North Twin Sister - West Ridge

I decided that the best way to feel like I was in Seattle again was to go into the Cascades. After getting back from Peru at 11 PM and packing, I was in bed at 1 AM. Almost 5 hours later, my alarm went off and I was on my way to climb the West Ridge of North Twin Sister along with Brian, Kris, Ian and Gary. After stopping for a quick breakfast, we made it to the road closure and started biking. Well, I mostly walked my bike up hill. Biking requires different muscles than climbing - ones I haven't used in a long time apparently. Brian lead us through the maze of logging roads to the trailhead after about 6 mi and 3000 ft of gain.

At the trailhead we rested before hiking up about 1000 more feet to the base of the West Ridge. Here the fun began. The west ridge is rated 3/4th class, which means that hands and feet are necessary. The rock quality was truely outstanding and our hands and feet stuck to everything. Plus there were jugs for holds just about everywhere we looked. This made up for the exposure once the ridge steepened below the summit block. The weather didn't cooperate, and we were in the clouds the most of the day (plus we got snowed on). The mountains really gave me the full "Welcome Home" experience. We summitted, still in the clouds, before heading back down.

The descent was straightforward, but when the clouds cleared, there was mild confusion as to whether we were on the correct ridge because we didn't recognize it now that we could see (turns out we were correct). Back to the bikes, we had about 0.5 hr ride back to the cars. For me, the first part was especially, uh, exciting. I haven't really done any biking, let alone mountain biking. I took it slow and made it back to the main forest roads.

It was a fun trip, with a great group. I can't believe I summited something within 24 hours of returning to Seattle. Awesome.

From North Twin

From North Twin

From North Twin

Brian's Photos

The Rest of the Story

I'm back in Seattle now looking for an apartment before I start my job.  I wanted to take a little time to bring you up to speed on the last of my time in Peru.

Sunday morning (around 4 AM) I arrived back in Chiclayo.  I "slept" in the bus station for about three hours before I headed out to see some sights.  I had already seen the city (unimpressive), so I headed out to the ruins.  It was difficult to find the correct bus (everyone kept leading me in circles).  Eventually I gave up and hired a taxi.  The taxi took me to Sipan, where there are tombs of the Lord of Sipan.  These ruins were discovered in 1987 and heralded as the King Tut tomb of South America.  At the ruins, archaeologists have recreated the tomb. 
From Sipan and Chan Chan
At Sipan I found the correct bus back to Chiclayo and then took a second bus to Lambayeque, where there is a museum of all the treasures that were unearthed from the Lord of Sipan.  Here there was a lot of foreign money thrown at the project and the locals put together an amazing museum to display and protect the treasures from the tomb.  This museum was easily the best one I had seen in Peru.

The next morning I caught a bus to Trujillo and spent the afternoon touring cathedrals and rich people's homes.  The next morning I got up to visit Chan Chan and two other ruins, all of which were constructed out of mud mixed with other things to make it cure.  The structures were quite amazing as were the intricate designs built into the walls.

From Sipan and Chan Chan

From Sipan and Chan Chan

From Sipan and Chan Chan

After finishing up at the last site, I took a taxi 15 min to Huanchaco (a smaller coastal town).  In those 15 min I went from feeling fine to having a high fever and shivering violently.  I also had diarrhea.  I went into the hotel and straight to bed.  I couldn't sleep so I watched American TV (some dubbed some still in English).  Around 9:00 I got up to take a shower.  The hot water made me feel light headed and before I could do anything I passed out.

I decided at that point it was time to go to the hospital.  The guys at the hotel hailed me a taxi and I went back to Trujillo.  It was my first trip to the ER (ever), fortunately my Spanish and pantomiming were up to the task and the nurses were quite sweet.  They stitched up my lip and pumped me full of fluids and antibiotics.  By 4 PM the next day, they let me go and I was well enough to take the night bus to Lima. 

It was great to get back to Lima.  Angelo, the hostel owner, took good care of me over the next couple of days.  He even set up a dental appointment so my front teeth could be X-rayed (they aren't broken).  I spent the rest of the day at the Larco Museum, which is a large private pottery collection, including a gallery of erotic pottery from the Moche people.  My last day was spent shopping for a few last souvenirs.

Saturday I was up early to fly back to the US.  It felt like one disaster after another, but I eventually made it to Seattle (only 2 hours after I was supposed to).  One bag even made the trip.  Brian and Michelle were there to meet me and it was good to see them.  It was a great trip to Peru, but I'm glad to be back in Seattle.  I'm looking forward to my next adventure: teaching.

