Llaganuco Valley To Climb Pisco Oeste July 6th to July 8th
CLICK BELOW FOR A PANORAMA OF THE PEAKS AROUND OUR CAMP- From Left To Right Huandoy, Pisco, Chacrajaju, Yannapacha, & Chopicalqui 
Reduced Size
Full Size

After our fun filled ride we arrived in the town of Yungay and headed up the the dirt road towards Llaganuco Valley. Just before the upper lakes we came to a gate and had to park and show our park passes and passports to the local authorities who monitor traffic in and out of Park Huascaran (where our peaks were located).  The per person fee was 21 dollars but our passes had already been purchased and taken care of by Chris.  I was feeling rather poorly at this point and had, what was to be my first case (in a 4 week long stretch), of very serious diahrea.  After finishing up with the park officials we headed up the road to the Llanganuco base camp.

The drive from Yungay to our meadow camp was quite beautiful and took us past cliffs which have to be as big as those in Yosemite.  The lack of crack systems and vegetation seemed to inhibit and great climbing on these walls but they were impressive to look at.  The views from the road were surreal and driving next to the Huscarans, which always seem to kill tens of thousands of people during earthquakes, was a bit intimidating.  Brian took this opportunity to point about a memorial in the town below which commemorates the Ancash earthquake of 1970 with a huge statue of Jesus, surrounded by tens of thousands of roses, pleading to Huscaran.  It was definetly humbling being near a peak which claimed so many lives, especially in a seismically active region.

Laguna Chinancocha & Huscaran Norte

After we passed the second lake we came to a turn in the road where the driver pulled over and took all of our gear out.   I was feeling pretty poor at this point and Brian and Marco kindly took the extra weight (we had our packs and several large bags of food) down the switchbacking trail to the meadow camp where we met up with our arriero (donkey handler).  The meadow camp was very pretty but served as pasture land for horses and donkeys and as such was covered by a copious amount of feces.  After a short time the donkeys were packed up and we set up the 5 kilometer trail to Pisco base camp.

Llaganuco Meadow

Looking Back Towards The Meadow (The Mountain is Chopicalqui)

The hike up to base camp was pretty straightforward (although hot) and only required around 2500 feet of elevation gain.  At first we were a bit concerned that our porter might be a tad slow as he was hanging back with the arriero.  After he came blazing by and told us to take our time we figured there was no need to worry.  Brian and I took out time heading up to camp and spent a great deal of time enjoying the scenery.

Base camp

By the time we reached the meadow which was to be our home for a couple of days Marco had already paid the arriero and set up our tents.  From this point on I took Diamoxx and even convinced Brian to as well.  Since it was only 4:30 in the afternoon we spent some time taking in the scenery. The panorama at the top of the page shows (an unfortunately cloudy) vista of the views from our tent.  Even though I was sick and prone to hourly bouts of diahrea the place was so beautiful and surreal that I could not help but be enthralled by it.  Pisco base camp is situated in a flat valley with a stream running down one side of it (good water source) and a Refugio (where fresh water, beer, wine, hot food, beds, and showers can be had) on hill opposite from the stream.  One end of the camp was shadowed by the mighty Huandoys while the other had great views of Yannapacha and Chopicalqui.  Pisco Oeste itself  was behind the Refugio.  The camp seemed like it might be a swamp in rainy season but proved to be quite pleasant while we were there.  There were also to bathrooms at the far end of the meadow although these consisted of dirty shit stained holes one had to squat over.  My illness did little to make these fresher places.  All in all there were only a handful of tents (fortunate for us as this peak is usually quite crowded).


After soaking in the scenery for a time Brian and I sat down to discuss our plans while Marco made coca tea for us.  I was pretty sure Chopicalqui was not going to happen and was so sick that I was positive I would be leaving after Pisco. I said that I needed a day of rest before trying Pisco and I could see that Brian was clearly concerned that my condition would only deteriorate but, as he was for the whole trip, he was quite thoughtful and agreed that we could spend the next day doing nothing.  I even said that I would prefer to summit from base camp and not haul or gear up to the moraine camp.  I figured the less I exerted myself the greater our chance of success would be.

Views From Camp

As darkness fell we all sat down for a dinner then headed into our tents.  Brian and I played cards for a couple hours then went to sleep.  As luck would have it the Diamoxx did wonders and I slept like a baby.  The next day consisted of a lot of sitting on rocks and reading.  Mixed in with this I had diahrea somewhere around 10 times but stayed hydrated by drinking nine (really) liters of coca tea.  During a period where I felt better Brian and I scrambled up closer to the glacier on Huandoy where we then summited a ridge of rocks to scout out the route we would be on the next day.  After this little foray we headed back to our tent where Marco whipped up dinner and more coca tea, ate, chatted some, and went to sleep.

