"Tower Of The Half Moon"
"Tower Of The Half Moon" is one of the striking towers nestled in close to the famous Cerro Torre, which lies directly east. Its name stems from the summit block feature resembling a half moon, which is formed by the deep chimney system upon it. This formation didn't see a first ascent until 1988 ( FAist: Kathy Cosley and Mark Houston) and was surprisingly ignored by those bound for routes on Cerro Torre. Then, in January of 1994, Ermanno Salvaterra took on a solo effort to create a more direct line upon the east face. After an inital false start, Ermanna was able to complete the route on the 16th of January, calling it 'Rubio Y Azul' or 'Blonde and Blue' (for all you gringos!), checking in at 600m in length, 6c or .11a. This line heads for the "half moon" feature in which the crux lies, prior to the summit pitch. Views from the summit are stunning, to say the least, with Cerro Torre lying directly above to the west, Fitz Roy to the east and Cerro Mocho to the south. The quality of 'Rubio Y Azul' and the rock of this area are superb and the cleanest granite offered in the world. Torre De La Media Luna offers a short approach from the 'Ni-Po-Ni-No' basecamp, just south of Cerro Mocho at its base and makes for an excellent "soft" Grade IV climb.
"Over The River And Past The Glacier.....
From the town of El Chalten, take a trail that departs near the southwest portion of town (the trail starts near the Nothofagus Bed & Breakfast, a blue house with white trim). The trail ascends up and over a notch and traverses high above a river valley, eventually arriving at The Ex-Bridwell Camp, near Lago Cerro Torre. This camp is an excellent place to launch from as one heads north, crossing over the outlet of the lake and above its western shoreline (via a Tyrolean Traverse!)
Dave makes the "slide for life" Tyrloean across Lago Cerro Torre's outlet....gear and all!
Continue past the lake, ascending into a steep hillside beech forest. You will pass several opportunities for water along this trail. As a word of caution, this trail is fairly steep and those carrying full loads for climbing objectives best be prepared for some 3rd class trail scrambling. Eventually, the trail will descend to the Cerro Torre Glacier. Once on the glacier, trek the glacier's western border until a climbers' trail appears in the morraine. Traverse along the morrain, heading north, and eventually find an area of weakness to regain the glacier. In warmer temps, use caution while trekking the glacier, as there are larger amounts of water flumes and mini crevases along the way. Head north through the middle of the glacier and use Cerro Torre as a landmark of guidance. The glacier will eventually recede to lateral morraines (which need to be scrambled over). Keep a sharp eye out for a camping area, made within a flat area of the morrain, just at the foot of Cerro Mocho. This basecamp is called 'Ni-Po-Ni-No'. From this basecamp, the approach to Torre De La Media Luna is an hour and a half.
The Glacier National Park Visitor Center in El Chalten.
Permits, Maps And Resources
'Ni-Po-Ni-No basecamp is located at the base of Cerro Mocho (as seen in the foreground) in Cerro Torre Valley.
When arriving in El Chalten, it is best to visit the Glacier National Park Visitor Center. Permits are available for most sections of the park (with the exception to some private land that lies within the park boundries, which may require small reciprocity fees to pass through). Permits are free and are available daily, except on Sunday. If you are using a guiding service, it may be necessary for the guiding service to acquire the permit(s) needed. Maps and additional information are found in the Visitor Center but can also be found throughout the town and separate guiding service offices located within the town.
Tomas Huber aligns a filming camera in 'Ni-Po-Ni-No' basecamp.
There are several "super mecados" or markets in El Chalten, within walking distance of any location in town. These markets do provide packaged food, dried meats and cheeses. Since El Chalten was originally founded as a basecamp years ago, the town has evolved to cater to trekkers and climbers, with almost all the amenities one would need. Be aware that most stores there close around 2PM till 4PM for a traditional siesta (seriously!). Be prepared when planning and purchasing food for your backcountry trip.
Lastly, there is only one true climber store in town, called 'La Brecha'. Although small, they do have technical jackets, climbing shoes, a few pieces of technical gear. If you have questions regarding local climbing and excellent guiding services, one can email them at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or by phone: 02962-493151. In general, the people of El Chalten are very friendly and will try to answer any questions regarding resources and needs around the town. Best to brush up on your Castillian ......not everyone speaks English. ;)
Overnight Backcountry Stays
Manuel makes his way to Torre De La Media Luna.
Again, permits are required for backcountry travel, especially for overnight trips. Be advised that NO CAMPFIRES
are permitted within the park! This is strongly enforced due to the fact that the park has no real forest service but merely a handful of volunteers, should a forest fire occur.
Many basecamps, some have which been established since the 60's, are identifyied on maps of the national park. Be sure to use these established basecamps and the camping spots within them. In the case of adventuring out to the Cerro Torre area, the Ex-Bridwell and 'Ni-Po-Ni-No' camps are excellents spots. There are, however, limited spots at 'Ni-Po-Ni-No' basecamp (perhaps 10-12 flat spots within the morraine) and are "first come, first serve", so plan accordingly.[img:395810:alignleft:small:Tomas Huber aligns a filming camera in 'Ni-Po-Ni-No' basecamp.]
Water sources come from glacial melt in and around basecamp. A serious word of caution: although most climbers rarely filter water out in the Patagonia wilderness, since glacial melt is so abundant, the water in and around 'Ni-Po-Ni-No' should be filtered. Not only for the amount of glacier silt found in pools nearby but also for the fact that the water source is near an active campsite. Please make natures call FAR away from the basecamp.
[img:395813:alignleft:medium:Deb heads to the base of Torre De La Media Luna.]From the 'Ni-Po-Ni-No' basecamp, take faint climber trails that head north out through the boulder field of the morraine. Skirt the eastern apron of Cerro Mocho for approxiamtely 3/4 mile before starting up a talus field that heads up to the northwest (a semi-permanent water run-off stream marks the part of departure from below). At this point, one can make out the distinct tower profile of Torre De La Media Luna. Keep an eye out for faint trails that head up talus and scree, eventually leading to open slabs. Many of these network of trails are for those climbers pressing on to approach Cerro Torre from the east. As one reaches the open slabs, an open snow field comes into view. Head for this field, crossing over slab overlaps, which require some 4th class friction. Once at the snow field (keeping Torre De La Media Luna as a reference), it is necessary to put on crampons and the use of at least one ice axe to get onto the snow. Head to the base of the formation (specifically the middle section). In big snow years, the snow will lead to the base. However, in lighter snow years, there may be a bergschrund separating the rock face from the snow field. This may require a roped belay, in order to downclimb into the bergschrund and onto the rock.[img:395815:alignright:medium:Manuel makes his way to Torre De La Media Luna.]
If considering a guiding service to help minimize logistics, here are list of guiding websites within El Chalten (most can be converted to English versions):
El Chalten Mountain Guide - Manuel Quiroga
- 'highly recommended
Fitz Roy Expediciones of El Chalten
An ideal "spring board" website to check out places to stay (ie bed and breakfasts, inns, hostels), resturants, trekking, markets, travel arrangements (ie bus service, taxis) for El Chalten:
EL Chalten Travel