Alpamayo – August 2017

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Alpamayo’s southwest face.

Alpamayo

Alpamayo is a stunning pyramid of ice and snow, its steep faces gorgeously fluted with spine-like runnels of ice. Located in the heart of Peru’s beautiful Cordillera Blanca, Alpamayo’s northern aspect is that of a perfectly symmetrical ice pyramid, while it’s southwestern face and standard climbing route rises above the surrounding glacier like an enormous flake of sheer ice, vertical runnels forming a complex texture of natural snow gulleys. At 5947m Alpamayo is not quite high enough to scratch the magic 6000m mark which makes so many climbs in South America popular objectives, yet Alpamayo’s southwest face is nonetheless one of Peru’s most sought-after climbs due to it’s powerful aesthetic appeal and delightfully high quality climbing.

I had been keen on an Alpamayo attempt for several years, but had as yet not been confident enough in my ice ability to take a shot at the steep, relatively technical face. For quite some time Alpamayo was just a dream, an idea, not something which represented a realistic objective for me. I knew that this state of affairs would change if I wanted it to; 6000m and 7000m high altitude climbs had likewise been mere dreams of mine in the not-so-distant past.

In the two years leading into 2017 I had gotten significantly more experience climbing on steeper snow and easy ice, had been doing a lot of multipitch rock climbing throughout the work year, and finally felt comfortable with the systems involved in a climb of Alpamayo’s technical scope. With no local partners for a climb, I contacted my friend Edgar in Ecuador – it so turned out that Edgar was free at the same time as me in August, and we started talking about a plan. Edgar is a strong, experienced guide whom I had climbed with several times previously, and I knew that with him on the rope a summit of Alpamayo would be a realistic objective. After sorting out dates and a rough itinerary for flights, the goal solidified into something real, and I began to put more effort into the upper body endurance elements of my mostly cardiovascular focused training regime.  In Huaraz Edgar’s friend Flavio, also an experienced Ecuadorian climber, joined us for a solid team of three.

Acclimatization Strategy

Prior to Peru I spent roughly three weeks in Kyrgyzstan making a solo climb of 7134m Pik Lenin. My intention was to come into Peru pre-acclimated, saving time and expense by enabling a fast and efficient shot at Alpamayo without spending days acclimating ahead of time. I had effectively utilized a similar strategy the year prior in order to make an overnight climb of Mount Elbrus, and was keen to repeat the efficiency and success of that expedition. Finishing on Pik Lenin much earlier than expected, I spent ten days at sea level after getting off of the mountain. I was quite nervous that such a significant rest period would adversely affect my strong acclimation, or compromise it altogether, but these fears were ultimately unfounded. Despite the ten day break from altitude the strategy worked perfectly; throughout the entire climb of Alpamayo I never felt any adverse effects from altitude, and operated very comfortably, extremely well acclimated throughout. Edgar, living above 3000m in Ecuador and constantly climbing Ecuador’s variety of 5000-6000m volcanoes, was likewise well acclimatized from the outset of the trip.

Photographs

Itinerary and Trip Report

Day 1: August 16th
Cashapampa ~2900m to Llama Corral ~3700m. 3:00 hours.

After a long drive disrupted by striking school teachers blocking the road out of Huaraz, we arrived at Cashapampa around lunch time.  We ate a quick meal of chicken and potatoes, sorted out Donkeys for carrying our gear, and then headed up the start of the Santa Cruz valley trek which doubles as the approach trail to Alpamayo’s base camp.  The hiking was hot, dusty and sweaty, the afternoon sun oppressive.  In Llama corral we pitched camp, bought some bottles of cola from a small shop, and slept early.

Day 2: August 17th
Llama Corral ~3700m to Alpamayo Basecamp ~4300m. 3:30 hours.

Another day of approach hiking across long stretches of dry, level ground.  We passed several gorgeous high glacial lakes, and enjoyed fantastic views of surrounding peaks.  We turned left off of the Santa Cruz trek and onto a path heading up through steep forest, taking us to Alpamayo Basecamp.

Day 3: August 18th
Alpamayo Basecamp ~4300m to Moraine Camp ~4900m. 2:45 hours.

