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Alpamayo base camp

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

Alpa­mayo has been coined the most beau­ti­ful moun­tain in the world. Long-time Moun­tain Mad­ness climber Jeff D. has had the stun­ning pho­to of the West Face of Alpa­mayo on his phone screen­saver for a num­ber of years now. After he saw this mag­nif­i­cent peak on trek through the San­ta Cruz Val­ley, he made it his goal to climb this tech­ni­cal climb that stands just under 6000 meters. 

Alpa­mayo base camp. Marc Rip­perg­er photo

Jeff and I (MM guide Marc Rip­perg­er) had first met through a Mount Bak­er Alpine Ice Climb­ing Course. Jeff told me of his climb­ing asper­a­tions and goals of devel­op­ing the skills to give him the oppor­tu­ni­ty to pos­si­bly stand on top of Alpa­mayo one day. After many email exchanges and con­ver­sa­tions Jeff came out to Ouray and climbed with me this win­ter to real­ly hone his ice skills. After a week of com­plet­ing some clas­sic ice routes in Ouray we marked our calan­ders for our trip to the Cordillera Blanca. 

Jeff D. Marc Rip­perg­er photo

Around the same time, long-time climb­ing guest of mine, Cyn­thia A., asked me where she should go for a trip of a life­time. I told Cyn­thia she should come to Alpa­mayo. Years ago, Cyn­thia was ambi­tious to jump into this endeav­or how­ev­er I encour­aged her gath­er more expe­ri­ence on ice before attempt­ing such a tech­ni­cal climb. After ample time ice climb­ing, she was now ready. 

Cyn­thia A. Cyn­thia Adams photo

The sum­mer rolled around and we were all ready for our trip to Peru. After a whirl­wind of late flights and run­ning to bus sta­tions, we arrived in Huaraz, the moun­tain town that sits at the base of the Cordillera Blan­ca. Long time MM guide Ale­jo Laz­za­ti met us at the bus sta­tion. We did an accim­i­ti­za­tion hike and then got right to busi­ness with climb­ing the sel­dom-vis­it­ed Hua­mashra­ju, a small intro­duc­tion into the Cordillera Blan­ca. As it turned out, that small endeav­or was quite larg­er than expect­ed. The ambi­tious sched­ule we cre­at­ed found us suck­ing air at 17,000 feet and climb­ing unex­pect­ed steep snow-ice rock. Jeff and I forged on and the views on top were breathtaking.

After our major effort, we returned to Hau­raz and recov­ered from the unex­pect­ed but wor­thy warm-up peak. Now we were all more than ready to take on Alpa­mayo. Cyn­thia, Jeff, myself and local guide Fredy Tipan packed our bags and bur­ros and marched into the beau­ti­ful San­ta Cruz Val­ley. This famous trek pro­vides stun­ning views of the Cordillera Blan­ca and, with the com­pa­ny of porters, we were able to do some fine din­ing and have some lux­u­ry items along the way. We slow­ly worked our way up the moun­tain enjoy­ing blue skies and warm temps. As we got clos­er to high camp at 17,800 those blue skies began to van­ish and the winds picked up. That night was a whirl­wind of blow­ing snow and a sum­mit attempt was not going to hap­pen. Fredy assured us that the weath­er would change tomor­row. We hung around and rest­ed at high camp and, sure enough, the sky opened up and our alpine start was accom­pa­nied by moon­light and daz­zling stars.

Alpa­mayo. Cyn­thia Adams photo

We made our way up pitch after pitch of 60 to 70 degree frozen snow and ice. The sun rose and we con­tin­ued our climb in the morn­ing light, even­tu­al­ly all find­ing our­selves on top of the most beau­ti­ful moun­tain in the world. Cel­e­bra­tion was in the air and we did 8 rap­pels back down the route to find hot drinks and lunch wait­ing for us back at camp. After the prepa­ra­tion and antic­i­pa­tion for Jeff and Cyn­thia, they were able to com­plete a life­time goal! Con­grat­u­a­tionls to you both!

On the sum­mit of Alpa­mayo. Cyn­thia Adams photo

You would think this blog ends here, how­ev­er Jeff and I had sev­er­al more days left on our trip. Across from Alpa­mayo sits the clas­sic Para­mount Pic­tures moun­tain Arteson­ra­ju. With plen­ty of high pres­sure left, we coor­di­nat­ed some more food to be hauled into base­camp. A short walk across the val­ley put us in posi­tion to climb yet anoth­er amaz­ing moun­tain. Dur­ing the next sev­er­al days we made our way up to mori­ane camp and stud­ied our route. The north ridge of Arteson­ra­ju is climbed, but few par­ties had vis­it­ed this year and only one oth­er group had actu­al­ly summited.

Marc Rip­perg­er photo

We took off for our sum­mit attempt on the full moon, weav­ing through cravass­es and dra­mat­ic saracs each step of the way was engag­ing and adven­tur­ous. The moun­tain became con­tin­u­al­ly steep­er and steep­er as we got high­er on the route. Jeff and his tena­cious spir­it forged on and up. After our final pitch we arrived at the sum­mit ridge and walked glo­ri­ous­ly over the the sum­mit, well maybe a few steps and lots of stops along the way in order to catch our breath from the huge effort we both put forth. Jeff may nev­er look at the Para­mount pic­tures movies the same again. We end­ed up being the sec­ond par­ty on top of Arteson­ra­ju this year.

On the sum­mit of Arteson­ra­ju. Marc Rip­perg­er photo

I want to high­light the amaz­ing effort put in by both Cyn­thia and Jeff. I see all of my guests put in tons of time, train­ing, plan­ning, and men­tal­ly prepar­ing for expe­di­tions. I can say it is so reward­ing to me to be a part of trips like these where every­thing aligns and the moun­tains allow us access to beau­ti­ful sights and deep per­son­al fulfillment.