Peru 2019 - Cordillera Blanca

Thursday 27 June 2019, 10:23am -- alastair.mcdowell

Meri Simms climbing the summit slopes of Ishinca in Peru's Cordillera Blanca

Creator: 
Matt Scholes

Peru and the Cordillera Blanca must have the most easily accessed 6000m peaks in the world. It’s possible to be at a base camp for a peak the same day you leave town. It’s also a cheap country to travel in and climbing requires no peak fees. The dry winter season also has stable weather giving us a good chance of getting up high.

The climbing trip to Peru is just the first half of a two part climbing trip. We have arranged a fixed depatures trip to Muztagh Ata (7546m) in China and soon realised that arriving at base camp at 4500m on the 3rd day of the trip will leave us with altitude sickness before we’ve even started, so the idea of going to Peru for some pre-acclimatising came to be. Also, Meri really enjoyed her last trip to Peru and was keen to go back.

Huaraz is the town from where we started all our adventures and is at 3000m, so as soon as you arrive you start acclimating. While doing this we got acquainted with the local restaurants, Café Andino and the Califorina Café are our favourite places.

ACCLIMATISATION - LAKE CHURUP, LAKE ANTACOCHA

Before heading into the mountains to climb our first peaks we did a day walk to Lake Churup (4500m) and an overnight rock climbing trip to Lake Antachocha. We had been to Hatun Machay before so wanted to go somewhere different. The rock climbing at Lake Antachocha isn’t amazing but is better than it looks and is fun and an interesting way to spend a few days while you get used to the altitude.

FIRST PEAKS - ISHINCA, RANRAPALCA

The first mountains we intended on climbing were Ishinca and Ranrapalca, Ishinca is a very straight forward 5500m peak and would normally be almost boring (would be fun to ski) but since you are adjusting to the altitude is a bit of a relief it is so simple and the views from the summit are really nice and give us a look at the next objective, Ranrapalca.

Ranrapalca is 6162m and has some technical climbing on the upper part of the normal route (north east face). We moved camp to col camp at 5200m and got a 3am start the next day. The sunrise was amazing and we climbed one pitch then simul climbed the rest to the summit plateau.

By the time we got there it we were hot and thirsty, we got out the jet boil and I made and drank 1.5L water which was really needed. From there the true summit looks depressingly far away for how much higher it is but actually doesn’t take that long and is worth the effort.

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Meri on Ranrapalca

Creator: 
Matt Scholes

HUANDOY NORTE, NORTH-EAST FACE (6395m)

The Huandoy’s rarely get climbed so we knew we were up for a bit of an adventure! We had been staying with Aritza in Huaraz and he didn’t have any guiding work on so we invited him along since he had never climbed any of the Huandoy’s either.

On the walk in however Meri became sick so she decided to stay in the refugio nearby so it was just Aritza and I at that point. We hiked across the glacier to the base of the route and set up camp for the night, planning to get started on the route early the next day.

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Huandoy Norte

Creator: 
Matt Scholes

The route starts up a 400m couloir then pops out at a col below the east face that leads to the summit. What we found when we got to the col was a corniced ridge with deep sugar snow on one side and on the other side if you dropped over you were exposed to potential serac fall. Neither of us seemed very keen on getting squashed or wallowing around deep unstable snow so we bailed from there. It would seem that with global warming that the serac was much larger now than when the route was first climbed in 1975.

It didn’t take long to abseil back down the couloir and were back at the refugio in time for dinner.

PISCO (5752m)

Aritza had no interest in climbing Pisco again so headed back to Huaraz, Meri was feeling better so we went to Pisco moraine camp. The next morning we got up early so we could be on the summit Just after sunrise but before the weather came in and spoiled the view.

