Getting ThereI arrived in Lima tired after the red-eye from Miami. I used frequent flyer miles so I had to fly from San Francisco to Miami via Dallas the previous day. Despite being tired, I was anxious to get going. This trip, for me was a solo adventure. I was going exploring on my own. As a result, I didn't have much of an itinerary. After arriving in Lima, I immediately booked a flight to Cusco. I desperately wanted to head north to Huaraz to get into the Cordellia Blanca, but felt that the obligatory excursion to Macchu Picchu was a required stopover. I spent most of the first morning sitting in the airport waiting for the air traffic controller strike to end. After several hours, my plane departed and I made it to Cusco. I immediately found a taxi, explored a few nearby villages very quickly and hopped on the last train to Aguas Callientes, the dropping off point to Macchu Picchu.
Aguas Calientes is a bit of a tourist trap but you have to say there if you want to make it to Macchu Picchu early in the AM. My room was clean and quiet and was sufficient and for $5 a night, I was willing to walk down the hall to get to the bathroom. I woke at 4:45 am and caught the first bus up to Macchu Picchu. The site is amazing, but was quickly overrun with tourists. I was glad to see plenty of Peruivan kids there on school fieldtrips.
Huaraz and the CordelliaThe great part about being in Cusco and Macchu Picchu was that although I wanted to be in the mountains, at least I was seeing the sites and getting acclimatized at the same time. After three days at 10,000 feet I was feeling very good. A quick flight to Lima and a comfortable 5 hour bus ride to Huaraz and I could see snowcapped peaks in the distance. I spent a relaxing day in Huaraz. The next morning I rose early and caught a tiny VW van to Caraz packed in with 18 other Peruvians. Can't expect much for $1.50. Only 20 minutes into the drive our right rear tire went flat, but the tire was changed in 6 minutes with all 19 of us waiting inside.
By 8:00 am I made it to Cashapampa and was hiking up the canyon to start the famed Santa Cruz Circuit. The hike is a 35 mile trek through a narrow canyon surrounded by 6,000 meter peaks. The hike starts at a little more than 3,000 meters and climbs up to a pass at nearly 5,000 meters. I had to hurry to catch up with my guide in the tiny town of Vaqueria. With my 35 lb pack I raced through the canyon making the trip in two and a half days. I passed several parties enjoying themselves, leisurely hiking the canyon, letting the donkeys do the carrying. Personally I was enjoying pushing myself physically, but having the donkeys, a guide, a cook and three full days is definitely the way to go.
I did get some good photographs in along the way and did take a two hour detour to capture a shot of Artesonraju.
Below is a shot of Taulliraju at the pass from Punta Union (4,700 meters)
ClimbingAfter catching up with my guide, Christian Stoll, in Vaqueria we took a 30 minute taxi ride traveling one canyon over from my trek to get to our first base camp. Our first target was Yanapaccha. At 5,460 M or 17,913 it wasn't the tallest peak in area for sure, but it was the tallest I had ever summited.
It snowed all night, depositing more than four inches of new snow on my tent. We started at 4:00 am due to the weather. It appeared to be clearing, so we took off up the glacier. The glacier starts nearly from our basecamp.
Normally the trip of Yanapaccha from our camp is quick. Maybe 4 or 5 hours. However, normally the mountains in Peru are climbed in May through July. That rule is so strictly followed, my guide had never climbed in the Peruvian spring despite living in Huaraz for the last six years. Everyone takes off to Patagonia. We quickly found out why. The snow was deep. Every other step we sank past our thighs. We post-holed our way across the glacier making good time for what we had to deal with but moving slow nonetheless. The snow was weak enough that on one snow bridge my foot fell through and I could feel my foot dangling free in the void below. Fortunately the bridge held.
I was elated when we got to the steeper section and the bergschrund. Rather than traverse around it, we went up directly. Ice climbing felt good despite the rotten snow and ice we had to deal with. Anything was better than being buried up to your crotch with every step.
After the bergschrund, we climbed 5 pitches of steep snow to the summit. We made the top at nearly noon after six hours of continuous climbing.
The way down we had fantastic views of Huascaran and the Hundoys. The trip down was slow and frustrating as we sank deep into the snow despite stepping in our tracks from the trip up. The snow softened enough during the day that things were even more difficult than they had been going up.
PiscoAfter a restful night we took a leisurely day moving camp from Yanapaccha to Cashapampa for an attempt at Pisco. We were not particularly optimistic regarding Pisco because of the snow conditions. Our trip up Pisco would be considerably longer but less technical than Yanapaccha.
For Pisco, we rose at 12:00 am to start our climb. We wouldn't be reaching the glacier until after sunrise, so we started out quickly. Our camp was at approximately 3,900 meters. The top of Pisco is 5,760 meters. We did stop to take a few time exposure shots in the moonlight of Chopicalqui.
We made it to the moraine camp at 4,900 meters by 6:30 am. I was feeling a bit winded due to the quick pace but acclimatized quickly after taking things slower up past the moraine camp. The sky was overcast and I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't be getting any good photos. We started out on the glacier and quickly realized we weren't going to make the summit anyway. Not unless we wanted to end up in a bivouac on the way down.
We climbed for a period on the glacier and then reluctantly threw in the towel around 8:40. We took our time hiking back down and enjoyed the view.
The trip was fantastic and I enjoyed the rare solo excursion into a new land. I got to practice my Spanish, meet some of the locals and try guinea pig for the first time (it doesn't taste like chicken). Someday I'll return to Peru during the climbing season and take in the views from the top.