Peruvian Andes Expedition 2012

Peruvian Andes Expedition 2012

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 30, 2012
Activities Activities: Mountaineering

I had been planning a trip to the Cordillera Blanca of Peru for the summer of 2012 for a couple of years while I struggled through graduate school while working full time. Researching the trip every now and then gave me some motivation to get through it. We ultimately decided on 3 peaks: Pisco (18,897 feet), Chopicalqui (20,817 feet), and Huascaran (22,205 feet). Other options we considered were the Ishinca Valley peaks and Chinchey.

I told Ryan about this trip in the summer of 2011 when we climbed Eagles Nest in the Gore range, and he practically signed on that day. We met Mike in 2012 off of and he ended up joining us for the first 2 peaks before he left a bit earlier to get back to work.

I was pretty out of shape at the beginning of 2012 from doing nothing but working and studying the last 2 years. I started training by doing 2 laps up Mt. Morrison behind Red Rocks with between 40 and 80 pounds in my pack once a week, and then trail running or hitting the gym if I wasn’t too busy the other days of the week. School finished in early May so I was able to get out to the high peaks once every weekend for 2 months leading up to Peru. I lost the beer belly quickly with this routine. We did some good training climbs together as a group and individually this spring – some of the highlights were Dreamweaver, the Y couloir, Dragons tail, Skywalker, and other routes in RMNP. We also did a few sessions on crevasse rescue practice, and thankfully those skills were not required for us to use while in Peru.

Travel Day: July 5
Ryan and I left Denver early in the morning on July 5th, and landed in Lima at 10pm that night. We got delayed a few hours at our connection due to a leaky plane, so we didn’t think we had a chance to make our planned overnight bus to Huaraz that left Lima at 11:15. However everything fell into order – zero wait time for customs and our baggage, quickly finding a good cab to the bus station, etc. and we made the bus. The bus takes 8 hours to get from Lima to Huaraz, so by catching the overnight supercama we saved an entire day.

Logistics Day: July 6
After checking into our hotel in Huaraz (La Casa de Zarela) in the morning we researched logistics, and ultimately hired a cook that doubled as a camp guard for the first mountain, Pisco. After that was done we explored Huaraz and got ridiculously lost. Oddly motorized rickshaws are everywhere in Peru. I’ve been to Ecuador and Bolivia, and never saw them there, so why they are so popular in Peru I have no idea. This one looked like it belonged to Cheech and Chong.
Peruvian Rickshaw

The views of our objectives from the city were intimidating.
Huaraz, Peru

Huascarans and Chopicalqui from Huaraz

That night there was a quinceanera party down the block that lasted until 5am. I did not sleep well and woke up angry the next day. Especially when every rooster in town sounded like they were right outside our window. Somebody called it the rooster apocalypse.

Day 1: July 7
We did an acclimating walk up to Laguna Churup at 14,600 feet or so. There was some fun class 3 scrambling on the way to the lake, which was aided by big steel cables. This is a popular trek and we saw lots of people. We were told it would take 3 hours to get to the lake. We arrived after an hour, so we kept hiking up the cirque to a little below 16,000 feet and relaxed for a bit. The views of Nevado Churup, Laguna Churup, and the countryside were nice.
Laguna Churup

Nevado Churup

Peruvian Countryside

Andean Village

On the way back to Huaraz we caught a colectivo in a little town, and I got stuck with a baby practically sitting in my lap while the mom breast fed her. I stared out the window most of the way back.

Day 2: July 8
Mike travelled down two days after us and arrived in Huaraz this morning. He pounded on our door at 6am and got us out of bed early. Thankfully we weren’t too hungover. We were scheduled to leave at 10am for 4 days in the mountains to acclimate and then climb Pisco. That morning we met our cook, who was named Polycarpo. He asked where we were from, and when we told him Los Estados Unidos he gave us a funny look and said “no bueno”. This was a recurring thing in Peru – most of the local people didn’t care much for the US of A. This wasn’t a problem, just something to joke about with the locals.

