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Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

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Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby jonnyanddonna » Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:09 pm

Hi All,

I'm looking to do some mountaineering in South America in 2014. My girlfriend and I will be arriving in Chile 29th April and flying out of Colombia 15th August.

I have climbing experience including Alpine, Scottish Winter and I've climbed Huayna Potosi. All of my climbing has been with more experienced climbers and I wouldn't consider undertaking any climbing if I was the most experienced climber in the team.

I was looking to climb Aconcagua but it seems that May - August is not a time to be climbing Aconcagua so my question is where could we go in South America for some good climbing? I'm considering going up Potosi again with her but it would be nice to climb a new peak for me. I'd also prefer to take a longer trip as Potosi is very short.

My gf has no mountaineering experience but has done a reasonable amount of trekking and is in good shape. She has altitude experience up to 5,400m.

I'd be highly appreciative of anyone who can make any recommendations. We're not looking to spend a fortune and we'd rather book through local companies.

Regards

Jonny (and Donna)
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Re: Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby Scott » Fri Nov 22, 2013 2:13 pm

I was looking to climb Aconcagua but it seems that May - August is not a time to be climbing Aconcagua so my question is where could we go in South America for some good climbing?


Peru and Bolivia. Much of Ecuador is also good in June-August. Colombia will be very wet that time of year (January and February are best there).

Northern Chile and Argentina may be OK, but all of the high peaks in that region will be very cold. Ski mountaineering is popular in the Lake District.
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Re: Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby jonnyanddonna » Fri Nov 22, 2013 2:59 pm

Thanks for your reply Scott. Any climbs you'd recommend in particular?

When I climbed HP I just booked everything in LaPaz a couple of days before we set off and it was a bargain at twice the price. Is this typical of most routes in Bolivia?
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Re: Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby Scott » Fri Nov 22, 2013 7:09 pm

Any climbs you'd recommend in particular?


It depends on what you want since there is so much to choose from in the region.

It sounds like you want to go guided (which is a good idea if your gf has no mountaineering experience).

In that region, the main guiding centers are La Paz (Bolivia), Arequipa (Peru), Huaraz (Peru), and Quito (Ecuador). You will probably want to focus on those areas if you want guided climbs.

All those areas have their own attractions (PS, I haven't been to Huaraz yet-wrong season).

La Paz has plenty of mountains that are suitable for guided beginners. Peaks like Illimani and Huayna Potosi (which you have been to) are commonly guided, but if your gf has no climbing experience, it would pay to do something like Parinacota first, then try one of those two. If you don’t mind the desert, Licancabur is interesting. Sajama may be good too if you climb something like Parinacota first.

They Huayhuash and Blanca areas (Huaraz) are probably the most spectacular in that part of the world. Some of the 6000 meter peaks in the Blanca (such as Pisco and Copa) are suitable for guided beginners, but even with guides many of the peaks aren't suitable for those who haven't climbed. The Huayhuash is popular for guided treks, but I don't think there is much guiding on the big peaks there.

Arequipa has the Colca Canyon and many volcanoes that can be climbed. Just about all the Arequipa volcanoes are suitable for guided beginners (one exception may be Solimana). Arequipa is a good place to get high altitude experience. It’s also a desert, so be aware of that. Arequipa is not high enough for acclimatization of the big peaks, so you have to spend some time trekking around places like Puno or Chivay before heading there. El Misti is a beautiful symmetrical cone that you may want to look into. Coropuna is probably the highest mountain in Peru that is suitable for beginners (Huascaran is often guided, but the objective dangers can be very high on this one).

Quito has many volcanoes. Iliniza Norte would be a good one to start with for beginners. Cotopaxi is suitable for guided beginners. Whether or not Chimborazo, Antisana, or Cayambe is suitable for beginners is dependent on conditions. Also, Antisana and Cayambe tend to be very wet that time of year.
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Re: Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby jonnyanddonna » Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:00 am

Thank you for such a well considered reply, I'll research your recommendations and hopefully I'll be able to make a plan.
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Re: Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby rgg » Sat Nov 23, 2013 10:29 am

To add to Scott's already fine overview, the Cordillera Blanca has a whole lot of possibilities, and even hikers that want to get into mountaineering can have a ball out there on a selection of peaks. Granted, all of the 6000m peaks require more than just a hiking background, but Ishinca, Urus Este, Vallunaraju, Pisco, Maparaju and Huapi are all suitable for hikers that want to go into mountaineering. The first four of these are climbed often, the other two less so.

In addition, in the Cordillera Negra there are plenty of easy 5000m+ peaks. None are guided, and don't need to be, since most are just high hills and once your acclimatized you can take a collectivo high up and then easily walk to any of the summits up there. On a clear day, and those are pretty common in the period you plan to visit South America, you get to enjoy fine views of the Cordillera Blanca to the east.

