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Patagonia’s National Parks just got bigger

Breaking news  –  the 37,500-acre Estancia El Rincon has been donated to Perito Moreno National Park, one of Argentina’s most beautiful national parks. El Rincon includes the Lácteo River Valley, which provides access to the dramatic—and still-unclimbed—south face of San Lorenzo, Patagonia’s second-highest peak at 3,706m.  Its granite walls and iconic pyramidal form make it the “Everest” of the region.

“Patagonia is not a precise region. It is a vast vague territory that encompasses 900,000 square kilometres of Argentina and Chile. Patagonia can be described by its soil and climate. The wind that blows with terrific force from october to March- in Chatwins expression “stripping men to the raw” and made Antoine de St Exupery’s plane fly backward instead of forwards. In Patagonia, the isolation makes it easy to exaggerate the person you are: the drinker drinks, the devout prays, the lonely grows lonelier, sometimes fatally” says Bruce Chatwin in his book ‘In Patagonia’.

But it’s beautiful and holds a fascination to many people, climbers included despite the famously unstable weather conditions – expect anything from glorious sunshine, 70km/h winds and driving rain, freezing conditions, deep mushrooms of cloud…. you name it, Patagonia will throw it at you… and all in a matter of days!

Cerro San Lorenzo in Patagonia

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Doug Tompkins, the photographer of this magnificent photograph, first visited El Rincon in 1992 to scout out routes on San Lorenzo’s south face, considered one of the greatest challenges of the Patagonian Andes.  He recalls his first encounter with this property: “I first visited Perito Moreno National Park in 1992, to scout the south face of Cerro San Lorenzo.  My plan was to return later to make a first attempt at this wall, the largest and possibly most challenging of all in the Patagonian Andes. We entered the park from the south and began making our way north toward the peak, crossing the Lácteo River Valley, which lies outside the park boundaries. To our surprise, we found that the most spectacular area of the zone, for some reason, had been excluded from the National Park. My climbing partners and I had a clear feeling that this property must be purchased and integrated into the National Park.  A year and a half later, I had the opportunity to buy Estancia El Rincón, which I did with the express intention of donating it someday into the national parks system.” It took some time to hammer out the details according to the wishes of the Tompkins’, but now Doug has successfully donated the property to Conservacion Patagonica to oversee its protection, restoration, and eventual donation.

Cerro San Lorenzo is a huge mountain range with a main summit which is guarded by long ridges that connect two minor summits, Cumbre Sur – 3,385m and Cumbre Norte, 3,567m. The mountain is all the more spectacular because it rises out of otherwise flat Patagonian countryside.  The weather is dodgy at all times and there are 3 large glaciers. The mountain can be climbed either from the Chilean side or the Argentinian and there have been 4 main routes to choose from. Now there are 5…

The summit was first climbed by 60-year old Alberto Maria de Agostini in 1943. He went up the normal route starting in Chile, a route subsequently called ‘route de Agostini’.

There are 10 other mountain peaks close to San Lorenzo so this could be the holiday of a lifetime! Kris and Doug Tompkins, deeply committed to the environment, would be the first to encourage you to visit but to “please leave nothing behind but your footprints.”

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