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Mountaineering in Peru/ Huaraz

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Just out of the Ishinca Valley yesterday. Unusual weather cycle has delayed the climbing season a bit. Mild spring storms continue to drop snow and keep things from consolidating as it should. French pulled out of Houndoy nest to Pisco becuse of soft snow. I pulled the pin on Toculluraju at 5100 meters as hand test pulled easy shears on grappel layer. Guided Americain (Mark Cosley)group and Peruvian came down also so perhaps a couple more weeks till things are as they should be.

Edited by jmckay

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Hopefully things consolidate down there a bit. My pal, Andy C. is down there right now. Thanks for the report. thumbs_up.gif

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COCA good for what ails you and if nothing ails you its good for that too. Don't take my word for it, 9 million Inka slaves can't be wrong.


Just returned from the Ishinca Valley. Base camp 4400 meters. The Ishinka valley is a circe that is accessed from the tiny village of Collen. This little village pretty much ignores the outside world with the exception of providing burros for climbers to get their gear up into the high hills.


From Collen it is a 1000 meters of elevation gain along narrow trails eventually leaving anything that looks feels, sounds or resembles civilization in any sense of the word. It is a common place for climbers to acclimate .



There are a three major peaks that are climbed in the area. We managed to climb two Urus (5434 meters) and Ishinka (5582 meters). These glacieted peaks are technically straight forward.

We had been planning to take a rest day the first day in but got suckered by Urus and climbed it in 6 hours from camp to camp. The extra days in Huaraz seemed to help as the usual Nausa, lack of appetite and altitude headaches were not present. We drank copious amounts of water which is required for altitude.

Day two we started at 6am for Ishinka following a pleasantly angled trail up through the lower grasslands. This eventually led to a area of large moraines and eventually the lower Ishinka glacier. Once again the altitude was having minimal effect.

slide1.jpg Saw a the remenence o a curious we slide. Two strips of snow pulled out ten meters wide and perhaps 100 meters long leaving quite a pile of set up debris. Curious thing is that the slope angle was only about 20 degrees and it was not the new winter snow that slid as one would expect but perhaps snow from two or three seasons earlier. Evidence of extreme warming and perhaps warm rain that percolated down through the snowpack to lubricate the harder ice of a few previous seasons. Had never seen that before but this place is full of surprises.




Tocullraju (6005 meters) is the real gem of the valley that rises like Assiniboine at the headwall except plastered with snow and covered with ice. Now this is what I was here for. A postcard of this mountain has been on my fridge for 5 years now so when it came to climbing it I was like a rabid dog. Day three we decided to carry our technical equipment up to the base of the glacier (4990 meters) and return to base camp (4400 meters). I find tat I can not sleep well at altitude and the two hour approach the next morning would be better then a sleepless night. As we decende a storm came in starting as rain and finishing off as grapple snow even in the valley. This persisted for about a hour after our return to BC.


toco1.jpg 2:30 the next morning we awaken to a light drizzle with thin fog. The guessing game began. Should we go or wait and hope the next day is better. By 3am it is decided to give it a go. A hour after our start the rain quits and the stars appear. The huge boulder field slows us down and it takes about 2.5 hours to reach our equipment stashed up high. Should mention that the snow had descended half way down to the valley. We had stashed our mountain boots and had to stomp up in our running shoes. Feet were cold wet and uncomfortable by the time we reached our cache. Dry socks and proper boots put everything into perspective and we were off to kill another mountain.

Two steps onto the glacier and I had a pretty good settlement! This is Peru and the snow is suppose to stick "like a flea to a hound dog" so what was up with this. Continuing on and avoiding terrain traps located on steep rolls at the base of the glacier did nothing to increase my confidence in the snow. Despite gaining the icefield I pulled the pin on the route at 5100 meters. Hand tests produced easy shears 15-20cm thick on a grappel layer. The route had a lot of slopes and steeper sections of climbing and was not really interested in playing the "what if" game for the rest of the day. It would take two days of warm sunny weather to get a bond out of this new snow. The weather was not stable enough to ensure this so the decision was made to return to Huaraz.

Because we were leaving two days early we did not have mules to haul our gear out for us. Strange looks were had by the other climbers as we shouldered loads that would have killed a fur trader. "Gonna do this the old fashion way" says I and away we went returning to the tiny village of Coleen. As luck would have it 5 minutes after arriving at Collen a taxi pulled up dropping off a British soloist and we had a ride back to Huaraz. We could easily have spent days there waiting for the next public transport which only comes twice a week.

The day had taken its toll. climbing to 5100 meters returning and playing Burro for the afternoon we kicked back watched a movie in the lounge. Marlon ate a whole chicken! These chickens are not like the North American variety. They are about the size of a turkey he was still sucking the narrow from the bones as the waitress looked on in disbelief.

Tomorrow we are buying food for a 4 day trip in to climb Pisco (5765 meters)and leave on tuesday.

