CORDILLERA HUAYHUASH, PERU
The trek around Peru´s Cordillera Huayhuash is among the most engaging I´ve ever done, one of the the world´s classic walks. Beginning in Chiquian on the northwest side of the range, thecomplete 100 mile circumnavigation can be done in an extremely comfortable 10 to 15 days. There is fantastic fishing in lakes Mitucocha, Carhuacocha, Jahuacocha, and Viconga; and the views of Yerupajá, Siulá, Rasac, Rondoy, and Jirishanca are ever- changing and inspirational.
I have made two circuits of the Huayhuash, each time less for the climbing than for the trek itself, but each time a pack of climbing gear somehow managed to find its way onto the burro. On the first trip in 1983, the North Buttress of Puscanturpa Norte caught my eye, and there I made one of the best free rock climbing solos I´ve ever done. I also fell under the spell of the South Face of Trapecio, which didn´t look very difficult in the lower and upper regions, but the veil-like middle section was at once horrifying and ultimately attractive. The thought of climbing it was like contemplating an affair with the alluring wife of an ayatollah.
In 1985, the burro was again overburdened with a climbing pack, this time containing ice gear. After doing the most difficult and insecure solo ice climbing of my life, I quit my climb above the crux rock band. Although the 700 feet of climbing from there to the summit looked easy, I had no more stomach for risk, and rappelled and downclimbed from that point. So far as I know, the route awaits a first complete ascent.
LOCATION: Near the southern end of the Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru.
FIRST ASCENT: Jeff Lowe, July 19 , 1985 (incomplete)
ELEVATION GAIN: About 2000 feet, from approximately 16,500 feet to the summit at 18,500 feet.
DIFFICULTY: Grade V, WI 6+ VS
TIME: Probably a full day for a fast party, with a bivouac possible on the descent.
EQUIPMENT: Six or eight ice screws, two or three hook-type ice pitons, six or eight rock pitons (including several knifeblades), one or two deadmen, bivouac gear or not- at your discretion.
SEASON: June to August
COMMENTS: In the 1980´s there were a number of problems between trekkers and members of the Sendero Luminoso or Shining Path. These Marxist fanatics robbed and shot several tourists, not to mention massacring many locals in the guise of ¨liberating¨ the country from the ¨capitalists¨. Howeve, since their ideological leader was captured and jailed in 1992, the situation seems to have settled down and it it now appears quite safe to travel in the area.
APPROACH: Travel by bus from Lima to Huaraz, then by truck to Chiquian, where it´s possible to hire an arriero and burro(s). The arriero can guide you to a campsite in a beautiful meadow at 15,000 ft., below the South Face of Trapecio. It´s approximately six days walk, time well spent.
ROUTE: Begin up a couloir/ramp system of bulging white ice in the middle of the face. Three or four hundred feet of Al 3 to 4 climbing leads to 40 to 45 degree snow fields, which are followed for probably 500 feet to the base of the crux headwall. The first rope-length is Al 3 and 4 climbing in an open corner. The next pitch begins with a very difficult series of mixed moves, which are followed by easier going on thick, but quite steep, 85degree blue water ice. The last pitch of the headwall is completely vertical for a full rope-length, a 10 ft. wide stripe of snow ice, which was only one to three inches thick. The still-unclimbed slopes above the headwall are fairly uniform, at an average angle of 50 to 60 degrees , and are mostly névé. However, there appear to be one or two steeper pitches (class 4 to 5?) through the upper rock bands.
DESCENT: My plan for the descent was to down-climb and rappel the East Ridge, which is mainly snow with some apparent serac and cliff obstacles, but nothing that appears too unreasonable. In actual fact, I made 3 rappels from the top of the headwall from rock pitons and down-climbed the remainder of the face. My descent required about two and a half hours, I think.
By: Jeff Lowe.