Cavernas de Kiocta

I spent my last day around Chachapoyas visiting the Caverns of Kiocta near the town of Lamud.  A collectivo ride got me to Lamud where I hired a guide.  The guide to client ratio fantastic (two guides for just me), plus they were the cutest guides I´ve had in Peru.  We rode up to the caves, where we spent the next hour exploring.  The tour was entirely in Spanish, and I think I understood about 30-40% of it.  The echo and all the giggling didn´t help, but we managed to communicate and laugh (a lot).  The caves were used for ceremonial purposes, and one can see skulls and other bones in the caves.  They even took me behind a couple of the roped areas so we could see some of the sights not visible.  On the way out, we found some bats and we all laughed everytime my guides would jump as a bat flew overhead.  It was great to have the caves entirely to ourselves.  On the way out, the caretaker asked about American caves (fortunately in English) and for suggestions.  It was a great way to end my time here.  Tonight I take a night bus to Chiclayo then in a few days it´s on to Lima.

The Gran Vilaya

I spent my first day in Chachapoyas recovering from my travels here and looking for trekking info.  I found Carlos of Hotel Ravesh.  Carlos can best be described as a used car salesman type person.  He´ll say anything to get you to sign up on a trek with him, some of it was even true.  The trek through the Gran Vilaya, while not as advertised, was still a great experience.

The trek started at 5:30 AM, when the Australians and I met outside the locked door of Hotel Ravesh.  Ten min later the door opened, and Carlos told us we didn´t have a guide.  We drove to a guide´s house (Hernando turned out to be a good guide with mediocre English), we picked him up and were on our way.

Our first stop was Wanglic, which was a funerary site of the Chachapoyas people (name means People of the Clouds) and a water fall.  The hike down took awhile and we chatted and got to know one another.

Funerary site.

Back in the cab, we headed to Karajia, which used to be 8 Sarcophagi, but now there are only 6 (2 fell over).  They are about 2 m in height and 20 meters off the ground. 

We headed back into town for lunch at a famly´s home.  We ate most of our meals and stayed mostly with people who where friends of Hernando.  It was nice to get out of restaurants and into Peruvian homes.  After lunch we headed to the Valle Belen, where we would spend the first night.  The valley is impossibly green and a beautiful river runs through it.  It is used to cattle ranching so we had to watch our step. 

We were told we´d be sleeping in a lodge, which turned out to be a shack, a comfortable one mind you, but a shack nonetheless.  Due to bad planning (or possibly no planning at all), the key was not there waiting for us.  Both Hernando and I tried to be clever about getting in, but we ultimately resorted to Jared throwing a giant rock through the door.

Valle Belen

The next morning three other folks joined our trek.  Two of them were from the Israeli group I met on the bus, plus Philip, a Brit coming from Brazil via the Amazon.  The trekking though the valley was not always easy (mud and stream crossings), but fun.

Most of our trekking that day was on a pre-Inca road.

Around lunch we stopped and took a side trail into the cloud forest, where we found the ruins of Pirquilla.  These ruins are un-excavated and have been overtaken by the jungle.  It was very cool to have these ruins to ourselves, a stark contrast to the Sacred Valley

We spent that night on a coffee farm and had delicious coffee.  Our group bonded over several card games late into the evening.  The next morning we set out on 2 horses and 3 mules (the Israelis chose to walk).

We stopped to see more ruins that day (Lanche), but they were not in as good a shape as the day before.  My mule insisted on being in the lead.  If he ever wasn´t, he would work to overtake the others.  Once in the lead however, he took his sweet time.  In the afternoon, his temperament changed and he moved very quickly, often not waiting for the others.  The best part of the day was the racing.  We ¨raced¨ mules vs horses up to the pass.  I was in the lead the most of the afternoon.  My mule would dart through the forest or take the road less traveled to insure we were in front.  Unfortunately, when we got to the pass, my mule got trapped behind grazing mules in the path and the horses won.  I think this is mostly because horses took orders, whereas the mules did as they pleased.  It was good fun and we all had a good laugh.

The third night we slept in hostels in Maria, which was a beautiful little town, filled with very friendly folks.  The fourth morning we were up early to visit Kuelap, which is a Chachapoyas forest.  There is currently a National Geographic film crew there because there has been some new archaeological discoveries there.   The ruins were quite impressive and definitely worth the trip.

