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Huayhuash : Day 4 Carhuacocha to Huayhuash village June 30, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in climbing, culture, Environment, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking, wilderness.
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Today we got an unsolicited chaperone who led us around the lake on the other side of the campsite.  At first we didn´t realise he was chaperoning us, but when we slowed down, he slowed down.  When we sped up, he sped up, and he occasionally gestured to us to follow him down the well-trodden and perfectly obvious trail.

Snowy mountains and blue lagoons on Day 4 of the Huayhuash trek

Eventually at the far end of the lake, he pointed the way up towards the pass. We thanked him politely (hoping he would now leave us alone). His mission finally became clear when he asked if we wanted a guide for the pass. We declined, saying we had a map.  We didn´t need a guide, especially one who whistled along to his hand-held radio as he walked.  We walked on again, enjoying the solitude of the mountains once again.

Mountains and blue lagoons, Day 4

The valley toward the pass was lined to the right by mountains sweeping straight up to lofty peaks with glaciers clinging and tumbling off multi-hued lagoons below.  It was very beautiful.  Unfortunately a bit of cloud had swept in, somewhat obscuring where the snow ended and the sky began (not good for the photos). 

Angelo the campesino boy at the top of the pass

The pass was easy enough to find, with a clear trail all the way.  Behind us were the snow-covered peaks just left behind and in front the mountains gave way to countless green valleys carpeted with sparkling blue lagoons.  We stayed a while enjoying the views and solitude when a young campesino boy wandered up alone.  He sat on a rock and eyed us curiously, shy, but happy to answer our questions.  His name was Angelo and he lived “abajo” (down there – pointing to the valley floor far below).  He couldn´t have been more than 6 years old.  He obliged us allowing us to take his photo and we gave him a chocolate bar for his trouble.  He couldn´t hide his glee.  He bounded down the mountain after us (for a while I thought we may have adopted a son) but at the bottom he left us and charged off towards “home”.

The view down the valley with snow capped peaks rising to over 5,000m.

We continued down the valley from a second pass dodging the boggy ground as we went. Finally reaching our campsite at the “village” of Huayhuash (3 houses!). As usual our tent was already up and the sun had already sheltered behind the mountains making the temperature begin to drop.

Not a soul in sight, magnificent! 


Huayhuash : Day 3 Matacancha to Carhuacocha June 29, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in climbing, culture, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking, wilderness.
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With a long day ahead of us (we want to do in 1 day what most people do in 2), we hit the trail early at 8.30am. 

The trail climbs steeply to the first pass, and the cold early morning air is sharp in our lungs.  We can see the campsite far below as the path winds around rocks and outcrops.  Two condors are gliding overhead.  The pass drops away on the other side into a brilliant green valley, a brackish red brown lagoon and sparkling stream. 

We turn off the main trail to head up a side valley to reach a turquoise lagoon with brown reeds waving in the shallow waters against a backdrop of black and grey rocks, snowy white glaciers and lofty mountain tops.  The view is spectacular. We lunch at the lake before heading back down the other side of the valley to pick up the main trail in a slow and steady climb to the second pass of the day.  Again the scenery changes at every turn, wide open grassy valleys giving way to rolling green hills and multi-coloured rocks, scree slopes with snowy tops of the Huayhuash skirting around. 

The top of the pass is a bright yellowy sand, and completely barren. We get a first view of Siula Grande rising imposingly down the valley and the peaks of Yerupaja and Jirishinca rise dramatically straight out of the floor of the valley. 

Siula Grande, and Yerupaja rise behind our camp site beside lake Carhuacocha

An hour more walking brings us to a viewpoint above Laguna Carhuacocha and the campsite.  The sun has already left us as we descend towards camp.  A young boy greets us and asks “Que pais?”. This is the first question anybody ever asks and means “which country (are you from)?”.  Jason says England and I say South Africa.  He looks impressed.  His name is Xavier.  We ask him if his family sell anything (we are on the lookout to buy some fresh trout).  “Trucha” (trout) he says, “queso” (cheese) and after some more thought “papas” (potatoes).  We ask him how much for a trout.  He yells for his mother.  “Who is it?” she asks.  “The gringoes” he replies.  His mother appears.  “Que pais?” she asks.  We tell her.  She doesn´t look quite so impressed.  She tells us she doesn´t have trout.  Xavier is insistent, but she only has little trout.  We settle for 2 cervezas (beers) instead.  Xavier has produced an English school book and proudly pronounces “two” in English.

