The Pivot, Part Three: Peru!

A couple days ago, a huge avalanche swept down from the vicinity of the traditional camp three on the Abruzzi (our camp three is protected in rocks below). The weather hasn’t allowed us to climb back up and inspect the condition of our highest ropes and supplies. The powder blast seen here is roughly half a mile high by a mile and a half wide.

K2 Update: I’m happy and healthy in base camp, but there’s still no good weather window on the horizon. In the meantime, I’ve done some strength work and fast hikes, not to mention laundry and tent maintenance. Waiting and staying calm is a big part of the game. Instead of distracting myself with movies and the like, I’m using the time to visualize an objective that will require my complete focus. Weather here in base camp isn’t so bad, but up high the mountains are getting absolutely blasted by high winds. The stars at night are beyond belief…I feel like we’re aboard the Hubble!

It was a lifelong dream to visit Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, home to some of the world’s prettiest mountains (and last remaining tropical glaciers)

It started with a simple email entitled “Cordillera Blanca.” In terms of lifelong dream trips, I’d say the top two ranges I wanted to visit were the Blanca and of course the Karakoram. Could I pull off both back to back? I agreed to meet with Justin anyway, despite my reservations about my current mental fitness…at the time, I’d been getting so confused with basic activities I wasn’t even close to being able to go for a weekend in the Sierra. But Justin had the right enthusiasm and attitude and we both agreed that we’d be able to make the trip work even if we weren’t feeling up to the bigger objectives.

Incredibly large sand dunes along the Peruvian coast north of Lima

We did it deluxe…taxi to the trailhead, burros to the refuge. Peru is sooo nice and easy!

Our first stop was the Llanganuco Valley…home to Refugio Peru and our first climb, Pisco, seen behind

Before I arrived, Justin took a bad spill on a mountain bike. Not so sure about the sanitation in the Huaraz clinic

Practicing crevasse rescue hauling systems on Pisco

We climbed Pisco in deteriorating conditions. Here I lead over a snow bridge leading to the summit ridge

We hiked out via the spectacular Laguna 69


Heading to our camp beneath Ranrapalca. Gotta have at least one day with a huge pack per expedition

Ranrapalca. While traversing in the night to the col at the base of the photo, hidden crevasses whumphed on us. After scouting a few potential routes, we opted for the more logical and easier Ishinca

Huantsan as seen from Ishinca

Justin soloing some ice at the toe of the glacier

Tocllaraju. Our final objective was the direct west face, essentially the steepest line visible up the left side. We opted to attempt it in a single push from base camp.

Our German friends in the refuge

Me starting up the face. Crossing the bergschrund was a delicate pullup maneuver on icicles followed by a lot of cleaning rotten ice.

Justin following the lower face. We opted to simulclimb the whole thing, protecting with intermediate ice screws, pickets and Tiblocs to protect the leader

Justin leading into the rotten rock band

Justin approaching our high point…a rotten, uncrossable crevasse about 50-100 vertical meters below the summit

Justin on one of 8-9 rappels. Most were v-threads (holes in the ice) while the bottom couple were off pickets (aluminum stakes in snow)

Justin building the next anchor. We rappelled into the evening, and returned to the refuge after 20 hours of continuous climbing

The staff of the refuge, particularly Andre (second from right) were incredibly warm and hospitable

Huascaran, Peru’s highest mountain, shrouded in clouds. Despite consistently bad weather and snow conditions, we had a wonderful time in the Blanca!




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