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

Posted by Jason in climbing, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.

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!




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