The season is a little behind and any technical climbing will have to wait at least two weeks. If we have good weather things should consolidate. Satisfied with two Cordillera Blanca scalps tyed to my ice axe. Those first two puppies went down like Custer at the Little Big Horn!


To be continued....




JJ McKay

From the clan MacKay

Born o the banks of the Bow river

In the year of the dog

Montana Killer



Edited by jmckay

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Kewl...Joe...good to hear how things are going down there.


FYI...there were 2 local WA guys who perished in an avi there on Pisco some years ago. The slopes above the col are casual for the most part, and some years there's a steep ice pitch a moderate distace above the col. There's the potential for avi action on some not so steep slopes here an there. Sounds like you're well tuned into things...good onya.


Have a great time and post again!

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June 8th 2006

Pisco (5752 Meters)


The weather continues to be unsettled and we are hard pressed for a 6000 meter peak under the present conditions. It will take two weeks of decent weather to bring Hauscran and Alpamayo into shape


Pisco is a great acclimation mountain hidden away in Huascran National Park. In the area are some striking looking peaks "The Houndoy peaks" which consist of three distinct summits but are very technical in nature and require much better conditions then we are presently experiencing. What I am about to tell you is what I think is the best way to climb Pisco.

We took a private taxi (125 s//l $45 us) to Pisco on the way you reach the Huascran Park gate. There you will have to purchase a pass which is good for a month and costs 65 s/l ($21 US). It is about a 2 hour ride by private car over some of the roughest roads this side of Rio Grande. The road is hemmed in by towering granite walls stretching thousands of feet into condor country. If you were navigating this trail during the rainy season I would say your chances are about the same as a "snowflakes in hell" of surviving. I am sure they must but the evidence of rock slides are every few kilometers. The reason that we took a private vehicle is that we wanted to make Moraine Camp in one day (4900 meters).

My suggestion to the budget minded traveler is to take commercial transport (Colectivos) and don't be in a big hurry. Camp at the Pisco trail head which is a pleasant meadow (3900 meters) 50 meters down from when the colectivo drops you off. I never drink alcohol above 4000 meters so this site is ideal. The burrow drivers will sell you a great big bottle of slightly chilled Pilsen for 5 s/l ($1.75 US). Now kick back and chillax. You can catch the first burro train in the morning. By going to Moraine Camp in a day you bypass Swamp Camp (4600 meters) just below the refugio. There is nothing good that can be said about swamp camp except perhaps that it is to high for mosquitos. Soggy campsites, bad water, slightly crowded, so called public toilets that would gag a maggot. The kind of place that you would suggest to your worst enemy for a honeymoon.

From here shoulder your load and get set for 3 to 4 hours of boulder hopping hell. A well defined trail leads up and over a huge moraine. Drop down the other side (50-60 meters) on a 1 foot wide trail hacked out of vertical sand. I would suggest not falling here or at least have you affairs in order. Sun Tzu in the Art of War suggest that when traveling on difficult ground that one is best to push straight through, force march your troops if necessary. This next section of ice core moraine field falls under this sort of terrain. Put your head down and just get going. The other side is not coming to you.

Moraine Camp (4900 meters) is a pleasant spot with great views and is about 100 meters below the Pisco glacier. There are several good campsites and good water for the first time since I arrived 2.5 weeks ago. The Houndoy towers are real climbs but not death routes, well I suppose they could be if you were not a seasoned veteran to the climbing world. All are ice and rock mixed routes and require a good foundation of climbing skills. Grabbing a heel hook and pulling yourself up with a single digit monotwat is a lot easier in the climbing gym then it is at 6000 meters while a condor circles above waiting for lunch to fall off.

There were two guided parties while we were there. One got up at 12am and left at 1am. They had two french girls and a french guy in tow. It is roughly 800 meters to the summit from Moraine Camp. ( My altimeter showed the actual hight to be 760 meters but you know how they can fluctuate)


The second group was a single guide and a young Irish lad who had never done anything like this before. He was a bit nervous and worried about the altitude. I of course took advantage of the situation and told him that his chances were 60/40 and not to the good. As the evening wore on I kept lowering the odds. Marlon kept bring his hopes back by actually telling him the truth about the situation. Anyhow they left at 2am.

Marlon and I slept in till a comfortable 5am had coffee and the usual garlic potatoes with hot sauce. 6:07am and we were off like a herd of turtles. The guides had punched a track up through the fresh snow like I knew they would.


It is a interesting glacier to travel on with one notable exposed location that is unavoidable. a 70 meter wide wall of ice that is 150 - 200 meters high topped with ice seracs, the slope angle was 40 degrees consistently. Under the present conditions it was swept clean and the seracs were not that threating. Being a glacier that would be a ever changing thing. This location is pretty much unavoidable and I am guessing at the 5400 meter height( I could be wrong about the exact hight as I did not make a conscious note of it and the altitude can play tricks with your memory)

It took 3:35 to reach the summit and a 1 hour to return to moraine camp. The last 300 meterswe climbed up into the clouds. Lunch was a brick of cream cheese and I experimented with altitude by drinking a bottle of carbonated orange crush soda. Guess I was trying to see if i could blow myself up.



