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Ultimate Cordillera Blanca

The Peru­vian climb­ing sea­son kicked off with a great suc­cess on the Ulti­mate Cordillera Blan­ca trip! Three clients and two guides suc­cess­ful­ly sum­mit­ted Mapara­ju, Huapi, and Ish­in­cha. Con­grat­u­la­tions to every­one! Take a look at their sto­ry below:

Climb­ing in the Quil­cay­huan­ca. Sebas­t­ian Car­ras­co photo

This year I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to guide three clients: Elaine, Stu­art, and Chok with the great help of Octavio, a local moun­tain guide from Huaraz. I had heard a lot about the Ulti­mate Cordillera Blan­ca trip from my col­leagues Ale­jo, Gas­par, and Tyler who devel­oped this adven­ture with Shayan Rohani some years ago. This itin­er­ary gave us the chance to enjoy this beau­ti­ful range from three dif­fer­ent val­leys and lots of dif­fer­ent views of big and small” mountains.

Great weath­er and great snow in the Cordillera Blan­ca. Sebas­t­ian Car­ras­co photo

After a cou­ple of acclima­ti­za­tion hikes around Huaraz, we walked in the Quil­cay­huan­ca val­ley and set up our first camp at 14,271 feet/4,349 meters. From here we final­ly had a view of Mapara­ju (17,473 feet/​5325 meters), our first objec­tive. Once at the glac­i­er, the climb start­ed with a short steep rocky sec­tion. That put us on the top plateau, where we had a great view of Huantsan, anoth­er 20,000 feet peak which doesn’t get very many ascents. After a cou­ple more hours of climb­ing snow ramps, we sum­mit­ed Mapara­ju before 11am. The most impres­sive view of Cayesh is from here; you just won­der how peo­ple can climb this nee­dle of rock and ice.

On Mapara­ju with a view of Huantsan. Sebas­t­ian Car­ras­co photo

After mov­ing camp and hav­ing a nice rest day by Lake Cuchilla­cocha at 15,000 feet/​4572 meters, we met our porters who car­ried our gear north from Quil­cay­huan­ca over to Cojup val­ley. Mean­while that day, we climbed Huapi (17,847 feet/​5439 meters). For the approach we had nego­ti­at­ed some rocky ter­rain to get to the glac­i­er, and we were all hap­py to put on cram­pons. How­ev­er, when we real­ized that the snow was not hard like we expect­ed, we knew that the climb was not going to be easy,” espe­cial­ly when we had to climb a 40-degree slope with snow up to our chests. Swim­ming lessons came in very handy in this sec­tion — espe­cial­ly if you had some with an Olympic cham­pi­on! We reached the top at 10:30am, enjoy­ing an impres­sive view of Pucaran­ra’s glac­i­er, dif­fer­ent col­ored lakes at the end of the val­leys, and more 20,000 feet peaks on the horizon. 

To cross over to Cojup Val­ley meant walk­ing down more rocky ter­rain, but with patience and care we man­aged to make it to camp where the porters had the tents set up and ready for us. Unfor­tu­nate­ly Elaine’s bag was miss­ing with her gear, and she almost decid­ed that it was a good chance to fin­ish the trip ear­ly and go to Huaraz! But, the porters were keen enough to run out the val­ley to bring her bag, and before din­ner time they were back!

The team is over­joyed upon reach­ing yet anoth­er sum­mit. Sebas­t­ian Car­ras­co photo

From this camp at 15,091 feet/​4599 meters, we hiked down to the bot­tom of the Cojup Val­ley (14,107 feet/​4299 meters), to then climb up some steep ter­rain and camp at Lake Per­ol­cocha (15,750 feet/​4800 meters). Our last climb start­ed before 4am, but this time the night was very dark; we could not see any stars, and even had very lit­tle snow. In order to join the nor­mal route for Ish­in­cha (18,192 feet/​5544 meters), we had to climb up a snow ridge and then tra­verse east. Once in the track we only had a bit more than an hour to climb a small steep step to reach the sum­mit by 8:30am! Luck­i­ly it was not com­plete­ly over­cast and we were able to enjoy the view of Ran­ra­pal­ca, Tocliara­ju and more peaks!

Big ice abounds in the Peru­vian Andes. Sebas­t­ian Car­ras­co photo

From Ish­in­ca’s sum­mit it took us around three hours of descent to arrive at camp and meet up with our excel­lent cook, Juan, who, with the help of the porters, pre­pared a deli­cious Pachaman­ca, a tra­di­tion­al meal from the Peru­vian Andes. Com­ing out of Ish­in­ca’s val­ley showed us more moun­tains in this beau­ti­ful range, and I am sure that Elaine, Stu­art and Chok are already think­ing about their next vis­it to Huaraz.

~MM Guide Sebas­t­ian Carrasco