The main entrance.

The built decorations directly into the walks.

The walls of the fortress are over 20 m high and in pretty good shape.

After the fortress we had to race down the 2 hour hike to Tingo to meet our bus.  The racing came from the fact that they were closing the pass between Kuelap and Chachapoyas for 5 hours and several of our group wanted to take the night bus to Chiclayo.  We made it we seconds to spare thanks to our driver´s lead foot. 

I had planned to see more ruins in the area, but this trek allowed me to see more of the countryside and how people live outside Chachapoyas.  This was an outstanding trek.

Getting off the Gringo Trail: The First Step is a Doozy

Always look on the bright side of life. - MP

Well, I took my first steps off the Gringo Trail these past few days.  Life is a little different here.  The Gringo Trail is the route that most tourists do and typically includes cities like Lima, Ica, Pisco, Nazca, Arequipa, Puno and Cuzco.  These cities have lots of tourist infrastructure, lots of tourists, and things run relatively smoothly. 

Daniel and I flew back to Lima on Friday morning.  After spending the day shopping at the markets, we said our goodbyes, and I headed to the bus station for the night bus to Chiclayo (14 hours).  There are lots of ruins near the city, but I was anxious to head into the highlands, so I took another night bus to Chachapoyas (expected 9 hours), which is where the fun began.

Some time in the wee morning hours, our bus came to a halt in a line of other buses and trucks.  I woke out of a quasi-sleep around 7 AM and noticed we were stopped and waiting so I turned to my book, Endymion.  Hours went by and people were taking mototaxis, taxis, and collectivos back to Chiclayo.  I got to chatting with one of our fellow passengers (I had to pantomime rocket scientist - which actually worked).  He told me that the road was impassible.  I assumed a landslide because the book suggests that this is common.  I went out to find a place to go to the bathroom and discovered that locals were blocking the road at a bridge. 

If I understood correctly, they were protesting the government´s abuse of the land and not paying people for the resources they took (minerals and petroleum).  There were some signs (difficult to read because they didn´t hold them high enough).  The one in the above photo says, ¨gold and petroleum no; life yes.¨ I went back to the bus to wait some more.  Around noon, they let people pass over the bridge, but not vehicles.  I was somewhat confused (my spanish gets worse the more tired I get).  I met a Peruvian man named Johnny from my bus who explained what was going on and said I could walk with him.  We had to walk across the bridge, where a bus on the other side would take us to Chachapoyas.  Two other women from our bus joined us, and Johnny and I helped carry their luggage.  He was really a great guy, who I´m glad I met, even though it was only for a couple of hours.  The group on the bridge opened a hole so we could pass.  As we went through, they wiped something on our cheeks (see the photo below - apparently, it means I am now one of the workers).

About a half hour of walking got us to the bus on the other side.  There was some chaos as the bus filled up.  Before our bus could leave, the men with spears came down the road and surrounded our bus;  I´m still not exactly sure why.  I was told to remain seated.  Johnny seemed to be talking with them.  I´m not sure of the details, but he talked them into letting other people on our bus and letting us go.

After that, our bus was able to leave and we stopped briefly in a small town at a cross roads.  I bought some water (I wasn´t even thinking about food even though it had been 18 hrs since dinner the night before).  Johnny came back on the bus and handed me an orange.  (Like I said, he was a great guy).  We chatted a little more before we both dosed off.

Around 4 PM, we arrived at Pedro Ruiz, which is at the crossroads to Chachapoyas.  We were told we had an hour while they repaired the bus.  I made friends with a group of six Israelis, and we went to dinner together.  Well, one hour turned into two, and we were eventually told that a bus was coming for us from Chachapoyas because ours wouldn´t go.  Around 7:40 PM I got on the bus (my Israeli friends decided to remain in Pedro Ruiz).  An hour later we were on our way.  At 10 PM, we arrived in Chachapoyas and I found a hostel.

Here´s a photo of my face, with the black markings.  Whatever it is, it´s not coming off for a while (I´ve washed my face six times in the past 12 hours and it looks no different).  On the plus side, it´s a great conversation starter.  I´ve been asked several times what happened to me, and I get to explain it in spanish.  I took a much needed shower and went to bed.  I was so tired that I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.  This has been quite an adventure so far.  I´m curious and excited to see what the next 10 days have in store for me.