Once back at camp we refueled on chicken soup and romman noodles. Funny thing the appetite. Back in Banff I work in a place where the food is practically free. The french fries fall from the sky in huge mountains of saturated fats. The Gravy flows like the Bow River in spring flood. The salad bar takes up an entire wall. Everybody's ass is so fat that they should have wide load signs on them. But here in this oxygen starved environment dry bread and plain soup is better then anything I ever pulled out of staff Caff.

The idea was to spend another night at 4900 meters to better acclimate. Well I lasted about 10 minutes as I am sure that Marlon saw that I was having a love affair with my watch. It was 12:02 45 minutes later it was 12:03. I went and found a rock to sulk on that over looked the valley. It took about 20 minutes of pouting before I heard "maybe we should head down". Bang , I had camp packed quicker then you could say "Jack Robinson". On the way down we ran across Mark Cosleys group looking a little war weary but on their way up to give Pisco a go. They would be trying the summit today and looking north and west from Huaraz I would say they are stuck in some pretty bad weather. Also on the descent at 4100 meters just above the valley floorwe ran into Japanese climbers who were going in with two Burros loaded with gear to climb the Houndoys. They were suffering bad from altitude add the fact that the mountains are in no shape to climb right now I don't like their chances. Had I given the one my katana (japanese long sword) I am sure he would have taken the honorable way out and fallen on it.

Big bottle of beer on the valley floor Then we headed up to catch a ride. I swear that we were not standing there 2 minutes and what shows up is not a chicken bus as expected but a full blown Turistco Motor Coach complete with double leg room , cushy seats and movies. Course 20 minutes later it gets two flats on one side so they take a tire from the other side and put it on the bad side (the bus had rear duals of course). Winding down the narrow unguarded road it was not a pleasant thought about what would happen if any of the rear tires blew. I managed to put it out of my mind and considered it a good life to this point and should count myself lucky as is.

Well I have three Cordillera Blanca scalps tied to my ice axe now. Pisco went down like a crack ho on a Saturday night.


To be continued


JJ McKay

From the Clan MacKay

Born on the banks of the Bow River

in the year of the Dog

Montana Killer



Edited by jmckay

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Damn i miss that place. Make the Churros to Ice Cream shop to El Horno's for calzones loop for me.


I think the record "Churro's on a rest day" was 8.



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Can't promise to break the record but most definitly will make the loop. can still see your the trail in the shattered cement sidewalks.

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June 20th 1;15 p.m. I stagger into glacier camp at 5300 meters. I haven't consumed more then 200 ml of water in thelast 20 hours. In the last several I have developed a deep lung busting high altitude cough from the dry air. In the last 40 minutes the heat has engulfed us like a tsunami. The descent over the last two bergshrunds left us in these dishes of snow with no cover and were just huge convective ovens. 30 minutes prior I had just stripped off a layer of down, gor-tex, mec puffball. This provided temporary relief but that was only momentary. The Andean sun is a unforgiving beast and the reflective quality of the icefield gives the radiation an almost physical presence. With the last rap done and no major problems between me and camp I struggle ahead. Marlon drags the rope behind him, not bothering to try coiling it. I shed my dryclimb in an attempt to relieve the heat once again . Dropping my day-pack I lay out my tentsack turn my back upside down and spill out it's contents. I dig threw the pile of untouched lunch, slings, biners and damp clothing looking for one of the four 500 ml water bottles. I find one that is mostly unfrozen. Despite the heat I am not sweating diagnose myself with a semi-advanced stage of heat exhaustion. Despite not feeling thirsty I force down the water and struggle with keeping it down long enough to get absorbed into the system. Marlon lays spread eagle in the snow in an attempt to cool his body temp. My only chance for escape from the sun is in te tent. Despite it being sweltering is a great deal better then being exposed to the cloudless sky. I peeled off my boots and must have passed out for 15 or 20 minutes. I was awoken by a pain in my feet or my toes to be more exact. My feet had been cold the evening before for quite a long time and despite all attempts at increasing circulation by loosing off my laces and swinging them then soccer style a every belay they were a constant reminder of how cold it was. I have to admit forgetting at what point that they stopped hurting and something close to panic had suddenly engulfed me. Sometime while I was out Marlon had dragged his 200 pound, way honed, chicken eating carcass into the tent. I bet I looked at my soaking wet wool socks for 10 minutes to afraid to pull them off in case of what I suspected was for real. Marlon picks up from the vibe and asks "what's up". "I think I froze my feet" I reply. At some point I had to find out for sure so after a couple minutes I peel off my socks. My big toe on my left is purplish black, the bottom is chalk white and as hard as a rock. I touch it and it is cold to the touch I have no physical sensation. The left big toe is much the same with out the chalk white. Marlon looks at my feet then asks "what do we do now". "Well if they are frost bitten which I am sure they are then conventional wilderness first aid dictates that I keep then frozen till I can get to a place where I can thaw them out and seek medical attention. Barring medical attention have the ability to sterilize them and have clean loose dressings available. After thawing they are going to blister and I am about to find out that there are worse things then dying" (temporarily at least).