10 minutes later we are in camp and Alfonso has erected our tent already and we soon begin cooking the evening meal as the evening draws in and the temperature drops.  The backdrop of the camp site is wonderful, a beautiful lake and 6,000m snow capped peaks. A wonderful day.

Huayhuash : Day 2 Laguna Jahuacocha to Matacancha June 28, 2007

Posted by Jason in climbing, culture, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.
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We woke early at 7;30am, cooked breakfast hoping for the warming of the rising sun.

We left at 10:00am and began our walk up the valley past the Laguna Jahuacocha.

We climbed steeply up the zig zagging path as it steadily headed for the pass of Punta Rondoy at 4,750m.  There are 2 passes here in quick succession and the view is amazing from both, to the outerlying foothills of the Huayhuash, back over to the snow capped peaks that overlooked our previous nights camp site and then to the east and the incredible rock and snow wall of Rondoy.  1,500m of snow rock and ice rising into the sky to a heady 5,870m, a spectacular peak.

We stopped for a bite to eat and caught up our arreiro who lead us down the slopes into the next valley full of stone corrals and some traditional stone, thatched houses.

The countyside here is beautiful in the valleys, with the backdrop of snow clad peaks, spectacularly pointed and severe as they rise into the sky. 

Eventually we reached the camp site at 4,150m at Matacancha at 3.30pm. But by 4pm the sun had already been hidden by the hillside and the temperature immediately dropped.  Every night in the tent it dropped to between minus 1 and 2 degrees.  Outside the tent it got severely cold while cooking in the dark!

As there were last night, there were a few tents, but it was not crowded.  We have not met any gringos at all on the trails in the last 2 days, total solitude in the mountains.

Not many people go over the pass we have just gone over today, as many shorten the trek by starting at Matacancha.  They don´t know what they are missing!

Huayhuash : Day 1 Llamac to Yahuacocha June 27, 2007

Posted by Jason in climbing, culture, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.
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We were up nice an early, 4:30am ready with our packs to flag a taxi down in Huaraz to the bus station.

Very un South American, everything went like clockwork as we piled our 2 90 litre rucksacks, 2 holdalls of rations and 2 day packs onto the bus, it left on time at 5:30am!

As light hit the countryside the views were wonderful if rather misty.  After 2 hours we got our first glimpse of the famous Huayhuash mountains.

An amazing view as they stretched across the sky above the village of Chiquian. 

We arrived at 8am before getting our tickets for the next bus to the village of Llamac.  We waited another 30 minutes before a combi van arrived for the next step of the journey.

After 3 quarters of an hour we finally managed to fill the combi with 22 passengers (there is only room for 18 in the van!), the driver and a box of new born ducklings! (makes a change from the usual basket of chickens!)

Crammed in we headed off along a decrepid dusty road, which by the way is the ¨new¨ road!

After a bumpy ride of a couple of hours we arrived at the village of LLamac.

Llamac at 3,300m is a quite beautiful village in its own way, with dusty narrow streets, mud brick houses, and the odd donkey and horse for company.  It received electricity for the first time 6 months ago! 

We were met by our arreiro (donkey driver), who loaded the donkey and horse we had hired and we headed out at 11.30am up the steep slopes for our first days walk.  

The sun was shining brightly as we headed up the track, a steady 1000m climb to our first pass at 4,300m and our first close up view of the Huayhuash mountains.

The view was spectacular.  Simply amazing as the snow capped peaks reached into the sky ahead of us.  We were truly awe struck by the sight.

We continued after a short rest along the side of the hillside above the valley below.  We met only one person on the way, a local on horse back.  Somehow while exchanging pleasantries with us he managed to turn the conversation around to telling us that Peru had beaten Uruguay 3:0 at football!  Somethings are universal!

Eventually we descended to the valley floor and reached a small village scattered in the meadow.

The village looked remarkable, with stone walls and thatched roofs they looked exactly like the old black house type housing that people lived in the highlands of Scotland 200 years ago before the clearances.

People in traditional dress, living simple lives with no road, electricity or water supplies.

