Argentinian mountain guide Ignacio Lucero and his two clients have been missing since Wednesday on Cerro Marmolejo, a stratovolcano on the Chile-Argentina border. Lucero’s GPS signal stopped at a crevasse. Two helicopters are currently looking for them.
Lucero was climbing the normal route from the western, Chilean side of the mountain in a group of six (two guides and four clients). They had been going up for two days in reportedly high winds, Alpymon told ExplorersWeb.
Eventually, the group split: guide Pablo Buchbinder and two clients turned around, returned to Base Camp safely, and left for home. Lucero continued with fellow Argentinians Raul Espir and Sergio Berardo.
Wind and crevasses
Lucero’s GPS tracker registered its last signal at noon on Wednesday, at 5,800m. When no further news came, the climbers’ family raised the alarm. Yesterday, helicopters from Chile’s Group of Special Forces scouted the route during the brief periods when the high winds allowed them to fly. They saw the team’s tents but no trace of the climbers, Cumbres magazine reported.
At 6,108m, Cerro Marmolejo is the southernmost 6,000m peak on Earth. It is not popular with climbers because of its remoteness and typically bad weather. Winds are usually fierce, especially on the higher sections.
It is not technically difficult but requires crossing a crevassed glacier and navigating among penitentes before Camp 2. Buchbinder, the other guide, said that conditions on Marmolejo were tough. The strong winds had swept away the snow in many places, leaving open crevasses.
Today, two other helicopters joined the search-and-rescue mission. One will focus on searching the route, while another will ferry up a ground search team.
Currently, there are two main hypotheses about what happened. First, some or all of the group could have fallen into a crevasse. Second, bad conditions could have forced them to change their descent route. Instead of returning down the same way, they could have traversed to the Argentinian side of the mountain.
It is complex for helicopter pilots to search across the border, but a patrol on foot would have no problem traversing into Argentina. Mendoza’s authorities on that side of the mountain are fully supporting Lucero’s family in the rescue efforts.
A popular local climber
Ignacio Lucero is well-known in Argentina’s climbing community, thanks to his regular guiding work on Ojos del Salado and Aconcagua (which he has summited nearly 50 times).
Social media posts with his dog Oro went viral. Lucero had suffered a stroke on Manaslu that left him with serious injuries. Back in Mendoza, he found Oro on the street and adopted him. The dog helped him through the long recovery process and became his climbing partner. Oro summited Aconcagua four times! Sadly, the dog passed away in 2021. That same year, Lucero had his first son. His wife Fernanda has traveled to Chile to follow the rescue up close.
Source : Explores Web