Easy Accessibility for Great Climbing in Peru!
Here’s a look back on one of our awesome adventures this summer. Alan Rousseau reported from Peru after a successful expedition to the Cordillera Blanca.
“I am writing this while on the second story of a bus bound for Lima. The intimidating glaciated fins of the Cordillera Blanca lay peacefully in the rear view. I have spent the last two weeks guiding Yanapaccha and Chopikalki. Climbing in Peru has been a dream of mine for years. However, my calendar from June to September (the climbing season in Peru) has always been dominated by guiding for Mountain Madness in the Cascade Range.
Chopikalki moraine camp. Alan Rousseau photo
“This year Mountain Madness provided me the opportunity to travel to a range I had always wanted to experience to guide a 15 day Yana and Chopi expedition with Alejo Lazzatti.
“When I think back on this trip and the peaks of the Cordillera Blanca two descriptors stand out: scale and access. I found myself taking a bus to get to environments I had to trek 6 days to get to in Nepal. The proximity of high points allows one to acclimatize by climbing lower peaks; before attempting a giant like Chopi.
“The availability of porter support allows for lighter packs and incredible food. As well as a unique interaction with the always friendly and hardworking people of Peru.
Cebolla Pampa. Alan Rousseau photo
“After everyone met in Lima we boarded a bus bound for Huaraz (10,000 feet), the Chamonix of South America, as Alejo describes it. From Huaraz, day hikes to incredible lakes at nearly 15000 feet are possible. We continued our acclimatization by camping in the high altitude meadows of the Cebolla Pampa (onion flats) camp located in the same valley as Yanapaccha and Pisco. A few hour hike took us to Lake 69 (lakes are numbered in Peru).
Lake 69. Alan Rousseau photo
“Finally on the 6th day of the trip we headed to our first climbing objective. The group caught a van to 15,000 feet, with porters and cooks in tow, we proceeded to Yanapaccha’s moraine camp below 16,000 feet. We spent the next morning climbing steep ice, working on economy of movement and multi-pitch transitions.
“After a second evening at 15,800 feet, we went to the tents early and tried to rest up for our 12 am wake up. We moved well thru the lower slopes of the west face and soon found ourselves in pitched out terrain. It turned out to be a whole lot of pitched climbing on 60 degree neve, roughly 350 meters. This was a surprise to all, for some a pleasant one for others not so pleasant. We all experienced the calf burn of endless 60 degree front pointing. As well as the complexities of descending a face of that magnitude. When the day was done 100% of the climbers in our expedition stood on top of Yanapaccha! A huge achievement.
West face of Yanapaccha. Alan Rousseau photo
“After the abnormally icy conditions on Yanapaccha some members of the team felt like they had accomplished what they had set out to do, others came down with the flu, and fortunately some were still pumped for Chopikalki. So we said goodbye to four climbers after Yanapaccha and set out for Chopikalki with four climbers, four guides, and our trusty cooks and porters.
“As we approached moraine camp, clouds began to roll thru the valley. For the first time I began to fear our high pressure was ending. The next day we awoke enveloped in cloud. A morning weather forecast from MM world headquarters in Seattle told us weather was building. We knew if we didn’t move up that day the climb wouldn’t happen.
“So our optional rest day was skipped and we moved higher into the clouds to our 18,000 foot camp. That night the clouds lowered with the sun, and we woke up at 11pm to a starry sky. During our tea and light pre-climb breakfast, whisps of cloud were blowing thru our camp. I was worried the clouds would also rise with the sun. Fortunately my fears were never validated. We moved quickly onto the SW ridge of Chopi and through several pitches of steep icy terrain up to 75 degrees. The route winds up thru improbable terrain. With a few steep steps, a couple crevasse jumps, and a bit of luck we made it to the top of Chopi seven hours after leaving high camp.
Summit of Chopikalki. Alan Rousseau photo
“As we returned to high camp it began to snow and we watched the forecasted front overtake us. Our descent back to moraine camp that evening was in a windless snow shower.
“The next morning the moraine camp was covered in a dusting of snow. Adding validity to our decision, that the previous day was the right day to go.
“After climbing our second planned peak we returned to the comforts of Huaraz for a relaxing day before starting our journeys home.
“Thank you to highly skilled local guides Edgar and Arnold as well as our gifted cooks Joaquin and Joel.
“Congrats to all climbers on this trip for your climbing accomplishments; it was a pleasure to spend time with you all in the always impressive Cordillera Blanca.”
~ MM Guide Alan Rousseau