Highs and Lows at the Sacred Valley and the Picch

One finds oneself virtually deprived of the rudimentary elements of esthetic appraisal required to assimilate the magnitude of these extraordinary objects.  - sign in the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art

Daniel and I just got back from spending four days in the Sacred Valley, which culminated on the third day with a visit to Machu Picchu (or the Picch - prounounced peach - apparently you´re only allowed to say this after you´ve been there). MP was amazingly beautiful and a great mystery, but let me start with the beginning.

Sunday: After Daniel and I returned from the Jungle, we spent a day in Cuzco enjoying the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art and Qorikancha, which are Incan ruins on which the Spanish built the church and convent of Santa Domingo. The museum was definitely an art museum and short on factual descriptions - still the pieces were all quite beautiful and worth the visit.

Monday: We began our trip into the Sacred Valley early to beat the crowds at the Incan sites. We started at Saqsaywamán, which has beautiful walls, before heading to Q`enqo. We made an attempt to follow the guide book´s instructions for walking through the valley, but we were thwarted by incorrect maps and vague descriptions. We found Lago, where we met a student who gave us a tour of the site including the Temple of the Moon. Unfortunately it was in Spanish, but I got the jist of quite a bit of what she said. We attempted to rent horses for the next leg of the trek, but the we abandoned that once we realized the guide wasn´t coming with us. So on foot, we made our way to Pukapukara, a Inca layover site for travelers to rest. Then we reached Tambomachay, which was a stop on the origninal Inca trail from Cuzco to MP for cleansing. We caught a collectivo, which took us to Pisaq, and we spent the afternoon wandering around the ruins.


Jim in the throne at Saqsaywamán




Tuesday: 4 AM, someone was hammarring something in the hostel we were staying in? 6 AM, bells at the Catholic church start ringing for 20 min as a call to mass. Finally the alarm goes off and we head to Ollantaytambo for one last set of ruins before catching the train to Aguas Calientes. Ollantaytambo was one of the few places the Spanish lost a major battle. The fortress is built into cliffs, which allowed the Incans to through stuff down. Plus they flooded the plains, which meant the Spanish horses had trouble in the mud. We spent the morning wandering around the sight before heading off to the train to Aguas Calientes. The guide book warns, but did not fully prepare us for how ugly a town Aguas Calientes is. It is a necessary evil that one must spend the night there to maximize the time at Machu Picchu the next day. Everyone there is trying to take advantage of the tourists. At dinner, they miscalculated the bill and added a ¨tax¨to the total. I had to use my angry Spanish. In the end the battle was mine, and we saved five dollars. The restaurants are all really expensive and the food is poor. They operate under the theory that no one comes back it so it doesn´t matter. I bought a deck of cards that night as a gift for someone, but the deck only had 51 cards (no 4 of hearts). Sadly I heard an American college student exclaim, ¨This is the best city I´ve ever been to.¨ I felt bad for him.

The ruins at Ollantaytambo

Wednesday: Up at 4 AM, we got in line for the bus to take us to the Picch. At 5:30 the busses leave, and we´re on the second bus. We reach MP and get in another line to enter the park. At 6:00 AM they open the doors, and we race across the site to stand in another line to climb Wayna Picchu (they only let 400 people each day). We´re number 37 and 38. At 7 AM we begin the climb up to the summit (it´s the big mountain in the standard photos). At 7:40, we´re sitting on the summit staring into the fog. We had to wait 3 hrs for the fog to lift completely, but it was well worth the time. Seeing MP unveiled like that was amazing. We headed down the back side of WP to the Temple of the Moon. While not overwhelmingly spectacular, it was one of the highlights for me because we had the ruins completely to ourselves (over 3000 people visited MP that day). We made our way back to the site for some quick refreshments before we hired a guide to take us around the main site. Maria was an outstanding guide who did a great job of explaining the history, facts, hypotheses, engineering, and archeology. We both enjoyed MP much more because of her tour. Finally it was time to head down. I talked to the vendor of the deck of cards and showed him the problem. I was surprised how well he responded. He picked up another deck that was shrink wrapped and opened it. He let me count the cards. I had all the cards, plus an extra four of hearts. We both started laughing. He exchanged the deck without a problem. The train ride had some surprises. About an hour in, there was a dance done by someone in ceremonial clothes. The dance is done to make offerrings to the Vigins of the Sun. It ends with a lament (big surprise). Then our conductors changed to models and we got a fashon show. Weird.