After a few hours of organizing gear, we began the arduous but cheap journey to the mountains via colectivos. First 2 taxis at 4 soles each with all our gear to the Huaraz city center where the colectivos collect, then a colectivo to Yungay for 10 soles per person, and after waiting a few hours in Yungay finally a colectivo to the mountains for another 10 soles per person. In Yungay we were forced to pay a gringo tax to use the bathroom. For a local it was 17 centivos to use the facilities, but for us it was half a sole. I am pretty used to being screwed over in Latin American countries, so I just rolled with it. My improving Spanish skills means less of this, but my tall goofy whiteness still means I get the gringo surcharge from time to time.

Yungay was completely devastated in 1970 by an avalanche from Huascaran. An earthquake triggered the avalanche that set lose 80 million cubic meters of ice and earth, ultimately killing tens of thousands of people. Less than a 100 people survived by running up a hill to the town’s cemetery. This part of Peru has had numerous natural disasters like this.

We arrived at the Huascaran park entrance and paid our entrance fee. The park ranger was skeptical about letting us in without a guide. Thankfully Ryan had an American Alpine Club card. This card along with our argument that we were only climbing Pisco, the easiest mountain in the area, persuaded him to let us in. Our destination that day was Cebollapampa at 12,700 feet. We got there by 3pm and quickly set up camp. We then did an acclimating hike to Laguna 69 at 15,100 feet near the base of Chacraraju, which is one of the most difficult mountains to climb in the Cordillera Blanca. The weather was the worst we experienced the entire trip, so we did not get the views we had hoped for. We got back to camp after dark, ate a quick dinner and went to bed early.

Day 3: July 9
We slept in pretty late because there was no reason to get up early when all you have to do is hike for a few hours without a load. We talked to an arriero (donkey driver), and we hired 3 donkeys to carry all our crap up to the Pisco base camp at 15,100 feet. Polycarpo had a whole arsenal of cooking equipment and food, which loaded down the burros, but this paid off because I think Pisco was the only mountain we didn’t lose weight on. We also threw books, extra unneeded clothes, and a 12 pack of beer on the donkeys. This was an indulgence we wouldn’t take on the higher more difficult peaks where there were no burros. We hiked up the trail, and the clouds were still covering most of the peaks. The views were getting better and better though.
Burros on the way to Pisco base camp

Huascaran Norte and Sur from trail to Pisco base camp

Chopicalqui behind the clouds

We arrived at base camp after two hours, and after setting up our tents we decided to hike up into the moraine below the glaciers to get some acclimating in. We got above 16,000 feet and when we got back to camp Polycarpo had a great dinner waiting for us. We went to bed hoping the weather would clear by the morning.

Day 4: July 10
The weather had cleared, and we started to realize what a spectacular place we were in.
Pisco Base Camp

There is a refugio for climbers right above base camp, but we decided we’d save the money and just sleep in our tents since we already had a cook. We checked out the refigio and it was similar to what Mike and I had stayed in on our trips to Ecuador.
Refugio Peru with Pisco in the Background

Cordillera Blanca
After breakfast we left camp with our goal being the glacier at 16,800 feet. We threw our heavy boots, crampons, harnesses, and the rope in our packs. The plan was to practice some crevasse rescue techniques up on the glacier, then stash all our heavy climbing gear under a rock for the next day’s summit attempt, and then come back to camp for a big dinner. We considered bringing our camping gear up to the moraine and sleeping right below the glacier that night, but we figured it would be a hassle to move camp, and we wouldn’t have the big dinner Polycarpo would cook us if we did that. The moraine is filled with lose rocks of all sizes, which makes the area kind of annoying, but after years of hiking through similar terrain in Colorado it really wasn’t that bad at all. We had great views of the surrounding peaks, especially the Huandoys, Pisco, and Chacraraju.
The Huandoys

Moonrise over Huandoy Eoeste

Pisco and Chacraraju

Back at camp Polycarpo had an appetizer of a big pot of popcorn waiting for us. This hit the spot. He then slaved away at the stoves, making us probably the best meal any of us have had while high in the mountains. Fried fish, potatoes, and tomatoes, washed down by cold beer. This was the perfect meal before our summit day. After dinner we went to bed early, as the alarms would wake us up at midnight. The plan was to arrive at the summit around sunrise, be back in camp by mid morning, then back to the road by mid-afternoon, and back to Huaraz by dinner time.
Pot of Popcorn

