Towers of Paine – First Ascent of Central Tower by Don Whillans in 1963

Directed by Leo Dickinson and narrated by Ian McNaught Davis this documentary chronicles the first ascent of The Central Tower of Paine (2,460 m) in Patagonia.
A story of two expeditions to two mountains, one in Argentina the other in Chile which despite being a decade apart, had one man common during both trips was
Don Whillans

Don Whillans

Don Whillans, an icon of British climbing in the 50s and 60s whose routes still are test pieces today and ‘one-liners’ most recognized.


In the first expedition a six man team set sail from Liverpool in October 1962 for the 10,000 mile journey to distant Patagonia. Little did they realize as they passed through the Caribbean that, not far away, the Cuban Missile Crisis between Kennedy & Khrushchev was reaching its climax.
Chris Bonington

Chris Bonington

‘There are many great climbers in the world but few are geniuses – Don Whillans was one of them.’ Chris Bonington
When a strong Italian team arrived with the same objective, Don Whillans vented his frustration ‘It appeared that they’d even promised the Pope that they would climb the Central Tower. It was news to me that the Pope was interested in climbing I thought he was high enough up already…’ he renamed Amando Aste – the Italian leader – ‘Nasty aste’. The name stuck.


More Whillans one liners and lovely reminiscences by Chris features throughout the film including two reconstructions when both Don & Chris fell down the towers when the hemp ropes snapped.


It was to be the first ascent of one of the best plums in the southern hemisphere, the Central Tower of Paine. Their successful ascent was filmed on 16mm Kodachrome and was re-discovered a few years ago in the attic of cameraman, 80 year old Vic Bray. Using the latest German Arriflex HD scanner, Leo lovingly spent 3 months restoring this lost gem and adding a fully dubbed sound track it is polished off with a narration by Ian McNaught Davis.



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