Being the sixth team in the world, Victor Zavala and his climbing partner Sebastián Pérez achieved the summit of Cerro Paine Grande on April 11, 2024. Standing at 2,884 meters, it is the highest peak in Torres del Paine National Park. Victor: "The ascent presented challenges including near-vertical sections ranging from 60 to 90 degrees, strong winds, and unstable, icy terrain. However, we reached the summit and found satisfaction in the accomplishment."

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Sebastián Perez on the left, Victor Zavala on the right

Chilean Victor Zavala, a data analyst at Cascada Expediciones and seasoned mountaineer, delved into the world of climbing in 2018. Over six years, he amassed an impressive portfolio, climbing over a hundred mountains within and beyond Chile, including 60 peaks surpassing 4,000 meters, with three edging close to 7,000 meters. The last one on his list: Cerro Paine Grande (2,884 meters). Time for an interview!


How did you start mountain climbing?

Victor: "I have always done a lot of sports, especially outdoor activities in nature. This interest led me to go hiking in Torres del Paine National Park with friends during high school, which sparked my fascination with mountaineering. Subsequently, I connected with experienced climbers who imparted their knowledge, and I started taking courses. 

Many people ask me how I gained so much experience quite quickly. I dedicate a lot of weekends to climbing and combine it with my professional career as a software engineer. I would love to make a documentary about this topic, about how you can integrate such leisure activities into your daily life because I am convinced that everyone can enjoy the mountains."


What fascinates you about this sport?

Victor: "I love being in nature, the mountains, and exploring remote locations. The thrill of mountain climbing lies in the sense of being truly alive, pushing your limits, and navigating through challenging situations.

Also, it's a good way to reconnect with life's essentials. You realize what you have when basic things like running water or electricity are no longer available. It's a cliché, but it makes you appreciate the most straightforward things again.”


Let's talk about Paine Grande, one of the mountains of the Torres del Paine massif you recently climbed. How did you prepare for this challenge?

Victor: "I did this climb with my friend Sebastián Pérez. We have already undertaken several climbs together, so I have a lot of confidence in him, which is essential during such an adventure. 

Only five prior teams had successfully reached the top of Paine Grande, the first in 1957 and the last in 2018, each following a different route. That means there is little information, so we gathered as many anecdotes, insights, and experiences from other climbers as possible. Given the unpredictable weather patterns, we soon realized we must be prepared for everything we will explore while climbing."

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How was the climb?

Victor: "We first walked to refugio Grey and then to the base of Paine Grande, ascending for eight hours to the first camping spot. Unfortunately, we couldn't continue walking the next day because it was storming, and going any further would have been too dangerous. After spending a day and another night in our tent, we resumed our ascent to the second campsite. 

From the second campsite, the last part to the top started, but it was also the toughest, featuring eight near-vertical segments (from 60 to 90 degrees) riddled with ice. The first layer of ice was stable, but underneath, it was worse. Strong winds were also present. Each climb required more strength, and we couldn't take a break to eat or pee because the slope was too steep. In the end, we only reached the top at night. The wind there was unbearable, so we immediately went back down. As a result, we walked for 24 hours straight, but we were happy that we arrived without any accidents."


What should aspiring climbers be prepared for when tackling Paine Grande?

Victor: "Based on our information, we expected a somewhat challenging climb, but the reality proved even tougher due to unpredictable weather and varied snow and ice conditions. Paine Grande is a mountain that you must read and interpret as you ascend, so you must adjust your plans accordingly. So, I would advise climbers to learn and exercise how to climb on different types of ice and be prepared for everything."


Check a video of the climb on Instagram


Is this climb now among your most significant achievements?

Victor: "While this climb was more Sebastián's aspiration than mine, I certainly take pride in our accomplishment. What I consider the most beautiful achievements are those that were personal goals in my life. My top 3 currently is Ama Dablam (6.812 meters) in Nepal. I climbed this technically difficult mountain alone, and its height made it complex. Denali (6.194 meters) in Alaska stands as another personal victory. Additionally, my recent expedition to Cerro Torre (3,133 meters) in Patagonia holds a special place on my list."


What advice would you give to someone else who is inspired by your story and wants to start mountain climbing?

Victor: "I would recommend joining a mountaineering club. It provides a structured learning environment, makes meeting people with the same interests and experience easy, and will help you develop this hobby."

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Thank you for sharing your experiences, Victor. We eagerly anticipate hearing about your future adventures!

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