Polycarpo Frying Fish


Day 5: July 11
After drinking some coffee and eating a quick breakfast, we were hiking up through the moraine by 1am. I was nervous about getting lost in the dark and losing time in this section, but this was the third day in a row we had been through there, so we made very quick time though it. There are cairns leading all over the place, and it is generally a confusing place, easy to get lost in if you are not familiar with it. The GPS track we made the day before was not needed. We arrived at our stash after 2 hours and geared up. This took surprisingly long, but thankfully it wasn’t very cold. We started up the glacier with Mike in front, Ryan in the middle, and me in the rear. Mike set a great pace that we followed for several hours through the dark. Pisco is a popular mountain, so there was a good boot pack in the snow, so all we had to do was follow the highway, and avoid falling into crevasses. Around 4am we made it to the base of the steeper section. While we were discussing how to tackle this, a piece of ice from above cracked lose and headed straight for us. It was about the size of an oven. Ryan ran one way and I ran the other and the block of ice rolled over the rope between us. Luckily our rope work was poor at this moment, the slack allowing us to dodge the hazard. It had Ryan’s name all over it, but he wasn’t phased at all. In my nervous reaction I asked if we should still continue on, thinking if the easiest mountain in the range is unstable well before sunrise then maybe the conditions aren’t as good as we thought. Mike and Ryan both emphatically yelled no, and this jerked me out of my fear and we continued on, forgetting about it within minutes as we climbed the approximately 50 degree pitch. Once above the steep section it’s mostly a long slog to the summit. I hit the wall at one point, took a quick breather and ate a gu, and then felt much better. Mike hit the wall shortly after that, so we switched places and I took the lead for the last hour or so to the top. Ryan said Pisco felt no different than climbing a 14er in Colorado to him.

We arrived at the summit around 6:30 am, and quickly understood why this mountain was so famous for its views. Pisco isn’t very high, it’s just below 19,000 feet, but it’s surrounded on all sides by higher mountains that make your jaw drop.
Pisco Summit

We enjoyed the views for about 20 minutes before heading down. We paused and took lots of photos on the descent.
Pisco Route

Descending Pisco

I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Especially impressive were Alpamayo, which was voted the world’s most beautiful mountain in the 1960’s, and Artesonraju, the mountain from which Paramount Pictures supposedly gets it logo from.
Alpamayo and Artesonraju

Cordillera Blanca

We passed a few other groups on their way up.

Back at the steep section we placed some pickets and Mike belayed Ryan and I as we downclimbed the first steep section. At the bottom, we placed some pickets and belayed Mike down.
Downclimbing Pisco

For the second section Mike again belayed us down, but he just soloed it down himself instead of taking more time for us to belay him. After this we rested and then made the uneventful descent back to camp.
Taking a break on Pisco

Huandoys on the Pisco descent

Pisco from above a moraine lake

We got a good view of our next objective, Chopicalqui all throughout the day.
Chopicalqui from Pisco moraine

I rushed ahead through the moraine to get back to camp before the donkey driver left. We told him to meet us at 10am. We didn’t get back until 11, but thankfully he waited for us. We quickly tore down camp and rushed down the mountain. We were happy this guy was taking our packs down the mountain.
Burros at Pisco Base Camp

The ride out of the mountains was long and annoying. The rocky road to Yungay through Huascaran park takes 2 hours, and the entire time you’re bumping all over the place. We had conversations about attempting something besides Chopicalqui after Pisco, and part of the reason was we didn’t want to deal with that road again. Back in Huaraz we feasted on filet mignon, pisco sours, and beer. It was a satisfying end to a long day.

Day 6: July 12
This was our rest day. We contemplated which mountain we would climb next. We wanted to do something higher and harder than Pisco. Mike only had 3 full days left before he had to go home, and we weren’t sure if that was enough time to climb Chopicalqui, so we seriously considered Tocllaraju in the Ishinca valley instead. I wasn’t sure if we were fully ready for such a peak. That concern was mostly mine, although it was not lost on Mike or Ryan either. We moved much faster over technical terrain on our practice climbs when there were just 2 of us on a rope instead of 3. Another problem was we didn’t think the ranger would let us back into the park to climb a more difficult mountain without a guide. If the weather changed and the route wasn’t obvious, we decided some direction would be helpful since we didn’t have time to fully scope everything out like we did on Pisco. We came to the conclusion that we would hire a guide, and that I would pay for most of it and would tie in with him. Ryan and Mike would be on their own rope, but we would all climb the mountain together as a group. In theory this was a great plan, but in the end I can safely say that Ryan and Mike climbed Chopi completely on their own. The weather ended up being fine and our two different rope teams only crossed paths twice on summit day. We decided on Chopicalqui, which was a good decision because it was very easily doable in 3 days for us. We also hired a porter to help with the communal weight of the stove, fuel, and tents. That night we celebrated some more – ate a lot of wings and drank a lot of beer at our favorite spot, the 13 Buhos. They brew their own beer there, which is surprisingly good. Julio the waiter is a really good guy, always having a good story to tell.