Due to our strong acclimation, we decided on an aggressive strategy for our summit attempt.  We would attempt the summit from Moraine Camp, rather than making the long carry over the Quitaraju-Alpamayo Col to the Col Camp/High Camp.  While we knew that this would add some 3-4 hours to the summit bid, we also knew that it would save a lot of energy, avoiding a gear carry over the steep and technical Col.  From Basecamp we no longer enjoyed donkey support, and so we left early after breakfast with heavy bags full of equipment.  The hike to Moraine Camp follows a trail of switchbacks up through brush and onto bouldery moraine, with clear views of surrounding mountains.  The moraine itself has several flat spots for tents – we chose to camp as close as possible to a small stream.

Day 4: August 19th
Moraine Camp ~4900m to Alpamayo Summit 5947m. Descent to Alpamayo Basecamp ~4300m.

4:00 hours, Moraine Camp to the base of the face.
5:00 hours on the face, to the summit of Alpamayo. 1:00 hour on the summit. 7:15 Hours from the summit to Moraine Camp. 1:00 Hour from Moraine Camp to Alpamayo Basecamp.
We departed Moraine Camp at 10:30 p.m., and got down to Basecamp at 5:50 p.m. making for a big day of over 19 hours on the move.

From our tents to the base of the snow we walked for around an hour, crossing large boulders and chossy moraine.  From the snowline, the climb to the Quitaraju-Alpamayo Col ascends steep slopes, and although we didn’t feel the need to belay any of it I was very happy with our decision not to haul all of our gear up.  It took us a full four hours to reach the base of the wall in the middle of the face, where we arrived at around 2:30 a.m.  A team of four Germans was around 30 minutes behind us.

I had heard from an Ecuadorian climber in Kyrgyzstan, and others in Huaraz, that the French Direct route was in great condition this season – and we weren’t disappointed.  Gaining the face involved a big move onto overhanging snow above the bergshrund, which Edgar led in style, and seconding it clean felt burly and strong.  Pitch 1 above the bergshrund was a moderate snow slope of around 55-60 degrees, with each subsequent pitch getting progressively steeper and icier.  The climbing was sustained, but the snow condition was firm and crisp – tooling and frontpointing upwards felt delightfully secure and fun.  This being the longest pitched snow route I’d ever undertaken, at eight 50-60m pitches, I focused on my stamina, controlled my breathing, and tried to move carefully and efficiently up the face.  Around Pitch 5 I realized that we were roughly halfway up and were going to make it to the top; this sense of impending success fuelled the remaining three pitches.  Pitch 8, the last, was rock hard 75-80 degree water ice riddled with pockets, large swathes of it thinly plastered over rock.  A final crux above the ice involved a few balance moves onto the summit cornice – and we were on top!  The German team followed onto the summit directly behind us, and were very friendly despite having had to climb below us (and all the ice chunks we knocked down) for the entire route, and wait for us to sort out some rope tangles below the final ice pitch.

We were extraordinarily lucky to have direct access to Alpamayo’s true summit – something of a rarity.  The true summit is often inaccessible, or very dangerous, guarded by a traverse across the unstable and extremely exposed summit ridge, but this season the French Direct route terminated directly below the highest point on the ridge.  We spent roughly an hour on top taking photos of the gorgeous views and enjoying the sense of success.  Rappelling the face involved eight raps off of good v-thread anchors, and after a break to shed layers and hydrate at the Col our descent to Moraine Camp took another three raps.

At Moraine Camp we immediately began packing up for a descent to Basecamp, keen to get as low as possible so as to avoid spending an extra night camping.  The trudge down to basecamp was heavy and uncomfortable, all three of us tired from the long day.  We arrived at basecamp just before sunset, and had enough time to eat a quick meal before heading to sleep, exhausted and satisfied with our accomplishment.

Day 5: August 20th
Alpamayo Basecamp ~4300m to Cashapampa ~2900m. 5:00 hours, with time spent swimming in the high glacial lake between Base Camp and Llama Corral.

Feeling worn out, we took our time descending from Basecamp to Cashapampa.  With the donkeys carrying almost all of our gear and leftover food, we enjoyed light packs and good speed down the long, gently sloped trail.  Between Bascamp and Llama Corral we stopped to swim in a gorgeous glacial lake; it was freezing cold but refreshing!  In Cashapampa we ate a big meal, drank some cold beers, and started the drive back to Huaraz.

Pisco – July 2015

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Pisco, the west peak at left, as viewed from the Chopicalqui trailhead.

5752m Pisco, or more accurately Pisco West, is possibly Peru’s most popular high altitude climb. Widely considered a trekking peak, Pisco’s west summit presents a mostly non-technical glacier hike. Despite being higher the eastern summit of Pisco is seldom climbed as it is far more technically demanding. Pisco’s incredible summit views, relative ease of access due to a comfortable refuge, and technical accessibility along its normal route all combine to make it an appealing target as an acclimation peak.