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Panorama of the southern Cordillera Blanca
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Re: Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby Damien Gildea » Sat Nov 23, 2013 11:02 am

Lots of good info above.

In Peru I'd also recommend the Cordillera Vilcanota, as you can acclimatise in Cusco and do touristy stuff for a week before heading into the hills. I climbed Ausangate a couple of years ago, it might be a bit much for your girlfriend, but the trek around it is quite good, cheap and easy to organise and there are easier peaks nearby. Guides can be found in Cusco, but like in all these countries, the quality of the 'guide' varies and you don't always get what you pay for.

There is a new site http://www.boliviaclimbinginfo.org that you might find useful. Sajama and Parinacota are also good options but you really need to be well-acclimatised before you try them.
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Re: Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby jonnyanddonna » Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:08 am

It's been a while since I posted here but my girl friend and I are soon heading to South America and I'm now starting to plan our itinerary.

Given that will be arriving in Peru from Ecuador we're likely to visit Huaraz first. There appear to be a lot of options in the Cordillera Blanca and Negra regions suitable for beginners.

My next request for advice is as follows :

Is it easy to just turn up in Huarazand book trips or should I be looking to book in advance?

Thanks again,

Jonny
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Re: Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby rgg » Wed Apr 16, 2014 1:18 pm

You can easily arrange everything in Huaraz. If you have it, it's best to bring your own equipment (think about boots, harness, axe (and, should you plan something harder, a second tool), sleeping bag, inflatable, tent, stove). The primary reason is that while all the agencies in Huaraz will provide all the necessary gear, the boots might not fit you well and it's not guaranteed that the gear is top notch. Since you're going to travel for a longer period, I assume that you were planning to bring most of this already. And while they'll provide the gear, they may charge something for it, or give a discount if you bring your own (do ask for that if they don't mention it).

The agencies themselves can give you lots of good information. You can pop into several offices and ask around about which climbs are possible and what it would cost you, either joining a group or just for the two of you. In addition I recommend checking in at Casa de Guias. Sometimes there is a mountain guide present that has good information. If there isn't, you can always ask when a guide will be there, so you can come back later. The difference is that the agencies obviously want you to book with them, so they have an incentive to paint a more favorable picture, while most guides usually don't think about business opportunities but just share their knowledge.

The climbing season in Huaraz starts more or less in June. Some routes tend to get in shape a bit later, others earlier. If you arrive by early May, you can always explore the Cordillera Negra, for that's possible all year round. No guide needed at all. If you like rock climbing, do go to Hatun Machay for a day, or two. Even if you don't, just visiting for a day and hiking around is worth it. Andean Kingdom, one of the agencies in Huaraz, organizes cheap transport, operates a simple refuge up there and offers rock climbing instruction. However, when I went there myself, I saw an instructor explaining things for a couple of hours to a group of novices before they finally got around to climbing something, so I wouldn't recommend their introductory course. For novices, I believe that the best way to learn and keep it fun is to make real sure that everybody knows how to belay their partner while top roping and then start climbing. I mean, with bolted routes it's a waste of time to teach novices how to use stoppers, cams and so on, right?

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A small section of the rocks at Hatun Machay

You can also go hiking in the Cordillera Blanca or the Huayhash. If you have a bit of hiking experience, you don't need a guide for that. A much cheaper option is to hire an arriero with a few mules (or even horses). The mules can carry your stuff, and the arriero knows the routes. Even the mules do. If you want to make it even more relaxed, you can consider hiring a cook as well. Mind you, if you just hire an arriero, you'll have to do all the shopping ahead of the trip, do all the cooking, and provide shelter and food for your arriero as well. If you hire a cook too, you can arrange that he not only cooks but also does the shopping and brings a stove and fuel. Just make sure that you don't end up at your first camp at the end of the day to discover that you've forgotten something important. For all my trips in the area I always did the shopping to be sure that we had everything.

Which peaks are in shape depends on the amount of snow that will fall between now and your arrival, and on the weather by the time you get there. Urus Este, Ishinca, Vallunaraju and Maparaju may very well be possible, to name a few. Guided parties with people that have no previous mountaineering experience regularly climb the first three of these. Maparaju is rarely guided, but is real easy too. Three additional candidates are Pisco Oeste, Huapi and Yanapaccha. I wouldn't recommend any of these as the first peak, but if the first climb has gone smoothly, you could consider them. Of these three, Pisco is easily the most scenic, so if it's in decent shape, by all means go for it. For your reference, Yanapaccha is a bit harder than Huayna Potosi; all others mentioned, including Pisco, are easier, at least a little.