A beautiful sight that would become so common on this trek.

Eventually as the sun was going down we reached the camp site at the head of the lake of Yahuacocha.  The mountains were rising up to meet the sky at the other side of the lake and the glaciers falling down into the valley.  What a view!  With the snow capped peaks of Mituraju 5,750m; Jirishanca 6,094; Yerupaja Chico 6,089m; and Yerupaja 6,617m.

We set up camp and cooked our evening meal as the sun went down and simultaneously the moon rose above the mountains on the other side of the lake.

From low light and and the pink shades of the mountains to the sky being lit up by a full moon sparkling off the snow and glaciers of the mountains.

It was amazingly beautiful.


Tocllaraju 6,034m : Mas O Menos June 25, 2007

Posted by Jason in climbing, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.
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“nobody told me there would be days like these, strange days indeed. . . . very peculiar moma. . . ”       John Lennon

Our first view of Toclaraju 6,033m at the head of the Ishinca valley

Day 1 – To base camp 17th June 2007 

Our next adventure would be a new test at high altitude, a technical peak classed as “D” (dificile) on the mountaineering spectrum.

We hired our gear and headed off in a taxi at 8am for the hour drive to the trailhead.  We were met by Jeronimo, the Peruvian donkey driver who duly arranged for 2 donkeys to base camp.

The donkeys being loaded by the arreiros

The sun was shining as we began our 5 hour hike up the valley to base camp, unburdened by our heavy packs. 

The walk was uneventful and maybe even a little boring as we walked up the valley until finally the valley opened out and the large snowy summit of Tocllaraju finally came into view, dominating the view ahead.  A massive hulk of a mountain with a beautiful pointed summit guarding the head of the valley. An amazing sight.

We reached our camp early afternoon and arranged to meet Jeronimo to be our porter the following morning for the walk to high camp on the moraine.

We spent the day relaxing and visited the refugio where we drank warm mulled wine.

Day 2 – High camp at 5,000m

Jason at the start of the trek up to high camp

We chatted to people we had met at base camp, Mary and Tim and then organised the equipment with Jeronimo for the trek up to high camp.

We began at 10.40am and finally arrived at high camp at around 3pm.

The trail was steep and we scrambled over the large rocks of the moraine to 5,000m where high camp was situated only a few metres below the glacier.

Cheryl and the porter heading up the trail to high camp past the refugio on the left

We erected our tent and began the immediate process of melting snow.  6 to 8 litres for the night and following day and then cooked an early dinner ready for an early night.  We would attempt the summit early the following day.

High Camp on the morraine, 5,000m with Chez melting snow

2 more groups arrived – a large group with 2 guides, and 2 Germans.  Not exactly a crowded mountain, our thoughts were only of our summit bid.

Day 3 – To the summit of Tocllaraju 6,034m

We woke at 1am and began the long process of getting geared up for the day´s events.  Eventually leaving a little later than anticipated at 3.10am and getting onto the glacier at 3.30am.

We knew that the big group were leaving at 2am who we did not want to clash with, so we thought with an hour and a half´s head start this would not be a problem.  Surprisingly, the Germans were starting at the same time as us and were in front of us up the glacier.

We roped up and soon overtook the Germans and continued our climb.

Sunrise, with the snow bridge and crevasse we have just crossed in the foreground

We began reaching the steep sections at sun up, rounding large crevasses and crossing snow bridges with death-defying drops either side.  

Cheryl watching the northern Cordillera Blanca as we traverse the slopes of Toclaraju at sunrise

The slopes got steeper and steeper, but the condition of the snow and ice was good. 

We gradually continued as the biting cold wind hit us as we reached the top of the ridge which we continued to follow.

Finally, we saw the summit pyramid ahead.  A truly awesome sight and the crux of the climb.  We saw tiny figures climbing the summit ridge as silhouettes.

Cheryl at sunrise on the ridge to the top of Toclaraju, the summit pyramid in the background

After a brief “baño” stop the Germans over took us just before the summit pyramid and thus got to the ridge first.

We thought nothing of this at first but this would be the start of our problems.

The sky was blue and radiant with sunshine against the snow.

Summit Pyramid with some of the large group ahead of us climbing the last section.

All was needed was one last 60m climb up the summit pyramid to the summit and a rappel down.  The view would be awesome.