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Approach hike to the refuge.

I was stirred up from a failed attempt on Chopicalqui in perfect conditions a few days earlier, and decided to tackle something easier and lower in order to make up for it.  I had rushed my acclimation schedule early into this Peru trip and suffered a persistent loss of appetite as a result.  Having eaten next to nothing for four days on Chopicalqui my energy had simply given out some 90 minutes into the summit push, leaving me disheartened and disappointed in myself.  I had slipped up and failed to manage a good food system such as the one which I used earlier in the year on Aconcagua, and didn’t feel confident in my ability to attempt another 6000 meter peak without more acclimation.

Despite the decision to take on something lower and easier, we still wanted to get at a big glaciated peak and take in some scenery.  Famous for its spectacular summit views, Pisco seemed to fit perfectly.

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Pisco West from below the refuge.

Day 1: Our trip began in Huaraz, the climbing capital of Peru’s Cordillera Blanca.  Throughout my trip I climbed with friend and guide Edgar Parra, and for Pisco we were also accompanied by the two Ecuadorian friends whom we had attempted Chopicalqui with.  The four of us booked an early morning taxi from our hotel to the Quebrada Llanganuco via the town of Yungay.  This beautiful area is a huge valley wherein stunning glacial lakes glow an unreal shade of light blue.  The Quebrada Llanganuco is an entry point for several of Peru’s popular climbs, and I would visit it no less than four separate times throughout this trip.  While the drive from Huaraz is long and rough, the scenery doesn’t disappoint due to the numerous high peaks visible along the way.

The trailhead for the Pisco refuge, on the same road as the Chopicalqui access point, was crowded with other climbers preparing for the approach hike.  The hike from roadside to refuge was long and cumbersome with heavy bags, but not particularly difficult.  Like most of the Cordillera Blanca, just getting to the base of Pisco requires a full day of hiking through foothills.

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Finally reaching the refuge at the end of the approach hike.

Pisco looms high above the refuge, appearing deceptively close.  In reality the base of the glacier is still quite distant, several hours walk from the refuge itself.

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Pisco, behind the refuge.

The refuge was comfortable, dry, heated, and not overcrowded.  The refuge staff served tea and snacks, and for a reasonable price we purchased a hot dinner before settling in for rest.  We slept using our sleeping bags on refuge bunks, and marveled at the quality of the service and facility (even the washrooms!) as compared to mountain refuges found in other countries.

Day 2: Awake at midnight, we began moving at around 1 a.m.  The night was still and clear, with no wind.  We began hiking up the moraine behind the refuge, shedding layers as we went.  By the time we reached a flat section often used as a ‘high camp’ alternative to the refuge, we were all moving in just our base layers.  The night was so warm that I would later take my sweat soaked base layer off and pack it, opting to wear a dry mid layer against my skin.

The approach from the refuge to Pisco’s glacier was long, physical, and annoying.  The route first ascends a ridge and then descends into a valley before heading back up again, all the while following a slippery path of scree and loose boulders.  In a sense, Pisco’s moraine was more difficult and more dangerous than the glacier itself.

Near the base of the glacier we passed two large commercial groups and discovered that with nobody ahead of us we had the mountain to ourselves.  At the glacier’s nose we put on crampons, roped up, and began following the moderate slopes upwards.  The weather was perfect, with no wind and comfortable air temperatures, but despite this the snow conditions were firm and good.

Pisco’s normal route takes a very clear line and following the wide, rolling ridge we encountered no significant crevasses or other difficulties.  Some three hours of maintaining a steady pace later the summit pyramid came into view, and we realized that the climb was almost over.  Having felt somewhat slow and lethargic throughout the climb, likely due to a very short night’s sleep, the summit’s appearance above us gave me an energy boost, and we quickened our pace to the top.

To say that Pisco’s summit views are good does not do justice to the scenery.  6000m giants rose around us, layers of cloud flowing between them.  The Huascarans and Chopicalqui stood beside us, the clouds obscuring their summits forming a mysterious, surreal landscape.  The Huandoys behind us caught the morning sun,  and would later direct our route of descent.  To the east the sun rose behind Chacraraju and a layer of clouds, casting an orange glow across the sky.  Artesonraju and Alpamayo were visible as vague pyramidal forms in the distance, appearing only intermittently between breaks in the shifting cloud cover.

