After months of casually debating over beers as to what gear to bring, here we are not many hours before our departure, still unpacked. Joking masks our very real concern while schlepping luggage at SFO that we simply can't lift everything we've brought. Yet somehow things work themselves out, and we're soon south of the equator and on to other obstacles, like the fact that none of us speak Spanish... On right, we try to buy bus fare from Lima to Huaraz, the mountain town from which we will base our adventures in the cordillera.
Not wasting any time, we are soon up in the mountains, and from our
rented van (collectivo) get a first view of our approach, up
this steep sided canyon (quebrada). Farming and ranching
extends everywhere in the Peruvian highlands, including obscure
canyons. Thus most of our approach - hiking, sleeping, cooking - is
in cattle dung, providing Chris much to complain about.
After a few days of schlepping our hundred pound loads through the narrow quebrada (and cursing our decision to shun burros and porters in favor of a more "pure" ascent), the valley opens into a marvelous alpine meadow, complete with turqoise glacial lakes and views of neighboring peaks, such as the formidible Talluraju, on right.
We choose to acclimatize by heading up a drainage under the hanging glaciers of Artesenraju (6050m), hoping in fact to climb it or one of its smaller neighbors. A beautiful campsite in the middle a morraine lake, as well as our seeming ability to handle the speedy acclimatization schedule we'd set for ourselves, has us in high hopes of just that... until in the middle of the night altitude sickness takes Scott hard, and we hastily retreat to a lower elevation. The next day Chris and I plan to retreive the gear we'd left at our high camp, but the altitude has other plans, and takes Chris as well.
Eventually, of course, we do snag our gear, and at a slower pace make our way to Alpamayo's basecamp. Not having altitude problems myself, I enjoy a little bouldering en route. We are fairly bummed and concerned about being set back by the altitude sickness, so finally seeing Alpamayo gives our spirits a needed boost.
Certainly our climbing skills are not so taxed on this trip as are our backpacking ones. At left we ferry loads to our morraine camp. Spent, but relieved to finally be in Alpamayo's drainage, and excited to finally be heading to to the ridge from which we will make our climb. Alpamayo seems finally to be getting closer, and certainly more beautiful as we become more familiar, especially on a cloudless day like this one, one of the few we enjoyed.
Glaciers have receeded tremendously in Peru in recent years due to global warming, and we are glad to finally emerge from endless scree and tallus into snow. Originally a major concern, negotiating a path through the crevasse field proves trivial, thanks to previous parties in the area, and we wre able to make up for some time lost to altitude sickness. At right, Chris shoots another group of climbers pauses at the lip of a crevasse.
Our last camp, just under the ridge between Alpamayo and its sister peak, Kiteraju. It's now cold enough that I sleep in my down and shell and everthing I own, and I awake to ice on my sleeping bag. Just turning over leaves us short of breath, so it is perhaps good that we must spend hours on end boiling water in our dugout. Scott and I amuse each other with riddles. Chris complains. Everyone drools as we eye the face and contemplate our route, which will head up the main runnel, and top out in the middle of the summit ridge.
We've come to climb, and after twelve days of schlepping and cow dung we get down to business. On left, I negotiate the bergschrund. On right, Chris snaps me on easier terrain a thousand feet higher, joining him just a pitch from the top.
On the left, Scott leads the final pitch, and a few moments later Chris enjoys a well deserved view of the southern Cordillera Blanca. Immediately behind Chris lies Kiteraju, which we also plan to climb while in the area. We abandon those plans at the last last minute, however, due to concerns of avalanche potential; climbing one of the world's classic routes, on the so called "most beautiful mountain on earth" will have to suffice for this trip. Later, back in Huaraz, we will be fairly shaken to hear reports that the entire face of Kiteraju we'd planned to climb slid on the very day we'd planned our ascent. But for now, as we head back down the valley toward the trailhead and Huaraz and home, our spirits are as light as our packs.
Sick of eating couscous for days on end, Chris returns to the states and work, while Scott and I spend a few leisurely days in Huaraz, punctuated by a side trip to the "resort glacier" Pastoruri (5500m). The notion of a resort glacier is fascinating to us, but we soon distance ourselves from the cocoa leaf vendors and turn our attentions to some hard ice climbing in the crevasses. At right I pull a small roof, which curiously doesn't seem so small in person.
Scott will stay on in South America for three more weeks of trekking and trying to find vegetarian cuisine, and I will all too soon find myself back in California, attending to emails, climbing at Tahoe, getting my love handles back, and finding my mind turning decidedly south time and again...
Some gratuitous sunsets...