As we reached the final ridge, the Germans were setting up their belay for the climb.  It seemed to take them an age as we sorted our rope and tried to shelter beside the large Bergschrund out of the biting wind.

Even in the sun, the temperature was perilously cold.

Cheryl and the Cordillera Blanca in the background, still blue skies!

The Germans seem to take an age to climb the ridge, but finally they succeeded.

But before we could follow, the large party that had summited began to descend.  The section of the ridge people were climbing is quite narrow and meant that we had to wait for the party to abseil down. . . . .the only thing was that they were NOT abseiling down.  Instead they were taking an age to climb down whilst being belayed. 

When the first reached the bottom I asked the guy why they were not abseiling. . . ” Oh we don´t know how to”, a few blue words arose from my mouth before the gentleman informed us that “this was the perils of modern mountaineering”!

I looked at him as I did the next person to descend.  I have never seen people dressed in such new shiny equipment, the price tags must surely have still been on their boots and clothing as they descended the mountain. It was like an outdoor fashion show! What would they know about modern mountaineering, being dragged up by a mountain guide with their brand-new gear bought with Cotswold Camping Christmas vouchers!  They had all the gear, but admitted that they´d never ever done this before.

We had arrived at the summit pyramid at around 9am.

Eventually, whilst freezing in the wind and waiting for the last couple of people to descend I decided we had to ascend before we froze to death.

The foothills leading to the Amazon to the north east

So I began to climb whilst they descended.  This involved being hit on the head by falling ice and their rope as they negotiated the Bergschrund at the bottom.

Eventually, I reached a narrowing of the ridge before the final stretch but was stopped in my tracks by the Germans(again) who decided they were now going to descend via an anchor they had set up on the ridge I was climbing. 

I had to stop and wait again for them to take another age to abseil.

Freezing cold, I found a place to belay and eventually belayed Cheryl as she climbed.

By this time the wind was howling and there was a virtual white out on the mountain.  I could not even see Cheryl climbing only 20 to 30 metres below me.

By the time Cheryl finally reached me on the summit ridge, only approximately, 20 metres or so from the summit, the weather had turned, visibility was almost nil and it was 12pm or so.  2 1/2 to 3 hours or so waiting in the cold had taken its toll.

As I looked at her face (her face said it all!!) as she reached our precarious spot I asked if she would like me to abseil her back down.  There was no argument.

We still had to get off this bloody mountain yet.

I abseiled her back down and then began to sort out the anchor for my rappel.  This did not go well!  My hands were frozen and some of my karibiners were freezing up.  I thought of making a dash for the summit myself before rappeling down but any anchor I set to climb would not hold.  The quality of the snow was aweful.

I eventually used the anchor left behind by the 2 Germans to abseil down. But the leash on the anchor was quite worn where the friction of the rope had been.  I reversed the leash and abseiled down hoping the anchor would hold.

As I reached the bottom of the summit pyramid  above the bergschrund the rope suddenly dropped a metre or so, I thought for a second the anchor had failed.  I had visions of falling down the summit slope.  Luckily, the rope must have snagged on a section of ice and freed itself. . . .the anchor had held!

Finally, I arrived below the bergschrund and after sorting our gear out we left at 1pm, a full 4 hours after we had started!

Yes, A White Out!!

By this time we were in a complete white out and our fear was trying to find a route down if the wind covered our tracks.

Luckily, we were able to find the route and follow our tracks and eventually fell below the mists.

Cheryl arriving out of the mists!

By 3.30pm and 12 hours after starting out we reached our tent, exhausted and feeling thoroughly miserable! . . . . . . just 20 metres from the summit. . . . we could not believe our luck!

Day 4 – Too tired to move!!

Jason, cold, miserable and exhausted!! After the 12 hours on the mountain!

We spent the following day in our tent making hot drinks and resting.  Cheryl was exhausted and I felt like I had been beaten up!

The snow started at around 10am and continued all day.  It was not a day to be on the mountain.

Day 5  – The long walk out

We needed to get off the mountain today.  The wind was still up but we packed away our gear and headed back over the moraine as the snow began to fall again.  

We had vague hopes of climbing Ishinca, another mountain in the valley, but we soon abandoned the idea, still tired and the bad weather was relentless.