As for higher peaks in the Cordillera Blanca, i.e. 6000-ers, I wouldn't recommend any of those to someone without mountaineering experience. Should you want to try climbing one, it's best to first ask around in Huaraz about route conditions. That said, Tocllaraju is one of the easiest ones, relatively speaking. It's still not easy though, and a big step up from Huayna Potosi, but if the route is in good shape, then, after acclimatizing on the likes of Urus Este and Ishinca, with a guide you could consider it yourself. Then again, if the snow hasn't settled properly yet, which is what I would expect in May, the avalanche risk on Tocllaraju could be too high. On the other hand, since your girlfriend has no experience yet, it's probably too steep a learning curve for her anyway. I mean, with a guide it won't be unsafe to try it, but whether she'll be able to cope with the steep sections, and whether she likes it, that's a whole different matter. To put it in perspective, once ice axe isn't enough, you'll want a second tool on Tocllaraju.

Image
In 2011, the crux on the Tocllaraju normal route was to get on the NW ridge

In the past, Copa used to be a relatively easy 6000-er, technically speaking. I haven't climbed it myself, so I can only echo what I've learned from other people, but it seems that getting on the glacier has become a lot harder over the years, and that's probably the crux now. But how hard it really is, I couldn't say. The glacier itself is big, but not nearly as steep as Tocllaraju. Once you're up there, the main problem most likely won't be avalanche risk but the risk of hidden crevasses. And there may very well be deep, unconsolidated snow on the relatively flat but seemingly endless slopes. It takes time for the snow to consolidate, and in May and June you might need snow shoes or skis or you will simply be too slow. As before, you can ask around in Huaraz about the conditions.
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Re: Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby Boleslav » Thu Apr 17, 2014 8:50 pm

just to add to what RGG said- 5 years ago, after trekking Huayhuash independently (with only arriero and mules) we organized on spot a climbing of Pisco- that was our fist climb ever, we were well aclimatized thanks to Huayhuash, yet it was not an easy climb. Start with easier mountains like Ishinca, Urus, then Pisco, Vallunaraju.

In Ecuador are nice mountains- many of them are trekking peaks- Fuya Fuya, Imbabura, Rucu Pichinca, Corazon, then a step up is Illiniza Norte- you need a guide for that one and Cotopaxi, guide needed, too.

send me a PM if interested in the contact for our arriero, he was younger man, knew the mountains well and knew how to read a map.
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Re: Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby iommontalba » Wed Apr 23, 2014 7:34 pm

Dear friends:

Chile has a hundreds of climbs to do. lot´s of them are volcanoes noy very high altitudes. for example. north to south:
* 184 km from Copiapó, "Volcán ojos del Salado" 6.893mt in the border with argentina( a little risky)
*shared with Bolivia , Lauca national park, near to Chungará lake you find the "Parinacota Volcanoe"
*near to Santiago a easy target "cerro Provincia" 2.750 mt you would need crampones and piolet with little bit of snow in may. a day trip in summer time.
* Valle of Maule, 66 km from Talca,you´ll find Altos de Lircayy, natural reservation full of native trees
*southern in Araucania Andina start the good lanscape the green carpet and chains of volcanoes start in this area, one of the most famous is the" Villarrica Volcano". an active one, you can see the fire inside!!
*the region in this huge area is filled with lakes volcanoes rivers amazing landscapes and lots of little towns with rich culture
*and the queen of the country is the "Torres del Paine" National park. world famous destination .. unspoiled mountains...

if you need any infromation please contact me.. no problem to help you enjoy Chile... good luck.
iom. Temuco. Chile (iommontalba@gmail.com)
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Re: Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby timm.eckhoff » Fri May 02, 2014 9:29 am

Hi,

I will be in Quito for climbing from July 12th. So if you want to join, I will be climbing with guides as it is required by law for peaks more than 5000m. Possible goals are Illiniza Sur, Cotopaxi, Chimborazo and EL Altar.

Cheers,
Timm
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Re: Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby jonnyanddonna » Thu May 08, 2014 5:00 am

Thanks everyone for the further replies.

Donna and I are in Santiago as I type this. We're heading north on Friday and should hopefully be in the Huaraz region by mid may.

We're going to see what's in condition when we arrive but we'll definitely do a few treks first for acclimatization. Hopefully we'll be staying there for a couple of weeks at least. We have to be in Guayaquil by 4th June for a trip to the Galapagos but may then return to Huarez for more climbing if we feel the need.

Cheers

Jonny
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Re: Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby jonnyanddonna » Mon May 26, 2014 10:18 pm

For anyone who is interested, we're in Huaraz now and have booked guided climbs of Vallunaraju, Ishinca and Pisco in that order.

If all goes ok and Donna is happy with Alpine summits then we may try for something a touch more technical afterwards. If anyone has any recommendations for a good slightly technical climb then please feel free to suggest.
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Re: Couple looking to climb May - August 2014

Postby rgg » Tue May 27, 2014 12:06 pm

When you've climbed these and are looking for more, one step up in difficulty would be Yanapaccha. The best route depends on the current conditions. In 2011, there was one steep technical section, some 80-90 m high, to get on the NW ridge with half an hour to go to the summit.
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