Valley To Climb Pisco Oeste July
6th to July 8th
BELOW FOR A
PANORAMA OF THE PEAKS AROUND OUR CAMP- From Left To Right Huandoy,
Pisco, Chacrajaju, Yannapacha, & Chopicalqui
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
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.
& 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.
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.
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.
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
Leaving The Summit
We spent a good twenty
minutes relaxing and enjoying the
views before heading down. Heading down was pretty neat as we
descending into clouds. It was a very surreal experience to be
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
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
Back At Llaganuco Meadow
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