A few quick calculations and I realize that I may possibly be able to reach Huaraz yet today. What would be required is that we pack up camp this exact second and descend to the refugio at 4750 meters. There I could drop my pack and race down to the valley to Musho take a cab from there direct back to the Hostel in Huaraz. Marlon can hire a porter the following morning to carry my gear out the next morning. Almost sick with dread at the coming few days I layed out the idea before Marlon. Neither of has slept in the last 20 hours. The thought of picking up out packs and descending wasn't attractive but I didn't have a whole lot of option cards in my hand.

I force back some water Marlon boils up some Rommon noodles while we pack. The entire process takes about 25 minutes and we are descending with 40 Kilo packs each. The 400 meters off the glacier goes quick with travel on forgiving snow. The 200 meters of polished granite slabs below the glacier are hell.

Morlon arrives at the hut a few minutes before me. A bunch of kids have gathered, future porters and mountain guides. I arrived, dropped my pack grab my daypack stuffed in my dryclime and puffball and in a state of controlled terror said to Marlon "I will see you tomorrow" He assures me that he will take care of things. I check my watch it is 4:37 pm my altimeter corresponds with the hut elevation at 4750 meters. Musho is at 3000 meters. I make like a baby and header out. The trail is rough and the travel is not easy. The moraines are easily the size of tunnel mountain. On the descent I have plenty of time to think about how stupid I have been over the last 36 hours. despite knowing better I refused to consume liquids and had not taken in any calories despite burning off 20,000 plus. I had put the objective ahead of my and marlons personal safety. I am such a idiot! Now I am going to pay the ultimate price and have a pickled toe back on the mantel in Banff. I reach into the side of my climbing pants and pull out a bag of coca. I have four good chews left. The coca staves off the fatigue and recycles the saliva. It's not much but it helps.

Despite carrying just a daypack the descent is not going near as quick as I had anticipated. Musho is still a tiny spot in the valley. After a good hour of descending I am less then a third of the way down. Now you don't have to be a rocket surgeon to do the math and figure that I am not going to make Musho before dark. In my rush to get out I had neglected to grab a headlamp. I am also starting to feel fatigued from the lack of water. I hate to admitt i but I failed to grab a water bottle in my hurry. If I were a movie title at this moment it would be "Dumb and Dumber" and I get to play both parts. I know whats coming so I quicken my pace down the moraines. Travel like hell while you still have daylight. I start short cutting the switchbacks. I still have 900 meters to descend as the sun touches the peaks Cordillera Nerga on the west side of the valley. This close to the equator night comes like somebody flicking a switch. You have about 20 minutes of twilight then absolute darkness. I have entered treeline at almost the same time that I am engulfed by the night. I am tired, frustrated and almost at the point of having to sit down and wait till morning. Adding insult to injury is the fact that there is a creek a few meters away but I can't drink the water! There are far to many cattle above me and I might as well shoot myself in the guts and take a couple days to die as to take a drink. I keep losing the trail at this point and have to back track a number of times. Stumbling over boulders has become the norm and I am worried about making things even worse then they already are, if that is possible.

Seconds before I am ready to call it quiet's for the night I break out on to the remenets of an old road. It isn't much of a road a trail basically but it is wide enough that I can follow it in the starlight. It descends in a direction that I don' really want to go but if I had few option cards before I don't have any now. I check my altimeter. Still 400 meters to descend. I get glimpses of the village lights through the trees occasionally. It just doesn't seem possible that it can be that far away. In my state for once I decide to do the right thing and trust my instruments. The road is not easy to follow and after a couple klicks it disappears. How could I lose a road? I backtrack find it walk 20 meters ahead and lose it. Loggers had dropped or brushed trees and the dry dark leaves had covered up the lighter covered gravel. After a hour of walking by braille the road improves and I begin a steady switchback. Another hour passes and I see lights in the distance maybe 500 meters ahead and I come out in a village to small to be called a hamlet but they ahve power. I find somebody and get directions. I am 2 klicks north of Musho and I only need to follow the only road that there is to get there.

If there is a upside to all this it is that a few hours earlier as I was stumbling over the boulders and brush I realized that my feet had plenty of time to thaw out. If I had frostbitten them as bad as I thought they should hurt a hell of a lot more then they do right now. No guarantees mind you but there is a little hope ahead (perhaps) There are three cabs in front of the 20 foot by 40 foot Musho bar. Two guys are sitting in one and I ask how much to Huaraz. 70 soles ($25 US). In Lima you would never jump into a cab with two guys in the middle of no where alone, in the middle of the night. Here in the Cordillera Blanca the people are as honest as the day is long (in Banff in June). "Hang on " I stumble into the bar , purchase two big bottles of beer walk back to the cab hop in "vamous amigo" If I was going to get mugged this would be a great time to do it cause I wouldn't even notice.