We had lunch at the refugio at exhorbitant prices and then proceeded down the valley carrying all our equipment.

We reached the road head by nightfall, 6.10pm and people at the village of Williac were very friendly and arranged for a taxi for us back to Huaraz.

We remained silent in the taxi,  just glad to be off the mountain.

Don´t make the mountain a toilet June 23, 2007

Posted by Jason in climbing, culture, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.
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Amazingly, on our last visit to the mountains we actually witnessed a true revelation, intelligent environmental management!

The compost toilet at Ishinca base camp

Although we were camped right next to a recently used hole which had litter and human excrement! At base camp in the Ishinca valley we were taken aback by a newly erected toilet facility that was clean and usable and did not pollute the local environment or river.

In Peru you ask? Where even on the streets of Huaraz and elsewhere there is human excrement!

But yes, someone somewhere used the family brain cell and has erected a compost toilet (it appears as an experiment) that will not pollute the environment.  At present it is still clean and amazingly people appear to have read the instructions (in 4 languages) of how to use it.

I don´t know how long this will last but it is a refreshing change.

I am so fed up with heading to the mountains only to find some of the most disgusting sights, camp sites and hillsides polluted even in the remotest areas.  Base camps are often the worst.

Yet, the people I meet on the whole appear to behave responsibly, carrying out their trash; burning or carrying out toilet paper and  producing their human waste away from water supplies or even carrying this out as well.

The sign clearly showing “there are instructions to use it”!

So who are the idiots who litterally crap actually on camp sites? Leave rubbish spread across a wide area? Appear to pollute the mountains as much as possible, even when there are toilet facilities as at Ishinca base camp?

Its forever a mystery!

But at least the Peruvians are making a step in the right direction at Ishinca, but why can other national park authorities not do the same.  It is surely not a new idea?Aconcagua could certainly learn as could many others.

But my faith is limited.  I meet so many idiots on my travels no doubt the people who forget their family braincell will still pollute the valleys and campsites unable to grasp the concepts of crapping IN the toilet and spreading sawdust on top before closing the lid.  This is technology, but too technical for some to understand!

I live in hope.

The Irony of Peru June 15, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in culture, Peru, South America, Travel.
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Peru makes me laugh!  Take for instance the crazy names of some of the restaurants in Huaraz… Pizza Bruno – for fine French cuisine (obviously) or The Old Spaghetti Factory – for Chinese (why not?).

When in town, we spend a lot of time Cafe Andino, a great place to chill out over a coffee and while away a few hours reading from their excellent selection of magazines and books.  Being a gringo haunt, the menu is in English, however none of the staff speak any English at all, so when you try to order anything on the menu in English, you are met with blank stares and have to try to translate your order into Spanish anyway.  Very amusing, and mostly beyond us – we are largely limited to coffee even when ravenously hungry.  Can anyone enlighten me por favor… what´s the Spanish word for “fajita”? 

Chopicalqui 6,354m: The day our summit luck ran out June 15, 2007

Posted by Jason in climbing, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.
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On 11th June 2007 we embarked on an attempted climb of a more technical peak Chopicalqui and hired an International Guide “William” to help us ascend the peak.  This year this peak is far more technical than usual as a crevasse has opened up below the summit pyramid.

Cheryl looking up at Chopicalqui from moraine camp

We arranged it through a reputable climbing agency “Mountclimb”, from  whom we hired the necessary equipment and porter come cook.  A luxury for us!

We were picked up in style and headed to the Llanganuco valley on the 2 1/2 hour journey to the start of the trail and the 3 1/2 hour walk to moraine camp at 4,900m.

Cheryl and William our guide walking up the valley to moraine camp, Chopicalqui is the ridge rising to the left with the hulk of Huascaran norte on the right

The day started well with blue skies and sun shine and we could see the peak rising ahead of the valley.

We met several climbing groups coming down the mountain, none of which had made the summit!  Problems with deep snow, cold, and trouble passing the crevasse that had opened up below the summit pyramid.  Yet our spirits were not dampened.  We had come prepared.

Cheryl at moraine camp with Chopicalqui behind

We arrived at Moraine camp at around 4pm with an amazing view and watched the sun go down while eating an amazing lomo Saltado.

