Peruvian Adventure 5/18/2006-6/28/2006

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5/31/2006: Huaraz: Just relaxing in town today and making arrangements for next adventure.

Today is the 36th anniversary of the biggest natural disaster in history next to last years tsunami. On May 31st, 1970 a 7.8 earth quack was recorded centered in Chimbote. The Ancash Earth Quake lasted fifty seconds and killed 80,000 people. 30,000 people were killed in Huaraz alone. Every town in the Callejon de Hauylas was devastated. Most of the destruction occurred when glaciers high in the mountains fractured sending millions of tons of snow and rock in to moraine lakes above towns. The natural earthen dams formed over centuries of glacial movement were not strong enough to hold back the force of the ice, rock and water and these slurries raced down the mountains in to the towns below.

Yungay, a town just down the valley, lost 20,000 of its 20,400 residents. Ironically most of the survivors were gathered in the cemetery which was one of only two structures in town that remaining intact. The old town of Yungay remains buried and undisturbed to this day and has been designated a national memorial.

Yungay cemetery


The morning celebrations started with blaring warning sirens and then progressed to parades, singing and finally a rock concert in the town square. The celebrations went well in to the night, but I was tucked in and a sleep by 9:30.

Tomorrow will be going up the Peron Valley to LaEsphinge (the Sphinx). This is a classic 2,400 ft rock climb that starts at an elevation of around 15,000 ft.


6/1/2006: LaEsfinge Base Camp: 15,300 ft. Teamed up with Aldo, a Peruvian climber and guide, to climb the Sphinx. We left Huauraz this morning around 8:30 AM and took a taxi to Peron Lake, the end of the road in this beautiful Valley. On the way up our car was stopped by a couple of local kids who gave a convincing sales pitch for hauling our gear up to base camp. We hired both of them for about 40 soles or a little over $10. We rocketed up to camp in half the normal time and set up our tent as a light snow began to fall.

La Esfinge from base camp. The climb goes 2,400 ft up the left had side of the rock face.


Two guys I had met at Mama Mesas, Jason Nelson from Ouray and Jack from NYC, hiked up yesterday to do the climb today. Their empty tent and our tent were the only inhabitants at this remarkable location. We assumed that they were some where up the 2,400 ft wall moving right along. Their climbing resumes included numerous big wall ascents including climbing the Nose on El Capitan in 12 hours. They had planned on a one day climb on the Sphinx while our plans included hoping to do a one day ascent, but being prepared for a bivy.

Shortly after we started dinner Jason and Jack came in to camp. The snowy weather that we were experiencing at 15,300 ft had been even worse at over 16,000 ft and they had repelled off at the top of Pitch 9. We all hung out together for the evening and enjoyed Aldos creation of Ceviche Boliviana (tuna fish, onions, lots of lime and crackers). We prepared everything for the climb in the morning and fell asleep to the sound of snow falling on the tent fly.


6/2/2006: Base Camp La Esfinge: 15,300 ft: I woke up all night with Cheyne Stokes Breathing. I wasnt feeling anxious and had slept and climbed at higher elevation, but it seemed like as soon as I went to sleep I would wake up with rapid breathing.

At 4 AM the alarm went off and after rummaging around for a few minutes and whining I opened the tent and looked in to the darkness. The only change from when we went to sleep was that everything was covered in a blanket of white. We went back to sleep and reset the alarm for 6 AM to see if conditions had improved.

At 6 AM the ground was still covered with snow and everything else was coated in ice. Heavy clouds had built up in the Peron Valley and obscured the top of La Esfinge. We ate breakfast, had a hot cup of coffee, and hoped the sun would suddenly arrive and melt the mess, but no favorable change arrived. It was pretty much just a cold wet mess at 15,300 ft.

Base camp the morning of our intended climb of La Esfinge. Not ideal rock climbing weather. The Huandoys are in the background.


Jack and Jason had pre-arranged for a taxi to pick them up at around 11 AM that day at Laguna Peron, so we had to make a decision quickly if we wanted to get out of the mountain today. If we missed this ride we could be stuck for another day. With no sign of clearing we pulled camp and headed down the 2,500 ft to the laguna and waited for our ride. Unlike my previous experience the taxi was three hours late. We met some Austrian guys who had hiked to the base of Artesenraju in order to climb and then snowboard down the mountain. They made it half way up when the weather turned bad and they had to retreat. They then spent almost a week stuck in camp due to snow and slides before hiking out. The Campo de Peron attendant had some beer so we whiled away a few hours cooking a hot dog over a Whisper Light stove and drinking beer.

Aldo (left) and Jack (right) doing the chef duties as we wait for the taxi.


Back in Huaraz that night I had dinner with Jack and Jason at the Huaraz Quibrado, really, really bad food.


6/2/2007: Huaraz:

Decided not to waste a day so Aldo and I went rock climbing at Ataconcha in the Cordillera Negra. The first route in this area had been put up by Aldo and some friends the previous summer. As far as he knew no gringos had been there before. We took a taxi to the village of Papaconcha and then hiked up to the cliffs.

Papaconcha had just gotten electricity the year before and were far enough off the normal travel grid that not much had changed there in a lot of years. The year before, when they discovered the cliffs and decided to put up some routes, had been very dry. The villagers depended on limited agriculture and some grazing for a living and a severe drought was threatening their livelihood.


Aldo leading pitch 2


The climbers had virtually no interaction with the villagers and would hike past their homes on the way to the cliffs. Part of putting up the climb they were working on required drilling the rock and placing bolts. Shortly after their first day of drilling it started to rain and they had to abandon their project and get back to Huaraz. The next time they hiked through the village people started coming from their homes and following them through town. The people finally blocked their way, but it was clear it was not out of hostility. Old women were on their knees with tears in their eyes and people were thanking them and praying. It was finally explained that the villages thought that the drilling of the rock had brought the rain and saved their crops.

A local sheep herder and her companion at Ataconcha


We did the only completed route on the cliff, a 600 ft 5.9 that was very enjoyable. After climbing we did a little exploring around the valley and walked the six miles back to the highway and flagged down a bus back to Huaraz.


Peru Adventure VII

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