Me, me, me but enough about me. What do you think about me? I guess I have gotten things a little out of order.

June 16th 2006 9:30 a.m. we have taken a cab up to Musho the staging point to climb Huascran. Musho is like walking onto the set of "Fist full of Dollars". Complete with a village center , old church and 200 year old bell tower. The only thing missing is 3 gringo mercenaries and one bad ass wearing a poncho, cigar in his mouth and a tyed down 45.

By 11 a.m. we have engaged the services of a donkey driver and his beasts of burden. Because of the amount of equipment and food we require two animals. ($10 us a day for the driver and $5 for each animal. This is a pretty standard rate across the range for these services). Base camp is at 4150 meters and about 4 hours walk up a steady grade from Musho. Base camp is a basic slit level terrace affair about 3 tiers high and 100 feet long by 30 feetwide. A small glacial stream is only several meters away. Boil your water despite the proximity to the glacier. High altitude cattle seem to get above you no matter how high you get. I wouldn't be surprised to look into a crevasse one day and see old bessie grazing down there.

June 17th. Instead of doing one carry to moraine camp at 4900 meters we break things up and first take a load of equipment and extra food. The trail to moraine is not near as straight forward as I would have expected. A solid 6 meters of 5.6 climbing gets you up onto the acres of polished granite slabs. The slabs don't lend themselves to forming a trail so a series of cairns mark the route. If we had been carrying full loads there would have been some dam serious moves with a not so great run out.

Moraine camp at 4900 is right at the toe of the glacier. It's a nice enough spot with good water for a change. The upper part of huscran sticks above the toe. It is a dam pretty mountain. The twin summits and completely covered in glacial ice. The south summit is slightly higher at 6766 meters it is the highest point in Peru and only 100 meters higher then the North peak. From the summit to the valley floor it is over 2 miles of vertical ascent. From Huaraz it's scale is off the charts of imagination. The only way that you conceive of climbing this peak is in stages. From camp to camp. If you tried to take it all in you'd blow a circuit in your wee little brain.

By the time that we do our second carry and bring up the camp we are exhausted from the days efforts. Despite the altitude sleep comes easy.

June 18th 2006 ........TO BE CONTINUED

Edited by jmckay

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June 18th 2006: We have taken 8 days worth of food and fuel so we are not in a real hurry to get anywhere. This is in theory of course. There is the thing that Marlon describes as the "Joe squirrel factor". I am content to take it easy and pace things out as long as I have something to read. I figured this trip two books would be plenty however I devoured the two I brought and the one that I borrowed from the hut I had just finished this morning.


Moraine camp is 4900 meters which is fairly high but not outraougoues by cordillera Blanca standards.

morcamp.jpgHowever Hauscran is well over 6000 meters which is high by any standard. We decide that we make a carry to glacier camp at 5300 meters drop off extra food and technical equipment. This climb high sleep low is a proven system that really helps one become accustomed two altitude. Mind you we have been in country for over a month climbing so if we wanted I suppose we could just have carried on . Like I said we were in no hurry. the morning was spent flaked out on the granite slabs enjoying the sun and excellent weather that has long been over due. Around one we put together a couple 10 to 15 kilo packs and start the stroll up the glacier.

The moment that we step out on the glacier is when things change. At these altitudes the air is very dry and does little to reflect the UV rays from the sun. Add to that the reflective quality of the snowfield and you have light coming at you from every direction. The head is sweltering and breathing becomes an effort because of this. It takes about an hour and a half to reach the 5300 meter point which is the last logical location before getting into any technical climbing.

ice.jpg There is a Peruvian guiding party on the mountain and there camp is located at this elevation. The assistant or one of the assistants is at camp brewing up water and getting lunch ready for their team which we can see descending the cantalena section of the Gargantuan icefall. The climbers are just flyspeck in the distance and it is for the first time that we an idea of the real scale of the mountain. The thin clear air makes the distance deceiving. Huascran Norte we are told is in good shape and very climbable. We sit and watch the party descend eventually they stroll into camp. We are told that the normal route on hauscran is impassible and impossible. Huge crevasses the last couple years have spanned the entire north ice-fall and are impossible to get across under the present conditions. I am sure that I have heard or over heard that later in the season the guides have Kumbued the place and placed ladders to span the crevasses. Business is business I suppose. We knew that there was a fair chance that snow conditions are less then ideal but what we are hearing is a bit discouraging. The party that we are talking to had climbed the SHIELD route which is a technical ice line that is fairly direct and quite steep climbing for 20,000 feet plus elevations. the guide points out a couple objective hazards and plays up the danger to a point that he is getting me a bit nervous.


