The Team starts out sick!
This was My first real mountaineering experience in the "CORDILLERA BLANCA!" I seemed to have symptoms of altitude sickness before the day of the hike. The night before our attempt, after hanging around base camp all afternoon and acclimating, things took a slight turn. My two climbing companions, and also my close friends fell sick. After a near fistfight, and the releasing of different bodily fluids by my teammates,(to put it lightly) we began the ascent from low base camp or the "refugio." It was just after 2:00 am. The approach was very steep. Through the dense darkness of the night, I wondered if my teammates noticed the feeling of openness behind us that I had. It was very well disguised by the brisk dark night and the steep walls on each side of the valley below. We had to stop every few minutes for one of our sick team members. Sadly, Jamin, who is the most avid climber between the tree of us decided to turn back before the glacier.
I noticed as we approached the moraine field that the rocks were glazed with ice. It didn't dawn on me until my second attempt, that this was a good sign! It meant that the glacier had refroze that night and conditions were good.(on the off season they get a lot of new snow here and it takes time to settle)
On the Glacier
The bottom of the glacier was a gradual wall easily scaled by some toe picking and mild ax use. Once on the glacier, it didn't take very long for the creeping candle like alpenglow to overtake us from the east! It was a sight that I hope to take in again, and again, and again!
We went over a very cool walkway separating two crevasses. This little boy from Maine was "in heaven" for lack of better words! We easily walked over a couple crevasses. I got a good photo while nervously standing on an ice bridge, and My friend Alex captured one looking back at me! We took more than a few brief stops for my friend Alex, who was now displaying more signs of altitude sickness than I thought that I had. It worked out good because I got to take photos and footage, and we got some good looks at our summit! There were no other traces of teams before us, so you could guess that we were happy to have a very seasoned guide with us. He is a local Peruvian. He was trained by the swiss, and he is very well known in the area! Magno Camones is his name.
The last crevasse had a steep slope above it. We traversed across to arrive near the sub summit, and than we approached the main ridge! The path was narrow, and Magno punched through a weak spot in the snow. It than collapsed, and tumbled down the steep wall to the crevasse below! With the valley and the base camp down to our right and the surreal summit at our fingertips, Our team cautiously made our way up!
Finally, The summit of Vallunaraju. We were at 18963 feet, or 5780 meters. I felt like pitching a flag or something! I felt like there were no other people at that elevation in the world at that particular moment!(who knows, maybe there wasn't. After all, it was the "off" season!)....
Than, looking around at the large and silent, but mysteriously communicating gentle Giants around me, I was humbled... I had made it to the top...I made it to the summit of one of the smallest, and non technical mountains in the "Cordillera Blanca" range in the "Andes mountains" in "Ancash, Peru!)