Day 7: July 13
We woke up and devoured the Casa de Zarela specialty, the largest breakfast burrito you can find in Huaraz. We left Casa de Zarela at 8am. This time we hired a private minibus instead of taking the colectivos. The time saved and the better vehicle on the bumpy road was worth it to us. The park ranger quickly let us in to climb Chopicalqui. He seemed to know our guide Hector pretty well. Everyone we met seemed to know him well actually. At the trailhead we shouldered our packs. Our porter Gregorio was an animal. We gave him our boots and crampons to carry as well as our tent and stove, and we felt bad because we thought his load was too much. He took it in stride though. We tipped him well afterwards. As usual the views on the approach were exceptional.
Start of the trail on Chopicalqui

Chacraraju from Chopicalqui

We skipped base camp and went straight to the moraine camp at 16,400 feet. It took us around 3 hours with lots of breaks to hike from the trailhead at approximately 14,000 feet to moraine camp. We felt great, no one having any problems with the altitude. The moraine camp was a camp to remember.
Chopicalqui Moraine Camp

Water is hard to come by at this camp though. Gregorio and I went to fill up on water dripping down slabs at the base of the glacier, and rocks started falling down on us. We ducked, ran, and got the hell out of there fast. Thankfully we found another spot, although it was only a squalid looking little puddle. All afternoon we listened to avalanches thunder down Chopicalqui and the Huascarans. This was an impressive area of the world to be climbing in.
Avalanche on Chopicalqui

Chopicalqui Sunset

Day 8: July 14
We slept in and didn’t leave camp until almost 11am. We only had 1,400 feet of vertical to climb to the Chopicalqui high camp. Once on the glacier and off the lose rocks of the moraine it was smooth sailing for the most part.
Chopicalqui Glacier

Walking into High Camp on Chopicalqui

There was one precarious looking snow bridge we had to cross. We placed a picket and I belayed Hector across first. It held, so we all went.
Crossing a Snowbridge on Chopicalqui

We strolled into camp around 1pm. The Chopicalqi high camp at 17,800 feet was my favorite camp of the trip. There were crevasses surrounding the camp so it isn’t a good place to be if you sleep walk. We had all afternoon to nap, relax, and hydrate before our summit attempt that night. Mike retired early, not feeling as sharp as he did previously. We had an early dinner of Mountain House, and then I offered Gregorio some Scotch. There was some misinterpretation and I never saw my Nalgene of Scotch again. If I had to lose my Scotch to someone, it would be to the beast of a porter Gregorio. All night long the wind ripped through the camp. I was happy I splurged and purchased a new tent. I went overboard and got the Hilleberg Jannu. I joked that this tent is worth more than my car (a 98’ Pathfinder with 200k+ miles).
Chopicalqui High Camp

