French Direct

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 8.9333°S / 77.7°W
Additional Information Route Type: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Winter
Additional Information Time Required: A few days
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: Class 3
Additional Information Difficulty: D+/TD
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 10
Sign the Climber's Log


The French Direct, first climbed by S. Connolly and W. Barker on June 30th, 1980. It gets its name sake from a French party attempting the third ascent when an ice tower collapsed killing the pair. This route was also the descent route of a Yugoslav party during the FA of the SE Face in 1979.

This is a popular route when Ferrari is out of condition, although parties can get shut down by the bergschrund being impassable.

Getting There

Start from the city of Cashapampa at the trail head of the popular Santa Cruz Trek. Here you can rent Burros and a burrro driver, and it is highly recommended as it is a long approach and the service is cheap. Be prepared as you must feed your driver and give him a place to sleep in a tent as they do not enjoy sleeping outside and may charge you extra.

The first day you will make it to Llamacorral, about 11km. The trek is steep at first but tends to taper off. There is a small store here where you can buy some food and few supplies if you forget to bring food for your burro driver.

The second day you will make it all the way to Base Camp, about 12km. Most of the trek is relatively flat. From Llamacorral, follow the Santa Cruz trek past the two lakes until you reach a fork marked by a posted sign. Take the left fork and you will soon be winding up switchbacks up a steep slope.
SE FaceThe first view of Alpamayo on the approach.
Follow this trail until you reach the obvious camp. There is also a small store here where you can buy some food and store any extra gear you don't want to take any higher. This service is free, but I recommend you buy something from them to show your appreciation. The Burro driver will descend but you will still have to pay him for a third day for his descent.

Many parties will take a rest day, but for the strong and acclimatized the next leg is either to the Moraine camp or beyond to the Col Camp. To the moraine camp follow a path up the steep slope marked by cairns. Soon you will reach rock slabs and a number of cairns and paths will lead you all different directions but all lead to the moraine camp. This will take around two hours depending on fitness and acclimatization.
The Route to the ColThe route to the Col.

To the Col, Continue to the glacier edge. Ascend the glacier avoiding crevasses towards the Quitaraju-Alpamayo Col. The final 200m is the most difficult with some short sections of 80* ice.
Almost to the ColThe second to last pitch before the Col.
Drop down from the Col and set up camp.

Route Description

French Direct, a closer look.The route in red. A closer look.

Start early between midnight and 3am to give yourself the best chance for good views on the summit. Beware of other parties on the route because you don't want to be the last one up with ice falling on you the whole climb.

If the bridge is in good condition it shouldn't be hard to pass over the bergschrund to hard snow. Climb the snow for two pitches. If you are comfortable, this is a good section to do a running belay. The route steepens as you hit the ice.
On the French DirectOn the third to last pitch.

Climb right up the 65* fluting until the last pitch. At the last pitch climb to the right, often 80* or more. Traverse over the fluting and continue on the snow to the top.

Descend using V-threads, usually already in place, and two 60 ropes.

Essential Gear

two 60M ropes. 4-8 ice screws. 2-3 snow pickets. extra cord for V-threads.



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