I've known quite a few guides in my day and I can tell a good one from bad one. This is a good one. Sun Tzu states that you have to use guys like these in order to get your troops across unknown terrain safely. I log the information, thank the boys, picket our packs and head down to moraine camp.

morview.jpg We eat well that night and go to bed early. I decide to open bivi outside and enjoy the good weather. The Peruvian night sky has more stars then anywhere else in the world that I have been. I am sure it enhanced by our elevation and the thin atmosphere. The southern cross holds my attention till I eventually drift off. The thing about climbing in this range is not that the days are so short it's that the nights are so fragging long. Hence all the reading that I have been doing.

June 19th 2006; We are up with first light at 6 a.m. and kick back a couple cups of the swill they call coffee around here. We pick up our packs around 9 a.m. and head up to glacier camp which had been abandoned by the Peruvians the evening before. By 12 we have established camp. Now to decide what we want to do. In order to climb Norte we pretty much have to go through the gargantuan ice-fall and establish camp at 6000 meters. (It should be noted that the Gargantuan is one of the most dangerous places in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. Towering seracs thirty stories high, every foot threatened by avalanches and to add the cherry to the sundae, massive snow bridges spanning bottomless crevasses that have to be crossed. Kind of like playing Russian roulette with 3 shells in the cylinder.) However Norte is the second highest peak in Peru. Isn't that kind of like winning a silver medal. What is second place? Second is just the first loser.

Fortunately we have two technical tools and for the first time I have steel crampons. I had been using aluminum for the last 4 less technical peaks. However I only had 2 pickets and 4 ice screws. looking up at the route I kind of felt like I was taking a knife to a gun fight. I guess I could always turn back if things got out of hand.

The plan was to take off a bit earlier then the Peruvians and leave camp around 10 p.m. With no book to read the "squirrel factor" took hold. My over active imagination started to conjure up demons and dragons. The ice towers started to lean more, the weather was going to change, we were sure to have an earthquake. Enough! If your going to shoot me just get it over with. "Marlon, lets climb the lowers shrunds and ice pitches so that I can get a look into the cantalena and at those seracs with my name on them" I guess Marlon knew that things were going to get worse "sure" is all he said.

June 19th 2006 4:15 p.m. THE CLIMB (or when Hell freezes over)......to be continued......

Edited by jmckay

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Things are fine here in Huaraz. Huge rock concert last night that had the whole place going crazy. The boys from the Extreme Bar had a beer booth so we had a great view of the band and a place to drink. then Benjamin the owner of the bar pulls Marlon and I over. " I have a surprise for you" he pulls out these Monte Rosa Cuban cigars. Cubans in this country are rarer then hens teeth around here. Marlon I might add is a cigar man. The music is kick ass, the whole valley is going crazy, beers is $.75 a can. I am surrounded by the Peruvian version of the Soparano's with the Hell's Angels as my personal body guard. Followed this up with an regrouping at the Extreme Bar. The owner placed a couple bottles of single malt on the bar and proceeded to play all the old favorites, CCR, Fleeetwood mac, janis, stones, zepplin......

cigars.jpg Weather: The last 3weeks have been pretty much stellar weather. Clear nights are producing good freezes last most of the day ( depending on aspect). Generally the snow has been settling out providing good travel. Some instabilities in the snowpack are evident. Mostly higher elevations with solar heating the most likely trigger. Slab avalanches not point releases.

Most ice routes are in good shape now with Alpamayo being in the best condition in the last two years.


Bad News: Three young American climbers have been reported killed on Artjunraju (wrong spelling) It appears that all there tools (6) were placed together in the ice face. No real details coming forth so if it was a avalanche of a matter of slipping and being roped together as the cause. Condolences to friends and family!


Town is full of tourists now and the high season is in full swing.

Edited by jmckay

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Hey, any update you can get on the American climbers that died would be welcome...


Here's the AP report:



Artesanraju is the peak from the Paramount Pictures logo. The [edit]south-east[/edit] face is popular. Brad Johnson's "Classic climbs of the Cordillera Blanca" lists three or four routes for the mountain, I think.


The AP report mentions that they were climbing without a guide. Starting this year Peru said they would require all visitors to the Blanca to hire a guide. This struck me as mostly a way to help the local economy. Not too sure if...


a) You had to hire a climbing guide who would climb with you, something these folks did not do.

b) You had to hire "someone," who at the very least would sit at your campsite while you climbed and watch your stuff. Which these folks either did, or did not, do.

c) The rules are laxly enforced, big surprise for Peru, and these folks just ignored them.


Without knowing anything about the accident, the climber's level of experience, or anything else, I have no idea what effect their choice not to hire a guide had on the accident.

Edited by Mr_Rogers

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I went to the Casa de Guias last night to find out a bit more about the hiring a guide thing. It is a political thing with little or no support from local businesses. It is really an unclear policy/document that at the momment is not being enforced. The local guides do not support the idea or policy. They doubt very much that there will be any movement on enforcement by the next climbing season.


You can sort of see that they are trying to preserve some of the wild areas of which there are very few. THEY WERE ALSO CALLING EVERYTHING ABOVE 5000 METERS WILDERNESS WHICH WOULD REQUIRE A GUIDE I THINK.