View from tent on Chopicalqui High Camp

Ryan napping in tent at Chopicalqui high camp

Ryan enjoying the views at Chopicalqui high camp

Day 9: July 15
We got up around 12:30am and were roped up and heading up the glacier by 1:30am. Thankfully Mike slept like a log and was feeling much better than the night before. Hector and I quickly walked up the easy sections above camp. We arrived at the first headwall, which is about 100 meters of 60 degree snow/ice. We belayed each other up this section. Mike and Ryan were not far behind. There were two other parties’ headlamps lower below, but after an hour there was only the 4 of us on the mountain. The other groups had turned around. While changing out my gloves for mittens on the first headwall, I made a mistake and dropped my favorite red mountain hat. It quickly went out of site and most likely ended up in the bottom of a crevasse. Those that climb with me know of this hat. It is half chewed up by marmots and some say smells like marmot piss, but I have had it since I first became interested in the mountains in 2007. I suppose this was as good a death for such a revered piece of clothing as one could hope for.
After topping the first headwall, we traversed around some seracs and continued up a shorter, steeper headwall. There was some serious exposure to climbers left. I was happy to have my second ice tool on Chopicalqui. Hector was very efficient and fast, and we got a bit ahead of Ryan and Mike. My toes got a bit cold even in my plastic boots, so I didn’t mind the fast pace. After the second steep section we were on the infamous summit ridge. After seeing the summit mushroom, which we thought would be the crux, I knew this would be cake compared to what we just climbed. We quickly and easily made work of the last couple hundred feet along the exposed ridge and topped out on Chopicalqui at 6:30am, just after sunrise. Later we all agreed that this was the most impressive summit any of us had stood on.
Chopicalqui Summit View

Huascaran Norte and Sur from Chopicalqui Summit

I felt really good on the summit of Chopicalqui, like I could keep climbing for several more hours up a much higher mountain. We stayed on top for 20 minutes before heading back down. On the way down we ran into Ryan and Mike heading up on the summit ridge.
Summit Ridge on Chopicalqui

Chopicalqui Summit Mushroom

I asked them if they wanted us to wait for the descent, and they said no. They obviously were feeling good about Chopi and didn’t need any assistance. We rappelled the steep sections and were quickly back on the safer easier part of the mountain by early morning.


Chopicalqui high camp from above

Chopicalqui summit as seen from high camp

Back at camp I napped and relaxed while waiting for Ryan and Mike. Gregorio made some chicken noodle soup, which hit the spot. After Ryan and Mike got back we tore down camp and headed down the glacier.

It only took 45 minutes before we took off all our glacier gear and were hiking through the moraine and down to our waiting minibus.
Trail on the way down Chopicalqui

Back in Huaraz by 8pm that night, we went to 13 Buhos, and all they had left were wings and Thai wraps. We ordered no less than 6 orders of wings between the 3 of us and we closed out the place on Thai wraps. We went to bed extremely satisfied.

Day 10: July 16
We slept in late, ate a huge breakfast at Case de Zarela, and then went to the internet cafes and ate a lot of cake. We said goodbye to Mike around noon, and he caught a bus to Lima and ultimately his flight back home early the next morning. Mike did this trip up right. In only 8 days he climbed Pisco and Chopicalqui. Quite impressive. Ryan and I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what the conditions were like on Huascaran. The route involves unavoidable objective hazards, including traversing beneath monster seracs and travelling through extensive avalanche hazards. All we heard when we talked to the Case de Guias was “muchos avalanchas de campo uno a dos”. We were not confident that Huascaran would be in good condition for a safe summit attempt. We had heard horror stories about fatal accidents that regularly occur on this route, so I was only going to attempt it if the conditions were good. Eventually we strolled into Galaxia Expeditions and asked about conditions. They said they had someone summit late last week. After some deliberation we eventually signed on with them – which included a guide, a porter for higher on the mountain, donkeys to get to base camp, transportation to and from the mountain, and food. After the flights this was by far the most expensive part of the trip. The trip ended up costing way more than we wanted, but that was our faults. After more filet mignon to fatten up (at one of the best restaurants in Huaraz its only 28 soles, or about $11), we hit the bar to forget about how much we just spent, and then called it a night.

Day 11: July 17
We did a bunch of nothing besides eating this day in Huaraz, getting ready for Huascaran. We finally found Café Andino. This was a pretty chill spot, if you can get over the horrible service. After dinner we went over to Galaxia to discuss what time we would leave in the morning, and to our surprise they said there was a transportation strike the next day. Our options were to wait another day or leave that night. We chose to leave that night. Luckily we were already packed. Our transportation picked us up at our hotel at 9:30pm and we made the 2 hour drive to Musho, at the base of Huascaran. I slept the whole way, so I didn’t notice it when our driver wandered around Musho endlessly looking for somewhere to stop. There was no hotel like we were told, so we just camped on some guy’s concrete front porch.

Day 12: July 18
We awoke in Musho and a donkey was poking at some trash near our tent.