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Chopicalqui and the Huascarans, wreathed in clouds.

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Pisco summit view.

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Looking east.

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The Huandoys.

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Looking back at the summit pyramid, our two Ecuadorian friends still atop.

After around 20 minutes taking photos and celebrating on the summit we decided to begin descending.  In daylight the entire route stretched out in front of us, and looking back we were able to appreciate how large Pisco is, a giant even as one of Peru’s smaller mountains.  Dwarfed by the huge peaks which surround it, nonetheless Pisco would be considered absolutely massive in most other countries.

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Looking back at Pisco’s summit pyramid, several other climbers still ascending.

Our descent was fast and uneventful, and we soon found ourselves back at the moraine.  We hydrated, changed layers, packed our rope and glacier equipment, and began the long hike back to the refuge.

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Pisco from the moraine.

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Pisco from the moraine.

Pisco was a beautiful and enjoyable if easy climb.  Worth ascending for the summit views and by no means a small peak at over 5500m, Pisco was the perfect mountain for getting back into the right mental space after my disappointing attempt on Chopicalqui.  We would later return to Huaraz on the same day as descent, take a day of rest, abort an attempt on Huascaran Sur due to inclement weather and an unexpected refuge closure, and then finish the trip with a wonderful ascent of the technical but accessible Yanapaccha.

When I return to Peru I will likely visit Pisco again, either for acclimation and warm up or just to take in the scenery from its summit once again.

Accessibility

Peru is an incredible destination for mountaineering, and attracts climbers from all over the world.  The Cordillera Blanca is a climber’s paradise, with seemingly endless possibilities ranging from accessible and intermediate to extremely difficult and seldom-climbed peaks.  Peru’s peaks for the most part are technical affairs, and almost all of them involve very physical, lengthy approaches.  Despite being a technically simple peak Pisco is no exception to this.  The approach, especially the enormous moraine between refuge and glacier, is long and arduous.  Around a half dozen of the climbers whom we met in the refuge did not even touch Pisco’s glacier, and threw in the towel on their climb partway through the moraine.

Because of the approaches and higher technical grade of most peaks, the Cordillera Blanca is generally not considered a good area for inexperienced climbers to begin learning in.  The Cordillera Blanca also hosts numerous high quality multi-day trekking routes which draw a diverse assortment of travellers into Huaraz – in town one will run into world class alpinists, casual trekkers, wealthy American tour groups, grimy budget adventurers, and everything in between.

Huaraz is a city with a thriving tourist industry.  Local guides can be hired on the spot or in advance, and logistics services are easy to obtain from any number of local outfitting companies.  Taxis can be used to reach the starting points of approaches, but group transportation is also offered by logistics companies and is less expensive once the cost is split with others.

I climbed with my Ecuadorian friend Edgar Parra while in Peru.  I hired Edgar as a 1:1 climbing partner and guide, having met him while in Ecuador a few years earlier.  Edgar is charismatic, patient, multilingual, safety-conscious, and an impressively strong, experienced climber.  Edgar’s website is http://www.lonelysummits.com/.

I strongly recommend Brad Johnson’s “Classic Climbs of the Cordillera Blanca Peru” as a guidebook for climbing in the Cordillera Blanca. It contains maps, photographs, detailed approach and route descriptions, and many interesting mountain stories.

Tocllaraju – July 2015

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Tocllaraju

A primary goal for my first visit to Peru’s Cordillera Blanca was to attempt some slightly more technical climbing at high altitude.  While doing research in preparation for my trip Tocllaraju’s steep normal route, aesthetic shape, and perfect location for acclimatization quickly caught my attention.  Soon I was hooked on the idea of an attempt, and found myself dreaming about the mountain’s stark, pyramidal shape while planning and training.

Tocllaraju as seen from Ishinca.

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Tocllaraju as seen from the moraine high camp.

While I didn’t end up having a perfect trip in Peru – due to persistent, practically debilitating difficulty eating adequately at altitude throughout the trip – Tocllaraju stood out as an absolutely incredible climb for me.

Our ascent of Tocllaraju was a multi-day affair, as the Ishinca Valley which is used to access Tocllaraju was the first of our several climbing destinations and an ideal place for acclimatization.  The Ishinca Valley is home to a mountain refuge, making it an easy place to spend several days acclimating at a moderate altitude, and is in close proximity to a pair of easy 5000m peaks.  We climbed one of these, 5530m Ishinca, as acclimatization and warm up before beginning on Tocllaraju itself.  The Ishinca refuge, which sits at ~4350m, is accessed via a pleasant ~4 hour hike for which we hired a pair of donkeys to haul our gear and food.  We booked the donkeys and their handler for a reasonable amount through our hotel.