Later in the evening we saw the most enormous avalanche leave the steep slopes of Chopicalqui, thundering down the mountain, down the moraine valley.  The cloud of snow lingered for some time.  A spectacular sight if sobering. Maybe this would be a bad omen!

Heading up from moraine camp to the crevassed glacier and up to high camp

The following day we were up early and roped up for the climb up the glacier to high camp. 

Over night we had a snow fall and the weather had significantly changed.  Low clouds, cold and new falls of snow were not what we wanted!

High camp at 5,350m below the col

Weaving around the crevasses we arrived at high camp just below the col at 5,350m within 3 1/2 hours.   Our acclimatisation had gone well.

After lunch the snow again began to fall and the wind picked up blowing significant amounts of snow between the fly sheet and inner tent.  Snow soon filled the porch and buried the outers of our boots!

Things did not look good for our summit attempt that night.  But at 1am we awoke to clear skies and an attempt was on.

Unfortunately, there were no tracks to follow and we had to trail blaze an entirely new route up the snow slopes.

The going at times was slow but we continued and found the route up the steep slopes, 50 degrees or more.

It was very cold but as long as we kept moving we could cope with this, but as the night went on the wind bagan to pick up.  The Guide was first and Cheryl second on the rope.  By the time I reached Cheryl´s tracks (10 or so metres in front of me) the tracks were almost completely hidden by the wind covering the tracks with new snow.

William (the guide) and Cheryl on the way down at day break with Chopicalqui behind    Cheryl abseiling a section on the way down    William our guide with Chopicalqui summit behind

The snow was very unstable, the snow was powder snow presenting dangerous hazards.

Eventually, as the sun began to rise we reached a steep section where we needed to place protection, and after discussion we decided it was just too dangerous.  The snow pickets once placed would just peel out of the ground as the snow was so poor.

Our high point was around 5,850m.  It was very disappointing.

We began our descent.

Cheryl downclimbing a steep section

Eventually, reaching the steepest sections we needed to belay each other down, and again had terrible trouble placing protection and it took some time to find a safe place to set a T anchor.

Another abseil and we were quickly down to our camp below the col by 8.30am.  By which time the weather had again turned, and from clear night skies a few hours before, the clouds had descended and it began to snow once again.


Cheryl was feeling very cold and near a Hypothermic state when we got into the tent. It took us over an hour to warm her up.

Sunrise over Huascaran the highest peak in Peru

But within 2 1/2 hours we had to get up and pack things up to descend to base camp which we reached by 4pm.

We were both knackered!

It was all very dissappointing, but we made the correct decision to descend when we did.

The following day we reached our pick up point and back to Huaraz for a few beers and to beat Chez at table football and table tennis!!  She is still smarting!  Our rematch is later! 

4 day climb of Nevado Pisco 5,752m June 10, 2007

Posted by Jason in climbing, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.
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After practising our crevasse rescue technique (without the help of a local Peruvian Guide who showed us how NOT to crevasse rescue!) we set off geared up for our first “technical” peak on our own, PISCO 5,752m in the Cordillera Blanca.

Our first sight of Pisco

It is a popular peak for acclimatisation and is basically a glacier crossing with a couple of steep sections of 50 degrees where front pointing is necessary. 

The peak is called Pisco because after the first successful ascent of the mountain, they celebrated at base camp by getting copiously drunk on Pisco Sour! We were hoping for a similar celebration!

Arrival at Laguna camp 4,800m (5th June 2007)

We started badly, getting up an hour late rushing for the collectivo. Cramming us and our packs into the van at 8am we sped off towards the town of Yungay an hour away.  When we arrived we had missed the combi vans up the valley of Llanganuco so we had to pay 40 soles for a taxi ride.

We signed in at the gate to Huascaran National Park and paid our 65 soles, at which point the attendant asked us for a tip!  What for I don´t know! We politely ignored the request.

We then got dropped off by the taxi driver at Cebollapampa and were met at the valley camp by several Arreiros (Donkey drivers) offering their services.  So for US$20 we hired a donkey and driver for the climb to base camp.  This was a welcome relief from hauling our heavy packs up the valley.