The local people were extremely friendly, and the guy whose front porch we slept on cooked us an excellent breakfast, for a small price. We loaded up our gear onto the donkeys, and started the long way up Huascaran.
Starting Huascaran from Musho

Andean Countryside below Huascaran

Our guide Roger had a good sense of humor, and seemed to be a very strong climber as well. Our porter Jesus seemed friendly, but compared to Gregorio he was pretty sorry looking. Gregorio was built like a tank, where as Jesus had shoulders skinnier than most of the engineering graduate students I study with at Boulder and a beer gut that rivaled mine at the beginning of the year.

We arrived at Huascaran base camp and waited for the donkeys with our gear. This is the end of the line for the donkeys. We were proceeding on to moraine camp since we were acclimated. While we waited we chatted with a lady heading down that said the route was doable, albeit dangerous as they experienced 4 avalanches that came near them within a 24 hour period. Our donkeys arrived and we transferred the loads from the beasts to our backs. Right outside of base camp there is some scrambling, which was made a bit harder with 45 pound packs on our backs.
Scrambling on Huascaran

After the scrambling section we crossed some slabs. We could see the Cordillera Negra on the opposite side of the valley.
Slabs on Huascaran

After a bit of time we realized we were way ahead of the porter Jesus. We stopped and waited. After half an hour he came strolling up the rocks, stopping to catch his breath every 10 steps or so. At this time we realized Jesus was too slow to get through the dangerous sections from camp 1 to camp 2 quickly. After another stop and wait session, we traded packs with Jesus. Ryan and I switched off carrying his pack the rest of the way, which albeit was a bit heavier than ours at what felt to be around 65 or 70 pounds. We gained the ridge and the Huascaran’s knocked us off our feet.
Huascaran Norte

Huascaran Sur

Huandoy from Huascaran Base Camp

We relaxed all afternoon, chatting with the Peruvian and Italian trekkers that were staying at the nearby Huascaran refugio. This was another camping spot that we’d remember as an excellent place to pitch a tent and sleep.
Moraine Camp on Huascaran

Thankfully Jesus made up for his sorry porter skills with excellent cooking skills. Dinner was big plates of Lomo Saltado, which rivaled the dishes we ate in town. Once the sun went down it got cold quick so we went to bed early.

Day 13: July 19
I didn‘t sleep much the night before, and woke up feeling pretty lethargic. The strangest thing was a nagging chest pain. I stayed in my sleeping bag until after 8 when the sun finally broke across the Huascaran massive. It looked to be very cold up high on the mountain, especially on the escudo (shield) route, and I was happy I wasn’t attempting the summit this day.
Cold day on Huascaran Sur

We broke camp and worked our way up more slabs to the edge of the glacier. We replaced our hiking shoes with our plastic boots and put on our crampons. There were no serious crevasses so we didn’t rope up. We slogged up the glacier on our way towards camp 1.
On the glacier to camp 1 on Huascaran

I was falling more and more behind the others. I had no energy, and had to stop and rest every 10 minutes or so. It wasn’t an altitude thing (no headache), I was just tired. Even Jesus was beating me up the mountain. I eventually strolled into camp 1 at 17,200 feet, set up the tent and went straight to my sleeping bag all afternoon. Ryan relaxed and enjoyed a Stephen King book.
Huascaran Camp 1

We watched some crazy Swiss climbers scout out their route for the next day to the Shield route. They travelled through very dangerous terrain at 2pm in the afternoon, showing us that the route was in pretty solid condition since it didn’t avalanche on them. From this vantage Huascaran Norte looked like a big gumdrop.
Huascaran Norte

I got out of my sleeping bag for dinner and we discussed what the plan of action was. Our options were to continue on to camp 2 at 19,600 feet early the next morning as previously planned, or make a summit attempt from camp 1 the next day. Ryan left the decision up to me. He was fine to continue on to high camp as planned or go for the summit in one big push – he was feeling strong like he had the entire trip. This was pretty impressive considering this was his first trip above the elevation of Mt. Elbert in Colorado.
I had trained hard almost specifically for this moment – to get from camp1 to camp 2 on Huascaran as fast as possible to minimize time in the dangerous areas. I felt miserable, and we had a porter that was slower than a fat Ohio State cheerleader. I felt I had no place going through the Candeletta like this because I would slow down everyone on the rope and thereby increase everyone’s risk. That pretty much made my decision for me. I would go to sleep early, and if I felt well enough I would go for the summit with Ryan and Roger from camp 1 at midnight. With light packs and without Jesus I figured we could move fast if I felt ok. This would be a 5,000 foot day from camp 1 to the Huascaran summit at 22,200 feet, but we were confident this was within us. The sunset from camp 1 painted the world orange as I contemplated my future.
View from Huascaran Camp 1 at Sunset