The observatory at Machu Picchu early in the morning

Jim climbing Wayna Picchu

Daniel on the steps up Wayna Picchu

The tunnel before the summit

Looking down on MP through the clouds

The observatory from the summit of WP

Us near the summit of WP

Daniel descends the back side of WP

Jim descends the back side of WP

We really went to MP

The postcard shot.  Can you see the profile of the Incan face in the mountain?

Jim at the main gate to the city

Thursday: We had a great breakfast in Ollantaytambo at Heart´s Cafe. The food was outstanding, and the owner donates all of the profits to charity. She also does a lot of work in the local Andean communities. We took a taxi to Moray where we checked out the ruins. There is speculation that the Incas used this as a plant laboratory to test growning conditions. From there we went to Salinas, where we checked out the salt production - which was constructed by the Incas and is still in use today. Then we had a long collectivo ride back to Cuzco.

The salt pans

I´m now back in Lima. Tonight I´m taking a bus to Chiclayo and then a second tomorrow to Chachapoyas for more ruins. I´m looking forward to getting off the beaten track.

It´s a Jungle Out There

I´m not really sure how to blog about nine full days in the Manu jungle, so I´m going to tell a little about Manu, briefly describe each day, list the wildlife we saw and show photos.  You are required to go with a tour company.  Daniel and I went with Pantiacolla.   Here´s what how they describe Manu:

¨Manu National Park was established in 1977 and in recognition of its uniqueness was designated a ''World Heritage Site” ten years later. Manu is internationally acclaimed as one of the most biodiverse areas on earth.

Approximately half the area of Switzerland, the Manu Biosphere is a complete ecosystem with protected watershed embracing Andean montane cloud forest, tropical lowland forest and the Alto Madre de Dios and Manu river drainage systems. The biosphere itself is subdivided into national park and two adjacent zones, one for tourism and the other for cultural subsistence. It is home to over 1000 species of birds, 15,000 species of plants, over 200 species of mammals, and untold numbers of insects, and within its heart remain yet uncontacted peoples.

Manu retains healthy populations of jaguar, tapir, anteater, black caiman, giant otter, and among the 13 species of monkey we find the unique pigmy marmoset, the smallest monkey in the world, and the nocturnal night monkey. Because of Manu's low human population and their continued use of traditional hunting techniques, the animals in the park show little fear of man and are more readily approachable than in many other rainforest locations. Manu, therefore, offers unparalleled animal watching opportunities.¨

Day 1:  We were picked up from our Hostel at 5 AM and drive to the bus where we met everyone else.  We pilled into the bus and drove into the mountains for about 3 hrs and stopped in the colonial town of Paucartambo for breakfast.   The rest of the day was spent driving down  into the cloud forest.  That afternoon we went for a short walk and saw the Cock of the Rock (birds) among others.  We also saw monkeys for the first time.

Day 2:  We were again up at  5 AM and the driving continued.  My group got out of the bus at an Orchid garden.   The caretaker has over 200 species of local orchids and has discovered new species.  We  then hiked for 2 hrs to Atalaya , where we switched to a boat.  The boat took us to the Pantiacolla Lodge, where we did a night hike to look for lizzards, insects, spiders, and frogs.   This lodge was paradise.

Day 3:  We took the boat down river to Lake Salvador.  We hiked to the lake then switched to a catamaran.   We spent the next few hours watching birds and the giant otters.  On the way back a giant thunderstorm struck, which soaked us all.  We all seemed to take it in stride. 

Day 4:  We woke early  to visit the Macaw lick.  The  macaws and parrot eat seeds, which are poisonous to them, so they need to eat the clay to obtain certain minerals which help them digest the seeds.  We spent most of the morning there.  That afternoon we headed up river to another lodge, where we stayed in tents.  It was the low point of our lodgings, but still reasonably comfortable.  We went on another night hike.

Day 5: We headed up the Manu River into the  reserve zone.  This area is in the part of the national park, which is accessible to tourists.  That afternoon, we reached the lodge where we stayed for  two nights.  We went to a second lake for more wildlife viewing.

Day  6:  We returned to the lake to look for more wildlife.  We then headed across the river to search for the Wooly monkey, which we didn´t see.  After lunch, it was more wildlife view at a third lake, where we did find the Wooly monkey.

Day  7:  This was a long day.  We headed back down the Manu River towards the airport so those on the 7 day tour could depart.    A long boat ride from the airport got us to Pantiacolla Lodge.  We went on another night hike.