As soon as one reaches the valley proper Tocllaraju’s summit pyramid comes into view.  Prominent and massive, the mountain’s glaciers shone in the sunlight.  The mountain was a constant presence and accompanied us throughout our time in the Ishinca valley, building a sense of anticipation and excitement.

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One of our two donkeys loaded up.

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Ascending through high forest.

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Distant peaks visible en route to the Ishinca Valley.

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As we entered the Ishinca Valley, our main goal was finally visible ahead of us.

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Tocllaraju from the Ishinca Valley.

Our climb of Ishinca went well and introduced me to the awe-inspiring, brutal reality of Peru’s mountains; distances are enormous and views deceptive.  Most of Peru’s climbs involve significant approaches across unpleasant moraine fields and even Peru’s easy, non-technical climbs – of which there aren’t many – are relatively quite physical undertakings.  Despite our success on Ishinca my condition going into Tocllaraju was not ideal.  I had barely eaten anything since arriving in the refuge and felt poorly acclimatized.  Regardless, the day after our Ishinca climb we decided to stick to our itinerary and begin.

Day 1: After a morning spent practising anchor, belay and rappel technique we organized our gear and began the long approach hike up to the 5000m moraine camp at the base of Tocllaraju’s glacier.  With heavy, fully loaded packs the going was slow.  The hike was nice enough lower down but became a miserable slog across the lower moraine where soft snow accumulated in shade made the route slippery and treacherous.  We took our time, and after 4 hours from the refuge arrived in the moraine camp.  We arrived at 3:20 p.m., put up the tent, and spent the remaining afternoon resting and taking photographs.

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Looking down the valley during the ascent to moraine camp.

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Our high camp below the glacier.

The July sun sets early and fast in Peru, taking only some ~30 minutes for darkness to blanket the mountains.  The views at sunset from the high camp were delightful, especially as the setting sun cast a purple glow across nearby Ishinca and Ranrapalca.

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Tocllaraju at sunset.

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Ishinca at sunset.

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Ishinca, dwarfed by it’s massive neighbour Ranrapalca.

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Tocllaraju at dusk.

After cooking – and almost immediately giving up on eating – a freeze dried meal, I managed to get down a meagre dinner of sausage, bread, and cheese before turning in so as to be ready for an early alpine start.  I was unable to eat any of my freeze dried food for the first two weeks in Peru, and even literally choking it down seemed impossible.  In hindsight I should have eaten slower and tried harder before giving up on it each time, as I had been able to survive exclusively on the stuff for almost two weeks while on Aconcagua, sometimes allowing myself as much as 90 minutes to carefully finish a meal.  Getting enough calories is imperative while at altitude.  With inadequate nutrition acclimatization is slowed, stamina is compromised, recovery after exertion is slow or non-existent, and mental resolve flags quickly.  No amount of training prior to a climb will compensate for poor eating habits.

Day 2: Out of our sleeping bags at 12:45 a.m., we were ready and moving upwards at 1:30.  After a short section of moraine scrambling we reached the glacier, put on our crampons, and started upwards.  Tocllaraju’s lower glacier is moderately sloped, with only short sections of 45-50 degrees.  We carefully wove our way through the icefall, moving around large crevasses and past hanging ice walls.  The sun began to rise as we reached the base of the first steep pitch.

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Sunrise on the glacier.

Here we stopped – there were boot tracks headed upwards, but several different paths led in different directions.  We placed an anchor, and scouting upwards on my belay Edgar discovered an absolutely gargantuan crevasse splitting the slope directly above us.  Several meters wide and seemingly bottomless, we had heard about this crevasse from other climbers in the refuge.  The crevasse had been crossable by a snow-bridge earlier in the season, but it had collapsed beneath a four-person Estonian climbing team a few days earlier.  The collapse had been a tragedy and resulted in the deaths of three of the highly experienced Estonian climbers, the fourth successfully rescued.

This grim knowledge gave us pause, and indeed the crevasse appeared to be impassable.  We knew that there must be some way around the obstacle, as two descending German teams had reported that several of their climbers successfully summited.  Unfortunately all of the boot tracks ended at the crack, and may have been so old as to have been left by climbers who had been here several days before us.  We spent an hour scouting the route on belay before finding a reasonable circumnavigation.  The way past took us up a 2 meter overhanging ice wall with nothing but air beneath it – easily the most intense three or four moves I have ever made with ice tools.