Day 14: July 20
The alarm went off at 11:30pm and I hadn’t slept even a minute. The chest pains really bothered me and kept me from breathing right. I felt nauseous, weak, and pathetic. There was no way I was making a summit attempt this night. Ryan quickly got dressed and left the tent. This was one way that hiring a guide paid off I suppose. Without him there would have been no summit attempt this day. I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night, and stayed awake until sunrise feeling awful and cold. I got out of the tent at 6am, and even though it was starting to get bright out it was pretty cold, much colder than any of the other mountains. Maybe I just needed to HTFU, but I told Jesus I was heading down the mountain. I packed up my stuff and was about to walk out of camp when I noticed 2 people coming down the Candeletta. I was surprised to see Ryan and Roger this early. I knew there was no way they had made the summit. After 45 minutes they slowly walked into camp and described the difficulties. First they went through the Candeletta and up to the col, moving very fast and jumping several crevasses in the process. Ryan said this was the sketchiest terrain he had been through. After a few pitches of steep ice climbing above the col they ran into a crevasse that could only be crossed by a precarious ice bridge, which stopped them a bit above 20,000 feet. Later we questioned Roger’s ability to take the best route to the broad summit slopes, but that was more out of frustration than anything. Ryan was pissed. I was pissed. I just wanted to get out of there. I quickly packed up the tent and headed down the mountain. I offered Ryan my ice tool if he wanted to take another shot at the summit with 2 ice tools, perhaps up the Shield, but it wasn’t meant to be. Everyone ended up packing out that day. Back at base camp Ryan had gotten a bunch of donkey shit all over his gear. We felt like this summed up our experience on Huascaran pretty well.
Donkey Shit

Walking back through the lush countryside lifted my spirits a bit. Back closer to town we passed through the cemetery, and got our last view of the Huascaran.
Huascaran Hike Out

Huascaran from Mucho

Some nice ladies sold us a lot of cheap beer, which improved our outlook on life.

We had several hours to kill in Musho waiting for our ride. Back in Huaraz there wasn’t much for us to celebrate. The locals were festive though. Parades were running day and night – this week lead up to the Peruvian independence day on 28 de Julio. Fireworks were going off at all times for the rest of the time we were in Peru.
Parade in Huaraz

Day 15: July 21
We planned our exodus and purchased our bus tickets to Lima for the next day. I was able to push my flight back home a day earlier for no change fee. After buying our tickets at the bus station we decided to take one of the infamous rickshaws back to our hotel. The driver gave us two long green leather looking things, which we thought were to beat people that tried to break into our ride. The driver later showed us these things were fruits that you eat. When he dropped us off I paid him twice as much as he asked for. He got out of the rickshaw, lifted his arms up into the air and prayed like he had just had a vision. He then got out his bible and gave us a 10 minute sermon. I followed as much of it as I could. I felt a bit vindicated with my decision to get off Huascaran because I still felt like crap, even after a warm shower and a bed at a lower elevation.
Rickshaw Fruit


Day 16: July 22
I spent more time getting sick in the back of the bus than I spent sitting in my seat on the first half of the bus ride from Huaraz to Lima. At least I got a glimpse of the Cordillera Huayhuash on the way out. Once we hit the ocean and got out of the windy mountain roads I started feeling better. The last part of the road to Lima cuts through cliffs that drop down into the Pacific Ocean.
Pacific Ocean

Back in Lima I told Ryan I wanted to stay somewhere nice. I was tired and didn’t feel like dicking around in some shithole. He agreed. We ended up at a place in the Miraflorez district called the Thunderbird. It was nice. We got a room that cost almost as much for one night than all our nights combined in Huaraz. It was worth it. Our room was on the 19th floor, had two bedrooms; and the hotel was connected to a large casino. We felt somewhere in between corrupt politicians partying with South American drug lords and the guys in Dumb and Dumber when they arrived in Aspen. Ryan definitely pulled off the Dumb and Dumber vibe well.
Harry or Lloyd?