Just 20min after leaving camp Meri vomited up all her breakfast. Obviously not feeling great she continued on to the summit, a solid effort. I had developed a bit of a cold so we headed back to town to rest and decide what to do with the last few days of the trip.

meri pisco.jpg

Meri on Pisco

Creator: 
Matt Scholes

meri pisco.jpg

Meri on Pisco

Creator: 
Matt Scholes

RANRAPALCA NORTH FACE SOLO

I’d had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to climb a mountain by myself, solo. I’ve climbed without ropes but never really been alone on a mountain, route selection for soloing is important, I just wanted some solitude with some climbing I felt comfortable with. I already knew the decent and general conditions for Ranrapalca so climbing the North Face seemed like a good choice.

I packed light and were at base camp from Huaraz the same day. I got up early and past col camp at 3am, the climbing was straight forward and the full moon made it easy to see what ways to pick through the rock bands. It was the 3rd week of the trip so the altitude felt much less strenuous than it did at the start.

I could hear a strong wind blowing from the top of the mountain. I continued climbing and soon arrived at the final rock band at the top of the face. It was still dark and I had wanted to finish in the day light, but I soon became cold standing still so after a drink out of my thermos I climbed the rock band and got off the face but into the wind.

I was happy to see day break as I made my way across the summit plateau again. Dawn was clear and spectacular and I took a few quick photos from the summit at about 6:15 am then started making my way back across the plateau to the start of the abseils.

I had done the descent before, so I knew there was enough fixed junk around that I could get down with a single 70m strand of 6mm twin rope. It only took about 5 abseil’s then I was able to down climb/walk the rest of the way back down.

I was back at camp before 9am and we were down at the Refugio at the bottom of the valley in time for lunch. Now I just hope we can retain some of the acclimatization until we get to China!

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Matt on Ranrapalca on their first route he climbed with Aritza

Creator: 
Aritza Monasterio

Trip Itinerary

27th: leave home/ arrive Peru/night bus lima to Huaraz

28th : 3090m - Huaraz! hurrah! Arrive and relax

29th:4450m – Lake Chirrup – travel to Pitec 3850m, then 3.5km. Spend the night back in Huaraz.

30th: 4100m Lake Antacocha - rock climb and camp the night in Cordillera Negra – 35km sth of Huaraz, 1hr drive (Antacocha is located above the town of Recuay. The base of the climb starts at 3950m, and generally top out at 4120m, making it a great place to acclimatize for higher altitude climbs, Routes Le Duc 140m (5+, 5+, 6b, 7a+), No name 180m (5+, 6a, 5+, 5+) and Noches de Adrenalina (6a+, 5b, 6a) Check out Topos Peru for route topos.

Gear We brought 4 cams (#0.5, 0.75, 1, 2), a full rack of offset DM brass nuts, 16 alpine draws, and two 60 m half ropes on the climb. For camping we brought normal camping gear (0 degree down bags, it gets cold!). We highly recommend bringing a small trad rack (nuts, 4-5 cams) in order to protect the runouts/aging bolts on Noches de Adrenalina).

31st: 3090m Pack up and head back to Huaraz, night in Hostel

1st: Packing Day!

2nd: 4400m - Ishinca Base Camp

3rd: 4900m Lake Camp

4th: Get up early! & Summit Ishinca via Normal Route 5530m & reverse down to spend the night Lake Camp

5th: Move camp to Col Camp 5200m. (Rest Day).

6th: Ranrapalca NE Face to 6162m Summit. Descend to Col Camp and sleep at 5200m.

7th: Descend from high camp to Huaraz

8th: Rest Day

9th: Rest Day 10th: Pack Day.

11th: Up to National Park – to Pisco Refugio Camp.

12th: Head up and Glacier Camp to Col on Huandoy.

13th: Climbed colour on Huandoy Nth – bad cond – descend to Refugio.

14th: Moraine Camp Pisco.

15th: Summit Pisco – descend to Rufugio.

16th: Head back to huaraz.

17th: Rest in Huaraz.

18th: Rest in Huaraz.

19th: Approach Ranrapalca.

20th:Climb Ranrapalca north face, descend to Ishinca B.C

21st:Walk out of Ishinca Pack /Gear and be ready for Bus to Lima! (Night bus).

22nd: Hang somewhere before flight out of Lima 5:55pm.

23rd: Travel

24th: Arrive Home 8am.