Llaganuco Valley To Yanapaccha July 9th to July 11th
I awoke after sleeping for almost twelve hours and found myself feeling pretty good.  My cough had lessened, my head had cleared, and I felt  possessed of much greater energy than I had since the trip began.  Today was going to be decision day.  Did I go back to Huaraz and sit in a hotel room until Brian returned or did I want to give Yanapaccha a try? I've only ever been the reason for a called climb once (altitude sickness on Pikes Peak) and had no desire to cost Brian his chance so I spent a good bit of time mulling it over.  

Since Sunday was basically a slow day (wait for Jaime (pronounced Hy-meh)), walk a few miles) Brian, Marco, and myself lounged around camp drinking the tea Marco prepared and enjoying the soroundings. Around 10:00 AM  Jaime showed up with new supplies and I realized I would have to make the decision whether to stay or go before the driver left.  Since Jaime and the driver were an hour early I asked them to hang out while Brian and I discussed our options.

I figured we ought to talk over a walk just in case I would be leaving this beautiful place.

Morning Walk

Ultimately I decided to give it a shot.  Brian was quite accomodating to agree to this as I knew I would deteriorate quickly again once at altitude.  He was effectively risking his chance to summit in that If I turned back on the glacier he would have to as well. I knew I probaly didn't have more than one more night at altitude before getting sicker again.  On the positive side we were pretty sure I could head back down to the meadow with Marco on Monday and Brian (if he had energy) could try again Tuesday (with Jaime) and take a collectivo back to Huaraz.  The whole situation reminds me of why I like climbing with friends, I doubt a more casual acquaintance would have wanted to risk a summit and all the effort and money it entailed.

We returned to the meadow camp and told everyone I was going for it.  After returning the excess provisions and bidding our driver farewell we went back to the Meadow camp and began packing up.  I headed over to the Arriero with Marco and arranged for donkeys to carry our gear to and from the lake which would be our camp for Yanapaccha.

Heading to Yanapaccha

Once we had the tents stowed and had grabbed a bottle of water for the walk Brian, Jaime, and myself headed out for our next camp.  Marco, as usual, stayed behind to tie all the gear to the donkeys and walk with the Arriero (who he seemed to be friends with).  The hike in was quite pleasant and entailed no more than a few miles and maybe 1200 feet of elevation gain.  

Brian and I had been a bit irritated by our guide on Vallunaraju but decided to assume it was a one time thing and let it go as he seemed like a friendly enough guy.  On Vallunaraju Jaime had spent all of 3 hours actually demonstrating rescue skills, had acted very entitled,  not helped setting up camp, making dinner, had untied one of my guy lines on the tent and retied it in some incorrect fashion rather than fix it, and didn't bother to give me a hand on tricky parts when I was really altitude sick dizzy, and scrambling lower fifth class rock. 140 US dollars seemed a bit too much to pay for this level of service.  I guess we should have learned and cut our losses there as he got lost on the way to the lake camp for Yanapaccha.  I ended up pointing the way down when I saw Marco coming up several hundred feet below (strike one).


Yanapaccha Campsite

The campsite was in a boggy area at ~15000 feet  but I managed to find  a poopless spot (not that easy in this valley) to set up the tents in.  We inquired with Jaime as to the route and were informed it was a straightforward walk up, Marco disagreed and said that it entailed actual steep snow and possibly ice, apparently our guide didn't research the route even though we radioed about our change of plans days before (strike two).  Jaime then sent Marco out to scout out the way up rather than go himself (strike three, see a pattern?).  Marco returned four hours later and reported our intended direction was totally impassable.

At the time I wasn't going to let it bother me, it was beautiful at camp and I was quite happy to just be looking at the mountains all around.  Since Chris had informed us we were stuck paying a guide once we had reserved him I figured getting pissed was counter productive and found myself mostly amused. It's much easier to find something funny when you have resigned yourself to not being able to do anything about it.  Brian and I have done enough together that a guide wasn't really necessary for Yannapacha. Jaime's primary purpose was to have been a navigator on Chopicalqui.  Since that plan was shot he was mostly an accoutrement but still one I would have liked to feel justified in paying.

Given that the pictures below were our sorroundings at camp it was hard to think of anything but how beautiful the place we were in was.

The Huscarans

The Four Huandoys


We all turned in around 7:00 in the evening and I once again marveled at how much I loved sleeping in my big, fluffy, Western Mountaineering bag.  I've never been so comfortable sleeping outside in my entire life.  Normally I hate camping but I was gettign more sleep outside than I had in the hotels.  1:00 AM came quickly and we woke up and packed while Marco prepared tea for everyone.  Marco would once again carry our axes, harnesses, plastic boots, etc to the base of the glacier for us.  It was great to have Marco with us again as he easily navigated the strange and confusing morass of rocks and cliffs which lead to the base of the glacier.  The trail up to the glacier was an ill defined mixture of bushwhacking and scrambling through cliffs and under seracs.
Right up until the glacier I was feeling great.  I felt like I could run up the thing and wasn't even slightly winded when we reached the transiton from rock to snow at  ~16,400 feet at 4:15 in the morning. At the glacier Marco gave us our gear and waited while we suited up.  When everyone looked OK he started heading down.  At this point I was excited and felt positive that I would get a second peak.  I leaned over to cinch my left crampon and as soon as I gave it a yank I felt and heard a loud crack coming from my left ribs.....

The following is a pretty accurate description of what went through my head after this.

