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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.

Bum!

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! 

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