Laguna Camp 4,800m    Cheryl on the moraine above the Laguna, the moraine below is what we crossed to get to laguna camp    Sunrise over the Huandoy range the other side of the col from Pisco as we started the ascent

We reached base camp by 1.30pm and our first view of Pisco.  It looks a beautiful snow capped mountain with the familiar snow fluted sides of the mountain so familiar in the Cordillera Blanca.  We had lunch with the arreiros before heading up over the moraine to the moraine camp. We passed the refugio on the way which looks very enticing but as time was pressing we did not linger.

At first the moraine wall looked an easy stroll up, even at these altitudes (4,665m), but as we reached the top of the first moraine wall we found to our horror a further expanse of horrible looking moraine!

We looked at our watch and were worried we would not make it to moraine camp before sun down.

We scrambled down the loose moraine wall to the jumble of rocks below and began to pick our way across.  With our heavy packs this was a bit of a nightmare.

Eventually, nearly 2 hours later we climbed the final lateral moraine wall to find the Laguna. 

We presumed the actual moraine camp would be a little higher but we were tired and thought a spot by the lake would be most idyllic and therefore set up our high camp here.

Jason´s Birthday and a welcome rest day! (6th June)

We decided we would practice our crevasse rescue and chill out at the beautiful Laguna today. 

At first light we had to cross back across the moraine though as a jacket Chez had on the back of her pack had fallen off yesterday.  And of course it was right at the otherside of the moraine!!  

Jason and Cheryl with the Pisco ridge and summit stretching on behind

We then walked up to the moraine camp proper a 100m further up the moraine and chatted to a few people who had summited today.  On the way we passed several groups coming down.  One of the groups was lead by our “guide” that we had for our disastrous”ice climbing course”!! Needless to say they did not make the summit!

The guys at moraine camp were full of mountaineering war stories.  The freezing temperatures, digging snow holes to survive, rapelling down steep slopes towering over bottomless crevasses etc etc. . . . . . .   And we thought that this was an easier peak!

We decided we ought to practice our crevasse rescue technique a little more for tomorrow!

Summit Day  (7th June)

We woke at 2am and left for the summit at 4am.  The stars and moon shone brightly as we headed up the moraine to the start of the Glacier 200m above us.  We did not get onto the snow until 6.10am as the sun began to show itself sending the mountains around pink.  The sunrise was beautiful as we roped up and began the steep climb onto the ice.

Start of the climb up the slopes of Pisco to the col    Cheryl on the ridge of Pisco with the Huandoy massive behind    A section of the ridge of Pisco

The first section was steep and required front pointing and then we weeved around the open crevasses up to the col.

As we reached the col the wind picked up and the temperature dropped dramatically.  The wind blew the top surface of the snow into our faces.

We saw the ridge stretching off into the distance taking us by suprise at how steep it was.

We headed up steep slopes over snow bridges along the broad ridge.

Section of the Pisco ridge we had to negotiate

It was not long before we realised that we were the only people on this mountain today.  The whole mountain to ourselves.  For such a popular mountain we were very lucky to experience it alone.

The Pisco ridge seems to go on forever! The summit in the distance

We changed leader after a while and Cheryl lead us up the slope.  Our going was terribly slow.  The altitude was really taking it out of us.  As we continued we were sheltered from the wind somewhat and the sun began to bake us.

Slowly slowly we ascended, the altitude making the going very tough.

Finally, the slopes began to steepen and the wind hit us again.  We hit a steep section where we front pointed up onto a ridge that narrowed and climbed around a large crevasse and over a snow bridge before front pointing again to the summit ridge.

Cheryl on the summit ridge with Huascaran (the highest mountain in Peru) behind.

The narrow summit ridge was beautiful as we climbed and as we reached the summit the magnificent vista presented itself to us on the eastern side.  The view was spectacular.

The view from this peak is supposed to be one of the best in the Cordillera Blanca and we were not disappointed.  It was superb for a full 360 degrees. 

Jason and Cheryl on the summit    Jason on the summit with his Union Jack celebration!    Chacraraju dominating the view to the east

We summited at 11.20am. Over 7 hours climbing, we were both quite tired.  But the views made it worth it.  Alpamayo in the distance, the Artesonraju the Paramount mountain(used in the paramount pictures), the spectacular Nevado Chacraraju and of course the massive hulk of Huascaran to the south dominating the valley below us.