We ordered pizza and then I blew my nose with 100 sole notes while I watched a movie before I fell asleep.

Day 17: July 23
I woke up feeling much better. After 6 rounds at the breakfast buffet we decided to go surfing. I had picked it up, if you can say that, in Costa Rica a few months before. Ryan had never been, and flailed around like an idiot before declaring he preferred climbing mountains. I was able to get up a few times.
Surfing in Lima

Lima Coast

Lima Coast

We hit the tourist district and got some gifts; then we had our last good cheap dinner. I got my Peru staple - a pisco sour with a salad and filet mignon. In the spirit of a good tradition started on I present the post meal of all our Peru climbs here.
Filet Mignon

After dinner I took a cab to the airport and flew home. Ryan couldn’t change his flight and had to stay an extra 24 hours, which he did in style at the Thunderbird.

This was an excellent trip for us. Great weather, great conditions, and great partners. Our success on Pisco and Chopicalqui really helped to counteract our failure on Huascaran. I hope to get back to Peru someday and perhaps head to the Ishinca valley followed by another attempt on Huascaran.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-12 of 12

rpb13 - Jul 31, 2012 8:31 pm - Voted 10/10


I still can't believe we didn't get Huascaran! We both really need to HTFU! Oh well, it was still a pretty sweet trip. Chopi was a SWEET mountain. We'll have to plan some more South American shenanigans soon!

Senad Rizvanovic

Senad Rizvanovic - Aug 1, 2012 8:04 am - Voted 10/10


Nice job guys!


winmag4582001 - Aug 1, 2012 10:49 am - Hasn't voted


100% bonafide bad ass.


SarahThompson - Aug 5, 2012 5:13 pm - Voted 10/10


Incredible trip guys. Thanks for the eye candy and TR. Peru has been my #1 climbing dream for years now. Someday...


markhallam - Aug 13, 2012 2:06 pm - Voted 10/10

Excellent TR

What a great place, with such beautiful mountains - thanks for sharing your experiences and photos. Congratulations on Pisco and Chopicalqui - sorry you didn't make Huascaran - you deserved to. Still, 2/3 big peaks is pretty good!
Best of luck next time


albanberg - Aug 13, 2012 3:50 pm - Voted 10/10


You guys are climbing strongly. Great trip report.

Matt Lemke

Matt Lemke - Aug 13, 2012 6:48 pm - Voted 10/10


For giving me some great ideas for my South American trip for Dec 2013/Jan 2014. Great TR!!!


MissH - Sep 30, 2012 12:07 pm - Voted 10/10


Great TR, informative and entertaining. Congrats on the success. I'm going to send you a PM for more details as I'm planning a trip out there for less than 2 weeks from now.

Katesmith36 - Nov 7, 2012 8:00 pm - Hasn't voted

Kate E Smith

What an exciting trip and wonderful photos. I have always wished to spend time in Peru but sadly time is not on my side now. The only way I am going to climb in Peru is through my imagination, fired by guys like you. Thank you so much. I intend to follow you on your travels from now on Cheers Kate ( UK )

Katesmith36 - Nov 16, 2012 5:33 pm - Hasn't voted

I have enjoyed reading your past blogs and was delighted to receive a reply. It was great of you to ask about my children.I did wonder if you had met our great climber friend Alan Hinkes, we are very proud of him.

Katesmith36 - Nov 29, 2012 1:01 pm - Hasn't voted

Disappointed not to receive a reply from you re Alan Hinkes. Do you ever climb climb away from Peru? What has been your favourite climb so far Esteban? The Peruvian Mountains look wonderful. Meals sound to be an important part of the trips and I am so impressed by the cooks qualifications. Cheers Kate (UK)


BLong - Oct 27, 2013 5:36 pm - Hasn't voted

Great report

Thanks for posting this report. We are looking to head down there. It sounds wonderful!

Viewing: 1-12 of 12



Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.

Cordillera BlancaTrip Reports
Huascarán SurTrip Reports
ChopicalquiTrip Reports