Pisco Oeste

We awoke at midnight and had a bit of coca tea and a yogurt fruit drink.  I was feeling really terrible and wanted to walk around for a minute before heading up for the climb.  It dawned on me that I was really not well and I found myself running to the bathroom where I threw up several times and had another good few bouts of diahrea.  I was feeling pretty dejected and dissapointed at this point and figured my trip was over.  After feeling sorry for myself for about two minutes I gave myself a nice mental slap, got up, headed back to camp and said I wanted to give it a shot.  

I sat down and slowly drank through a couple liters of coca tea and then grabbed my gear and said it was time to try.  I was sure Brian had little in the way of expectations at this point but I was going to give it a shot.   To make things easier Marco took all of our heavy gear (axe, rope, crampons, plastic boots, etc) and accompanied us to the base of the snow.  We arrived at the snow around three or four in the morning, geared up, roped up, and set off in the darkness.  I was taking small sips of water and over the next five hours ate through a Stinger (power bar like) energy bar .  This would be all I ate that day.  

Climbing a glacier in the dark is a kind of eerie experience.  The snow was firm and great for crampons but we kept passing by great holes in the ground, under towering walls of ice and snow, and over thin snow bridges which separated us from a long fall.  Surprisingly I felt pretty good on the climb and managed to fall into a rhythm.  

We slowly worked our way up the mountain and eventually came to a 15 foot wall which we had to climb.  It went easily enough even with only our mountaineering axe and we topped out on it just as first light was beginning.  I had not realized that glaciers creek and right after we had gotten above the wall I heard a groaning sound coming from the snow beneath me.  While Brian assured me that this was totally normal I assured him I didn't care and wanted to get off the steeper snow and away from the creaking slope.

Nearing The Summit

At this point we were above 17,000 feet and every step took a good bit of effort.  Neither of us were having problems with  the altitude except that it made walking quite slow and breathing a lot more important.  We would move for a time then stop and rest.  As we climbed higher our movement became slower and our breaks more frequent.  We were a bit concerned by the total cloud cover as we were afraid it would rob us of views but continued on.  The final 100 vertical feet seemed to take forever but all of a sudden we found ourselves on the summit at about eight in the morning.  Brian has been to 20,000 feet but standing at 18,866 was a personal best for me.  There were no views towards the east but all of the peaks to the north and west were visible.  We were thankful that the clouds had lifted enough to afford us with some great sights.

Final Push To The Summit

Me On The summit Of Pisco, 18,866 Feet

Brian On The Summit

Artesonraju, Seen From Pisco

Two Of The Huandoys, From Pisco's Summit

More Views From The Summit

Feeling Powerful

Leaving The Summit

We spent a good twenty minutes relaxing and enjoying the views before heading down.  Heading down was pretty neat as we were descending into clouds.  It was a very surreal experience to be going down into clouds and not to be doing it in an airplane.  The way  down went rather slowly as we spent a long time stopping to take pictures.  As we descended we passed to rope teams of eight Venezuelans who were planning on summiting Chopicalqui after Pisco.  We skirted by them on 30-35 degree snow then moved down a short 40 degree section before coming to the slopes above the only vertical bit.  We waited above the vertical wall as two climbers made there way up it then headed down to it, down climbed it, and took a brake to drink, drop layers, and relax.

Walls of Snow On Pisco

Climbing Down The Only Tricky Bit

As we descended the route the weather continued to clear so I took the opportunity to snap a lot of pictures, including one of our whole route.  The snow formations were truly amazing and I can honestly say nothing like them exists in Colorado.  Staring at weird shapes, seracs, and crevasses made the whole trip worth it.  As we continued to descend the sun grew higher in the sky and it became quite hot.  

Views From Halfway Down The Glacier


Snow Formations On Pisco

Our Route On Pisco

The Huandoys & The Rest Of The Way Down

Heading Back To Camp (Moraine Camp is visible)

We made it back to the base of the glacier around 11:00, stripped out technical gear off, and started down towards moraine camp.  As luck would have it Super-Marco was coming up and met us soon after we began descending on the rock.  He once again took all of our gear and lead us back down to the Refugio.  This was good for me because as soon as we were off the snow whatever force of will I was using to climb dissapeared and I went back to feeling badly, really, really badly.

Marco Saves The Day

At The Refugio

At the Refugio I got obscenely grumpy and Brian decided to go inside for a bit while I decided to stick my head on a stone table for a bit.  After some half hearted conversation with other climbers we headed back to camp and packed up.  Once again the arriero arrived and took our gear for us.  I don't think I've ever been quite so happy to see a donkey in my life.

Donkeys Are Great

Marco told us to head down and that he would take care of gathering our gear and see that it came down in good condition.  We trusted the guy well enough to say OK and leave.  I began to feel a bit better as we descended but was sad that I would be leaving such a beautiful area.  Since I was pretty sure I needed to go back to Huaraz to recover I spent my time enjoying the scenery.

When we returned to the meadow camp we found our campsite swept clean of donkey and horse crap and Marco starting a pot of water for tea (yup he rounded us on the way down too).  We hung around reading until the sun went down and I then settled down for a very solid 13 hours of sleep.

Back At Llaganuco Meadow

Previous Page     Table of Contents     Next Page