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Ascending in the early morning light.

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Looking down the route, the moraine far below.  The monster crevasse splits the slope left to right in the lower quarter of the picture.

Above the crevasse the summit came into view, and a clean ~65-70 degree snow slope led to the top.  We powered up two more pitches and overcame a final 1m step of ice which required a few tricky moves to break onto the summit plateau.  The summit itself lay some 20m away, and we traversed carefully, mindful of the serac edge.  We arrived at the top at 8:15 a.m., 6:45 after leaving our tent.

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The summit plateau.

The summit was a large, flat space with clear views of the many peaks and valleys surrounding us.  I felt fantastic on the top, and very happy to have reached the summit strong.

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The Ishinca Valley far below.

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Tocllaraju summit view.

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Huantsan and Ranrapalca in the distance.

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On the summit of Tocllaraju.

After spending some 15 minutes on the top, we decided to begin descending.  An easy to find anchor on the summit provided us with our first rappel station.  The second and third anchors were much harder to find and ever so slightly dubious, looking as if they had been in place for at last a few weeks.  We took a very direct rappel route to the top of the crevasse, where we rappelled around and down our route of ascent.

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First rappel, the notch in the serac above is the ice step breaking onto the summit.

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Feeling good at our rappel station.

Below the crevasse we roped back up and continued descending our route of ascent.  The complexities of the icefall were interesting in the morning light.  Behind us the summit pyramid looked imposing, and it was hard to believe that we had stood on top of it an hour earlier.  Peru’s mountains are deceptive in their scale and descending in daylight gave us a tangible sense of how truly large the mountain is, and how great the distance we had covered.

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Descending the mid-glacier.

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Tocllaraju icefall.

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Descending.

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The summit pyramid far above, from halfway down the glacier.

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In the icefall.

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The summit pyramid, from near the base of the glacier.

It took us 3:15 to return to get off of the glacier and return to the tent where we hydrated, dried gear in the sun and took a nap before beginning to pack up.  From our tent we reached the refuge in 1:45, an unpleasant hike down with loaded packs and tired legs.  At the refuge we celebrated with a hot meal and orange juice, spending one more night before leaving to Huaraz early the next day.

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As we left the Ishinca Valley, Tocllaraju stood behind us.

Tocllaraju was a very good climb for me.  It met my expectations regarding technical difficulty, and was exactly the sort of climbing which I had come to Peru to get after.  I felt good about my performance on the climb in spite of my awful appetite and poor nutrition, and was delighted that we had made the summit safely and in good strength.  The mountain’s aesthetics had possessed my thoughts for the months leading up to my trip, and its harsh allure left me with a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of beauty having reached its summit.  Edgar was an exceptional climbing partner, and by the time we were off of the mountain and safely back in the refuge I felt like I had learned a great deal from him.  I am certain that I will return to Peru for more climbing, and perhaps will someday walk in the Ishinca Valley below Tocllaraju once again.

Accessibility

Peru is an incredible destination for mountaineering, and attracts climbers from all over the world.  The Cordillera Blanca is a climber’s paradise, with seemingly endless possibilities ranging from the accessible and intermediate to extremely difficult and seldom-climbed peaks.  Peru’s peaks for the most part are technical affairs, and almost all of them involve very physical, lengthy approaches.  Because of this, the Cordillera Blanca is generally not considered a good area for inexperienced climbers to begin learning in.  The Cordillera Blanca also hosts numerous high quality multi-day trekking routes which draw a diverse assortment of travellers into Huaraz.

Huaraz is a city with a thriving tourist industry.  Local guides can be hired on the spot or in advance, and logistics services are easy to obtain from any number of local outfitting companies.  Taxis can be used to reach the starting points of approach hikes, but group transportation is also offered by logistics companies, and is less expensive once the cost is split with others.

I climbed with my Ecuadorian friend Edgar Parra while in Peru.  I hired Edgar as a 1:1 climbing partner and guide, having met him while in Ecuador a few years earlier.  Edgar is charismatic, patient, multilingual, safety-conscious, and an impressively strong, experienced climber.  Edgar’s website is http://www.lonelysummits.com/.

I strongly recommend Brad Johnson’s “Classic Climbs of the Cordillera Blanca Peru” as a guidebook for climbing in the Cordillera Blanca. It contains maps, photographs, detailed approach and route descriptions, and many interesting mountain stories.