The view across the Alpamayo, Artesonraju, Pyramid peak and beyond, simply amazing!

After 20 minutes or so on the top we were getting very cold and had to start the descent.

We stopped halfway down for a sunbathe and lunch spot! The only dramas being a slight slip on a snow bridge by Cheryl and me going head over heels down a snow slope (I´m glad I could remember my self arrest!)

Cheryl taking a breather halfway down the Glacier ridge back to camp!!

We continued down the ever softening snow passing dramatic crevasses until we finally reached the moraine again.

We arrived back to camp at 3pm.  A long day, and after a drink we crashed out.

An early dinner and a long sleep (the best I have had for a good while!) and then the following day we packed up and walked down to the valley camp and a taxi ride back to Huaraz.

An excellent climb with amazing views.  Can´t wait for a beer and a curry to celebrate not to mention a few Pisco Sours!


For the Love of Peruvian Guides June 2, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in climbing, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.
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Jase and I have set up temporary residence in Huaraz, in order to explore the surrounding mountains which are reputed to be some of the most beautiful in the world.  This is where Joe Simpson´s epic tale of “Touching the Void” took place.  If you´ve seen the film you´ll know how beautiful the mountains are (and how scary!).  But we´re not here to do anything quite so crazy, and it´s a good place to hone (or in my case, learn) some skills.

Richard our Peruvian Guide and Cheryl at moraine camp

So it was we decided to do a mountaineering course, and carefully picked our way through most of the agencies in Huaraz (and there are a lot of them).  It was difficult to know what to do, as every agency offered something slightly different and the range of prices was huge.  We finally decided on an agency called Peru Andes who seemed to know what they were talking about, and had enough satisfied customers milling about. 

We headed off in a taxi to a mountain called Vallanaraju near Huaraz.  On arriving at the foot of the trail to base camp (about 3 hours steep climb from the road) and seeing how much gear we needed to carry to base camp, our guide Richard suggested we camp there and not go to the base camp.  This would mean that every day, we would have to do a 6 hour round trip just to reach the snow where we could do our course.  The alarm bells should have started ringing, but being eternally optimistic, we suggested that it would be better to go to the base camp.  We had a porter with us after all, who if we camped at the road, would have just come along for the drive.

Jason tied up in the name of mountain rescue!

In some ways, Richard was perfectly capable, but in others he was most certainly not!  On arriving at the ice wall to do some ice climbing, we discovered we only had 3 ice axes.  As we had to climb in pairs, we required a minimum of 4 ice axes.  Jason had carried 2 of the ice axes, assuming Richard had the other 2 (we had lugged 4 ice axes all the way up the steep hill to base camp originally) but when questioning Richard, he replied that he hadn´t bothered to bring the 4th axe to the ice wall because “it was too heavy”.  It weighed all of 600 grams, and the only thing he had in his backpack was a rope that probably weighed all of 3kg.  I guess we should be grateful that he brought the rope.

The thing with high mountains, is that they´re normally covered with glaciers, and the glaciers are usually covered in snow.  The snow builds up on the surface and can cover all the dangerous crevasses lurking below the surface.  Most of the time the snow is strong enough to hold your weight, but occasionally, the sun may have weakened the “snow bridge” too much and when you walk over it, the snow bridge could collapse under your weight and you land up in a crevasse.

Cheryl ice climbing

That´s why mountaineers attach themselves together on a rope.  If one person falls into a crevasse, the other people can stop their fall and get them out of the crevasse.  As this is an ever present danger we were hoping that Richard would be able to teach us how to do a crevasse rescue in order to get the person out.  There is a particular technique that is used to create a pulley system which makes it easy to pull the person hanging on the end of the rope out of the crevasse.

This is probably one of the most fundamental concepts of mountaineering, but Richard was unable to set up a pulley system which could get someone out of a crevasse.  He spent about 2 hours working on it (by this time the poor bastard in the crevasse would probably have frozen to death) but to no avail.  He finally declared that the system wouldn´t work because “the rope was too wet”.  Of course the rope is wet!  Its been rolling about in the snow for 4 days!  I would hate to have to break it to someone that we couldn´t rescue them out of a crevasse because the rope is wet. 

Thankfully neither of us happened into a crevasse in the 4 days, as I wouldn´t fancy our chances of Richard getting us out!