Ancash drivers are quite courageous with their driving and their cars. For 50 soles we took a taxi from Huaraz up the road to the very end of the Llaca Valley, nearly two hours on a rough loose road. This was a typical Andes taxi adventure with numerous rock collisions and pauses to cool the overheated engine. A park warden checked our passes and passports. Having left town at 3pm with gear and food, we arrived in time to cook a big dinner and camp by the Guide's bothy. We decided to request the driver return to collect us at noon the next day.
There by the stream we raised a tent and cooked from the warmth of our sleeping bags. Several other groups and trainee guides and cattle were there by the stream. At 3am we began hiking up the main path onto the SW slopes. This path is quite easy to follow in the dark, although it crosses several steep rock slabs which must be difficult for climbers carrying kit for the morraine camp. Shortly before reaching the morraine camp and glacier the path becomes difficult to follow as it crosses a large boulder field. It is better to contour around to the west, however going up at this stage will also give access to the glacier.
Approx 2-3 hours up to the glacier and area of the campsite. Lots of water flow there; fairly good tent platforms.
Vallunaraju by the Canaleta
Entering the West Face
The guides seem to call this variation the "Canaleta" which simply means couloir. We were on the glacier before daybreak, moving quickly as we only had 20 hours between the cab drop-off and pick-up, in which to sleep, cook, hike up, climb/descend the face and return to the Llaca Valley.
The "hike" up the glacier has some variation but generally this is a hike and it presents little interest. Once on the upper plateau of the glacier the two summit faces tower overhead and for us this became the focus of our attention as we scanned the seracs and snowbridges for a continuous line up the face.
A large crevasse guarding the face was passable on a very narrow, precarious snow bridge. This we crossed on belay as it seemed quite ready to collapse. From there the slope steepens to about 60 degrees, which was a big improvement on the tedium of the glacier walk, but not so difficult to require frequent protection. Instead Tom and I placed ice stakes every 30 meters and ascended the face in four pitches.
We reached the ridge on the right side of the summit, and I found myself atop a mushroom shaped cornice, only 10 minutes traverse (a bit delicate) over to the summit. Descent easily with the main route, back to the morraine camp.