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Summit chopi

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