BD athlete Oriol Baro reports on alpine climbs in the high peaks of Peru
Black Diamond athlete Oriol Baro from Spain recently returned from a trip to the high peaks of Peru where he and various partners made three major ascents. He sent us the following report and photos (taken by Jordi Corominas and Sidartha Gallego) shortly after his return.
Huaraz is a very familiar place for me.
There are many friends I can count on in this corner of the Andes, not only Peruvians, also people from abroad who have settled here or who usually come during the season. I met Kikon the first time I visited Patagonia in 2002 and since then we have coincided almost every year. Kikon, who is actually a Madrilenian, and his wife Lucía, split their time between Chaltén and Huaraz.
Kike Jr. was already two years old and I had not yet visited Lucía, Kikon and the small one. Being parents now, they couldn’t come down to El Chaltén during the two previous seasons and were eagerly asking for a rendezvous in Perú.
The two South American capitals of the Andes, on top of having many similar things, hold also many people who is quite alike.
The seasons are inverse, as the toughest months of the austral winter are the most suitable for alpinism in the snow-capped Peruvian peaks, so enjoying both seasons is something common for mountain fanatics such as Kikon and Lucía.
After fulfilling my duties as an uncle, as I was obliged to do, we hit the trail towards Taulliraju base camp. My dream ice-line was waiting for us, although this year, along the approach, we could see that the snow and ice conditions on the walls were not the best ones. The first spanner in the works came through a flu that little Kike passed on to me, but a few rest days sufficed for me to be fully at it on the southwest face of Taulli.
Two bivouacs hanging from a hammock, ice and strenuous rock pitches of A3 let us at the foot of the iced line. But that year was not to be! I couldn’t move onward, as the no much more than an inch of ice thickness present was detached from the rock and everything kept falling apart.
After a rest day at base camp we decided to give a try to the Guías de Chamonix route, allegedly the easiest to that mountain. A 7.8 mm 70 metre rope, a couple of ice screws and three cams for a single day push. Just 20 metres kept us away from the summit. Despite a 4 hour fight against the icy mushroom sitting atop the very tip of the peak, we couldn’t make it.
Jordi, my mate, had but just one more free week before having to go back to Chamonix to meet his clients, and his last shot was aimed at Chacraraju East. The great north buttress of that mountain is daunting, no matter where you look at it from. Following the Slovenian push at the beginning, the original Terray route in the central part, opening a direct exit and with a couple of bivouacs on the wall, we did manage to reach the coveted summit despite the strong winds.
Upon arriving in Huaraz I needed a full week of rest and social life before feeling like going back to the mountains again. But as soon as Sidartha, El Sidi, came back from his climb at La Esfinge, we set off together with a three man Argentinian team towards the Jirishanca base camp.
It is said that the sun always shines in Perú, but this season that has not been so. The lessons learnt in Patagonia about checking wheather conditions proved to be most helpful to us. Before leaving Huaraz we knew that we’d have a good day followed by three lousy ones in a row.
On our first day, we managed to fix six pitches of the route the Italians opened in 2003. A gorgeous sequence of slabs and corners of vertical limestone, with a good number of M8 bolts. We couldn’t believe it. It looked as if we were climbing at Vilanova de Meiá.
Five is a nice figure and the bad weather days were pretty bearable. Inside our cook tent we laughed all the time, played cards and smoked while letting our imagination run wild when it came to cooking, which kept ourselves quite amused.
On the first sunny day we got our ruckacks ready and set off upwards at dawn. Jummaring up with the huge rucksack on twin 7.8 mm ropes was exciting, but not as hair-raising as the four pitches that waited us before the bivouac: 6b that we had to climb with crampons on!
Six more pitches and now ice no more than WI5 grade to reach the end of the Italian route and the end as well of bolted belays. What a shame! Some old remains of fixed ropes lead us to the north face and before 5 PM we already have set up our bivouac under a big serac.
Jummaring up the serac serves as a warm up. Then, typical Peruvian climbing where everything is unstable and the void is big. When the huge spur eases back we are not far from reaching the summit. Buried into snow waist deep, a wind slab crunches and slides 10 inches above me. El Sidi cannot believe the speed I’m able to downclimb.
The holidays were coming to an end so we could just enjoy a couple of days of pleasant Huaraz life. Our morning visits to the juice bars and Zarela’s hospitality are the things we’re going to miss the most in the coming weeks of work. El Sidi will be dropping French clients into the waters of the well know river gorges of Sierra de Guara, an I will be guiding on classic ridges in the Pyrenees and the Alps.