'OK,  I don't feel anything, I'll just stand here for a minute and hope it goes away'.  Pause, 'How about if I lean to the right? So far so good.  What about the left? Nope, that is not good, it makes me scream, wow that hurts. Hmm, maybe that was just a fluke.  Why are Brian and Jaime staring at me?  There is no way I felt like hero all the way up here only to break a god damn rib putting a crampon on! Maybe I'll lean left again, maybe it was a one time thing. Nope, I'm screaming again. Maybe I won't need to lean left or use my left arm, how bad could it get? 60 or 70 degree snow and ice isn't to bad is it? I'll just sit here and think how much I need ALL of my ribs to climb with two tools, maybe I'll see if it still hurts, yup, a whole lot. OH FUCK, I'm done. Done before even starting the glacier. Thousands of miles, thousands of dollars, the most beautiful mountains I've ever seen and I am going to crawl back to camp to sit on a rock.   No war stories or great tales for this injury, just a broken rib from putting on a crampon. If this isn't the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of, I've never been injured climbing before and now a crampon takes me out, sigh.......  At least it works out well for Brian, he can still finish so at least I didn't screw him out of a peak, I better yell for Marco.'

Quite possibly the most ironic part of my injury was that I had been about to ask Marco to strap the crampons on for me as he had done on Pisco but then figured it would be rude to ask him. 20 seconds later, I heard my rib crack.

(My injury happened to a rib that had been previously broken,  given that it has healed a good bit between the injury and the writing of this report I can only assume I didn't break it but some scar tissue was torn or slipped, I guess I'll need X-Rays if it doesn't heal soon to see what the real issue is.)

Needless to say I was done climbing.  Fortunately for me Marco hadn't gotten very far and lead the way back down while Brian and Jaime set up the glacier. We had made it to the glacier in about two hours and it took a bit longer for me to wince my way, painfully, down to the tent.   Thankg god Marco was there to help me back down, I won't get a guide again but think I will keep hiring porters who are good route finders.   Once back at the tent I popped a few Advil (which I would continue to do, quite often, for the next week) and set about breaking down the camp.   Jaime had thought the climb would take seven or eight hours total and the Arrerio was coming at 10:00 AM so I figured I might as well pack up and save Brian some chores when he got back.  As it turns out the climb took closer to twelve hours and I was left tentless and cold.  Marco was kind enough to build up a fire for me and I warmed myself until the sun had fully illuminated our little campsite and it was warm again.  

I spent my time sitting on a rock reading a book by George R. Martin and even managed to finish 400 pages while waiting for Brian to return.  Around 11:00 in the morning the Arriero showed up and, upon realizing no one was ready to go, promptly lay down and relaxed. Marco seemed a bit nervous that Brian and Jaime weren't back and headed off to look for them.  Around 12:30 Marco spotted the two guys and ran up ~1000 feet of elevation gain, just to take some weight from them and bring Brian his boots.  I've harped about this guy before but anyone using Chris Benway should request Marco, the guy was absolutely indespesible and fun to have around.  Brian and Jaime returned around 1:00 PM and Brian was kind enough to tell me how much the climb sucked until I pushed him for the truth and found that it was fantastic.  I was happy for him but was pissed about missing it.

In a way I'm a bit glad I didn't end up on the climb.  Apparently Jaime brought one picket (even though we had frequently discussed what gear of our own to bring and had hauled four of our own pickets and several ice screws from the US) and they ended up on terrain that required top and bottom anchors.  Now I know the guy is another league from me as a climber but if I am in a situation where I need anchors I want a top anchor, a bottom anchor, and bail gear, my climbing comfort level is what should dictate things since I am the one paying. and not the 5.12c rock leader/WI6 Ice leader. To top that off Brian says they also got lost for about an hour (strike four) oh well, we just won't tip the guy and he still gets paid for Wednesday even though we didn't use him Wednesday. Brian, Jaime, and I headed down to the meadow while Marco once again took care of packing up the donkeys.  

The hike back to camp went quickly but I didn't feel like letting Jaime route find.  This resulted in some really tedious scrambling and bushwhacking but at least it was direct scrambling and bushwhacking.  We made it back to Llaganuco Meadow around 4:00 where I ran into another guy I knew from Colorado (Matt Hardy) who had just climbed Yannapacha and was on his way to Pisco.  I seemed to be running into more people in Peru than I do in Boulder.  We chatted for a bit and then I headed over to Brian just as Marco, The Arriero, donkeys, and our stuff were arriving.  We set up camp and I wandered over to grab a few beers from the local vendor.  At this point I'd started coughing again and it was hurting my rib terribly.  A few beers and a half dozen Advil and Aleve took good care of this problem though.

For the last time on the trip Marco cooked up a pot of pasta mixed with tuna and flavor packaging.  None of us were all that hungry and Marco and Jaime managed to trade the last of our meal for a couple free Cokes from the beverage guys.

As darkness fell the temperature did its usual trick of plummeting rapidly.  Despite being sick, despite the rib, and despite the failed attempt on Yanapaccha I felt sad about leaving.  This place was simply magical and dwarfed anything I had seen before (Colorado peaks really do look small and round now).  I'm not generally a patient person but I'd come to enjoy waking up with and going to bed with the sun and enjoying the splendor that was all around me during the daylight hours.  

I wandered into the tent, read awhile longer, and fell asleep until 6:30.  We took our time waking up and slowly packed the tents and had a final cup of tea before heading up to meet our driver.  In the end all of my fears about Brian's foot were needless, I was the one who ended up not able to finish.

Last Camp In The Mountains

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