic climbers. Leaving their mules and arrieros in camp, the pair would carry their sleeping-bags and other gear up as high as 5500 metres, where they would bivouac in the intense cold. Next day they would try for their peak. They climbed together but had an ‘each man for himself’ agreement – if one man had to turn back, the other went on; if one wanted to stay behind for a second attempt, the mules and men were divided between them. The ascent of Nevado Juncal was one of their major climbs. After several days of careful reconnaissance, they left camp at an altitude of 4200 metres and, after overcoming enormous seracs and walls of ice, bivouaced under an icefall at the foot of the north ridge (c.5200m). After the usual very cold night, they gained the ridge up steep snow and through a complicated system of crevasses. The ridge was followed without difficulty to the summit which was reached in mid-afternoon. Descending through the night they arrived back at their tent twelve hours later.”

“At this time European settlers in Chile were beginning to take up the sporting challenge of the Andes. In 1912 two Englishmen, H. Trewhela and R. Temperley, together with the Italian Felix Mondini, climbed La Paloma, one of the peaks seen to such advantage from the streets of Santiago. Shortly before, the Germans had started a sports organization, the Deutscher Ausflugsverein, in Valparaiso and had begun making ascents. In 1924 the Germans created another section of the Deutscher Ausflugsverein in Santiago, while in 1922 the organization had commenced publication of Andina, the first South American mountaineering journal. In 1933 the Club Andino de Chile was set up, also a German creation; thereafter Chileans gradually became active in the sport and the publicity given to the first ascent in 1939 of the difficult Alto de los Leones did much to popularize local mountaineering. Today there are many climbing and skiing clubs, most of which are affiliated to the national organization, the Federaciòn de Andinismo y Excursionismo de Chile which is responsible, among other things, for the provision of mountain huts. ”

Peak List
Jill Neates, Mountaineering in the Andes

Nevado Juncal

Nevado Juncal: –Cumbre Internacional 6110m: 33ø03ÒS 70ø 06ÒW: 1-1911 from Argentina, i.e. the S.E.: From Chile via N.W. glacier (possibly incomplete)-1934: in 1951 the lower part of the hanging glacier on the Chilean route disintegrated and subsequent ascents were made via the bad rocks to the east (fairly difficult): E. face-1968 (possibly incomplete): also climbed from N.E.? —
Cumbre Sur 6000m: this is the summit which dominates the start of Glaciar Juncal Sur: 1-1965 via S. ridge: N. face-1972 by first descending from main summit, then climbing up, all on ice. —
Cumbre Oeste (Chilena) 5960m: rocky peak: 1-1972.
Cerro de la Amistad 5180m: unnamed peak S. of Juncal Sur, the most important peak between Juncal Sur and Nev. del Plomo: 1-1965 via N. ridge.
P.5540m: hidden peak between Juncal & Plomo: 1-1976 from west.
Cumbre Rasacielos 4900m: N. peak of Juncal massif: 1-1961 direct via N.E. face from Refugio Monos de Agua.

Alto de los Leones (Casco de Bombero) 5445m: 33o00’S 70o50’W: difficult peak: 1-1939 via N. face: N. face, N. gully (variant to the right)-1970: S.W. pillar-1979, very difficult & exposed climb on good rock, 2 bivouacs.
Yeguas Heladas 4790m: 1-1942: First direct ascent via southern hanging glacier, fairly difficult 1979.

Grupo “Alto del Rio Blanco”

Navarro 4560m: just south of Las Cuevas on frontier: 1-1963. –Sur 4650m: 1-1903 by Meyendorff party?
Los Gemelos: west and east peaks both c.5200m: 1-1903: E. peak from Qba. Blanca-1979: W. peak via S. glacier-1979: S. face-1981: W. peak from Qba Blanca-1986: E. peak N.E. face-1986.
Aguja Nacimiento 3850m: highest in group of rocky needles between Juncal Norte glacier and Estero Monos de Agua: 1-1951.
Mono Verde 4500m: summit of decomposed rock at bottom of Cajòn de Monos de Agua: 1-1955.
Leon Negro 5151m: lies inside Chile: 1-1951 to north summit after turning rock turrets and over steep scree mixed with ice, fairly difficult: S. summit ten days later, different climber-1951.
Leon Blanco 5195m: 32o59’S 70o02’W: N.W. of Juncal: 1-1911: W. face-1977.
Cola de Mono 4830m: west of Leòn Negro: 1-1963.
Valeria 4800m: 1-1957: S. ridge-1963.
Zooligico 4750m: west of Leòn Negro: 1-1963.
Punta Baja 4050m: 1-1964 via Glaciar del Rio Plomo.
Andeski-V 4850m: 1-1964 via Estero Monos de Agua.
Punta Juan Palomino 4250m: 1-1964 via Monos de Agua.
Punta Juan Gandolfo 4200m: 1-1964 via Monos de Agua.
Alto del Rio Blanco 5228m: 1-1908 easily via Glaciar Alto del Rio Blanco: Also via Glaciar del Leon Negro and south ridge, fairly difficult-1940s?
Mono Blanco 4800m: 1-1945. Reported erroneously as second ascent of Leon Blanco.

Juncal Chico 5720m: 1-1957 with difficult climbing up rock and steep snow to a col giving access to the summit.
Punta Rabo de la Mona 4600m: located left of Cajòn Monos de Agua and near cerros Mono Verde and Mono Blanco: 1-1977.
La Columna 5660m: N.W. (lowest) peak of Juncal: 1-1981 via North Juncal Glacier.
Cerro Union [de Juncal] 4550m: 1-1951.
Cerro Cachu [C.A.Ch.V.] 4600m: location–Cajòn Alto, Juncal: 1-1951.
El Paso 4150m: S.S.W. of Juncal Chico: 1-1954.

Selected References

Nevado Juncal
Fikenscher, F. ‘Cerro Juncal (6110m). Erst Besteigung der Chilenische Seite, durch P.Zanetti und G.Boccalatte, 23 Feb.-5 M„rz 1934’. Andina, (1937): 19-30. Helbling, R. ‘Cerro Juncal’. Oesterreichische Alpenzeitung, (1911): 201-11. Joos, H. ‘Nevado Juncal, ascensiones’. LM, n.10 (Jun.1968): 9-11.

Grupo Alto del Rio Blanco and others
Keuck, C. ‘Segunda ascensiòn del Cerro Leòn Blanco [sic]’, RA, n.52 (1946): 25-27. Actually Mono Blanco.
Reichert, F. La exploraciòn de la alta cordillera de Mendoza. Buenos Aires: Benard,1929. Pp.199223.

[Chilean Army.] ‘Cerro Alto de los Leones: importante ascensiòn de la “Escuela de Montaña” del Ejercito’. RA, n.91 (1970): 13-15. Two new routes.

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