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joestoes.jpgWE HAD TAKEN 4 FULL DAYS OFF AFTER HUASCRAN BECAUSE OF MY TOES, they were victims of superficial frost bite. Blood filled blisters formed and loss of sensation but still a long ways from my heart. alpamayo.jpg

The Alpamayo trip is a bit longer. From Huaraz you have to drop north to the bustling community of Caraz, from Caraz catch a taxi to Cashapampa for 40 soles ($12.00 US). A private Taxi from Huaraz ran us about 140 soles ($45 US). The ride up to Cashapampa is pretty interesting to say the least. This is also the start or ending point of the Santa Cruz trek. There is no shortage of trekkers (spit) and expeditions heading off. It is probably best to book your burros in advance from one of the agencies in Huaraz. Mind you if you show up early enough you will most likely have no problem. Come later then noon and you might be spending the night there.


The trip into Alpamayo base camp is a two day journey. The trip can be made in one long one but the Burro driver will charge you for two days in and one day out. ($10 US for driver $5 US for each animal.) For Alpamayo you will require 2 animals.


LLama Corrals (3750 meters)is a pretty nice stop about 4 hours and a 1000 meters of elevation gain.

Day 2 it took about 4 hours the next morning to Base Camp at about 4300 meters. the same day we picked up full loads of about 35-40 kilos and trudged up to moraine camp at 4900 meters. Moraine camp is about a 100 meters from the glacier yet we could not find good water. We ended up drinking from this filthy pool. The climb to moraine almost killed us so we abandoned another 5 or 6 kilos of food and fuel.

wowscenery.jpg DAY 3 another big day. we were fortunate to have decent cloud cover while ascending to glacier camp >5400 meters>. There are two technical pitches before getting to the col both about 40-50 meters in length. We managed with our camp packs but it took a fair bit out of us. 4.5 hours from moraine to glacier but an American couple took as long as 10 hours.

DAY 4 We head off to climb Alpamayo at 4.45 a.m. THE FRENCH DIRECT HAD BEEN CLIMBED A COUPLE OF TIMES FIRST BY SOME Americans and a couple of Argentineans however I decided that all the excitement that I needed could be had on the Ferrari route.

ferrari.jpg Reasonable snow travel so it only takes about 1.5 hours to reach the base of the route. The last 70 meters of snow is angled at 50 degrees, not sure how snow stays on slopes that steep, but they do here.

The shrund is no problem and after about 20 meters I am sinking my tools in perfect Peruvian neve. The climbing and placements are so bomber that the only pro I use is the periodical abalkov. Five pitches puts me under the summit ridge ice cap. 15 meters of tricky sideways climbing places us on the summit ridge proper.

This is where it gets interesting. The summit is only about a 100 meters away but it is guarded by a razor sharp cornice that cannot be more then 50 cm wide. It also is formed on a narrow ice cap not the ridge proper.

ridge.jpg Foolishly we climbed to the main summit with a great deal of personal risk which looking back I am not sure is really required to get the most out of this mountain.

Retreat was quick and simple as there were 60 meter abalakovs set in the ice face on the Ferrari. I was a bit worried about day time heating on the lower slopes but cloud cover eliminated most of that concern. Route was 8 hours camp to camp. The three big days had taken their toll and despite it only being just after 2 we had to stay another night. Staying above 5000 meters is never fun and we did not get much rest. Appetite was pretty much none existent.



IMG_3448.jpg Day 5 descend to base camp which only takes about 4 or 5 hours. The oxygen feels so thick that you have to chew it before you can breath it. Arrange for donkeys to carry our stuff out the next day. Don't worry about booking return animals as they have a pretty healthy stable at base camp. You will need to book the animals for two days one for the way down and pay for then to return.


JJ Mckay

Edited by jmckay

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First off Huaraz is a very safe place to hang out. The people are honest and polite. They depend on tourists in the city and are respectful of that. Everybody there was very helpfull and made a great effort to get around the language barrier.




View of building from Cafe Andino

Personally I really like Huaraz. It is a proper climbers town with a variety of shops and restaurants.

It is not a clean town or very pretty. The earthquake in 1970 took care of that. In fact it leveled the whole city except for one block. The city is still in the state of being rebuilt. They have a funny architecture where the walls are not exactly built to the supporting columns. I think that this is in preparation for the next big one. It may prevent damage during tremors.







The north end of Main Street there is a locals market that provides pretty much anything that you may be looking for. There are a number of industrial sewing machines for gear repair. There is only one coca dealer in town, which is down by the market but on the town side. Ask around. 5 soles will keep you chewing for a while.





My most favorite resurant in Huaraz



chili heaven




1. Chili Heaven: this place located beside the Casa de Guias is excellent. I started eating the burritos, which come in chicken, beef and oriental. I passed on the oriental but the first two are excellent. The hot sauces are actually hot. The owner came running out the first time I was there warning me that the mango sauce might be a bit hot for a gringo. Little does he know that I worked rigs in Wyoming with two Mexicans and two apaches in the early 80’s. Eventually I got talked into trying the Indian curry. It was incredible. http://www.huaraz.com/chilliheaven/







My breakfast spot every day with a great library and overall hang out. Cafe Andino


2. Café Andino: This is a bit of North America right there in Huaraz. A American climber who has been down there for decades saw the need for North American fix. The food is great but the best thing is that the coffee is excellent. French Press, cappuccinos, etc. The breakfasts are as close as your going to get to your favorite restaurant down the street.



3. BB Pizza: Oven baked and really good for Peru. Most pizzas in Peru suck the big one but this place is the exception.



4. La Brasa Roja: Local restaurant favorite of gringos and Peruvians. You can get a great chicken dinner for real cheap. $2.50 for a 1/4 pollo with fries and salad. Pasta and hamburgers are pretty good also. http://www.huaraz.org/brasaroja/index.html Brasa Rojo


5. Thai restaurant: Don’t know the name but owned by some Thai guy. Fixed Menu but good and expensive.

6. Creperie Patrick’s: They have a great house salad. These guys came up with the great idea of distilling coca and made coca whiskey. Some of the local bars serve this stuff, which has a way of sneaking up on you. Go to the xtreme bar ask for Ben and tell him that Joe sent you and that you need a shot of coca. Food is generally good. http://www.huaraz.org/creperiepatrick/index.html

Creperie Patricks


7. Monte Rosa: Swiss run and pretty good. The most expensive restaurant in town still real cheap by our standards.

There is no shortage of places to stay in Huaraz. You can stay at a hotel but you would be much better off at a hostel. They are much more personal and provide a kitchen and room to watch TV or a video.

There are a number of bakeries in town that are good.


I stayed at this place. Benkawasi Hostel http://www.grupoandesextremo.com/Benkawasi/index.htm

The owner was a young guy (31) who is very charismatic. He owns two bars in town. The rock music extreme bar where you can buy a bag of weed. The Garden bar which is a great place to read and has a climbing wall.








Garden Bar, great afternoon hangout to read or climb














brasa.jpghttp://www.thewayinn.com is another good option. This fellow is a Brit that has a sister hostel 700 meters above the city of Huaraz. The mountain hostel has good camping for $3 P/P. Fixed menu that is good. Room for two with down duvets $20. Great place to acclimate after being in sin city for a couple days. The Way Inn The Way Inn also has a great sister place way up high in te mountains which is a great place to acclimate.


Another name that comes to mind is Churup hostel. They have been around forever and have built in Spanish classes.




There are hot spring baths just down the road at Monterey, which are good for a day of soaking. There is a museum that has a great display of history of the area. You can go rock climbing or ice climbing.

My favorite thing in town is the cine. This young American dude has a lcd projector and a 6’x4’ screen and plays a couple movies every day. The cool thing is the flicks that he picks out. Not the usual stuff but the latest and greatest and old classics. I saw a number of great flicks in a cool living room atmosphere. It is a $1.50 for a movie and you can have a beer for $.75. They also serve the best kick ass sandwiches in town and you get a free bowl of popcorn. You can find the schedule of flicks anywhere.





Mountain biking is a great way to acclimate when you first get there. There are a few bike shops and one below café Andino.

Lots of guide outfitters in town and the Casa de Guias is an excellent source of information. They are really friendly and helpful. Can’t figure why the Canadians in Banff can’t get their shit together in a similar fashion.

Wine is ok but good stuff is imported and seems expensive but in reality is the same price as home. Cigars forget it bring your own.

Internet is real cheap ($.30 a hour) and hook up reasonably fast. The town is saturated with Internet cafes.



My night time hangout was the extreme bar just cause I got good scotch real cheap and they played old time rock music. http://www.huaraz.info/xtreme/

The supermarket food has pretty much anything you might need for trip food. A lot of the familiar stuff like cream cheese, kraft dinner, tomatoe sauce, you name it. I practically lived off the tuna in fish oil.







One set of ruins in the area of which there are many.



soccer.jpgGame on main street that cost a couple display cases and a few windows

Edited by jmckay

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Wow, very nice...a continuing TR and hotspot report for Peru! Very nice!


Thanks for posting. Sounds like the mountains are doing quite well down there this year (route conditions, etc.)

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Hello, should we have to pay any fee for climbing Alpamayo? I was there 5 years ago but I paid nothing. What can I expect for the next season? Thanks, JP.



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You do have to pay the hHauscran park fee good for a month. $60 US The rest of it is so hard to figure out. From everyone that I spoke to they do not think that the poorly thought out legislation willnot go through by next climbingg season. My suggestion is that you get hold og the Peruvian guides association and ask them in advance. I can pass on a couple email adresses to a few guides if you can not get hold of teh association.


In short I have been told to expect no change by next season but that is not written in stone.


No answer is a answer...Less is more...no plan is a plan



I am guiding down there next season so I am curious myself. hard to budget a trip the way things are now.



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