Day 8:  We rose early to visit a second macaw lick.  Here there were different species of macaw and parrots.  After breakfast at the lodge, we went on a long hike to search for wildlife.  After lunch we headed up river to a beautiful hot spring and spent the afternoon lounging.

Day 9: Long day. It rained hard. We went from Pantiacolla Lodge back to Atalaya, where we met the bus back to Cuzco.  On the  way up the river, we had to get out an push the boat.  We made it back to our hostel around 10 PM.

 Wildlife Sightings:

Dusty Titi
Red Howler
White-fronted capuchin
Brown Capuchin

Capybara (world´s largest rodent)

Woolly mouse

Southern River Otter
Giant Otter

Black Caiman
White Caiman
Yellow  Headed Side Neck Turtle
Tree Frog
Poison Dart Frog
Boa Constricter
Other Lizards and Snakes

Insects/Spiders/Butterflies/Moths (list incomplete):
89 butterfly
owl butterfly
Short-horned grasshoppers
Airplane grasshoppers
Walking sticks
Leaf cutter ants
Army ants
Cobra Ants
Wolf spirders

Black Skimemr
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Striated Heron
Capped Heron
Fasciated Tiger Heron
Rufescent  Tiger Heron
Cocoi Heron
Large Billed Tern
Muscovy Duck
Horned Screamer
Orinoco Goose
Greater Yellow Headed Vulture
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Green Ibis
Puna Ibis
Great Black Hawk
Black Caracara
Red Throated Caracara
Pale Winged Trumpeter
Watled Jacana (Jesus Bird - he looks like he can walk on water)
Pied Lapwing
Plumbeous Pigeon
Blue Headed Macaw
Scarlet Macaw
Blue and Yellow Macaw
Red and Green Macaw
Chestnut Fronted Macaw
Tui Parakeet
Cobalt Winged Parakeet
Blue Headed Parrot
Mealy Parrot
Yellow Crowned Parrot
Masked Trogon
Black Tailed Trogon
Green Kingfisher
Amazon Kingfisher
Ringed Kingfisher
Black Fronted Nunbird
Crimson Crested Woodpecker
Andean Cock of the Rock
Black Tailed Manakin
Vermillion Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Violaeous Jay
Purplish Jay
White Winged Swallow
Silver Beaked Tanager
Blue Gray Tanager
Paradise Tanager
Red Capped Cardinal
Dusty Green Oropendula
Giant Cowbird
Purple Honey Creeper
Blue Crowned Trogon
Tropical Flycatcher
Piet Pern
Ringed Kingfisher
Spangled Cotinga
Yellow Rumpted Cacique
White-throated Toucan
Red Bellied Macaw
Red Stained Woodpecker
Umbrella Bird

Ruins in the high Andies

The entrance to the park

Brown Capachin Monkey

San Pedro Lodge (1st night)

The Boatride

Exiting the boat

Parrots at the general store in Boca Manu

Our lodge in the reserve

Scary natural defense on the trees (glad there was no bushwhacking)

Wildlife at the airport

Lizard on a night hike

Owl Butterfly

Wolf Spider

Leaf-cutter ants

Sunrise on the river

Poison Dart Frog

Howler Monkey

The river  the bus crossed on the way home (it was raining hard that morning)

Giant Otters


Red and Green Macaws

The clay lick

Red and Green Macaws

White Caiman



Spider  monkey

A herd of wild pigs

The second clay lick

The second clay lick

Squirrel Monkey

Success on Yanapaccha!

After two aborted climbing attempts (Tocllaraju and Chopicalqui) due to illness, Daniel and I successfully climbed Yanapaccha (5460 m) via the West Face on Sunday. The route requires snow and ice climbing to 60 degrees and over coming two bergschrunds. We headed back into the beautiful Llanganuca Valley for a third time.

This time we took the winding road up towards the pass.

From the switchback at kilometer 42, we found the path that traversed (more or less) around toward the base camp. There were lots of stray cairns, so there was some confusion.

As we got close, we were spotted by a cook for a guided party. He guided us to the campsite and chatted with us awhile before he had to go cook. Our campsite was nestled into this basin with a lake very close to the tent site. The views were unbelievable.

The start of the glacier is about a 10 min walk from the tent. The climb starts with 15 m of ice to 60 degrees before mellowing out. The route goes to the center of the snow bowl (left in the photo) and then pretty much goes straight up to the summit. The steepness increases to about 40 degrees high in the bowl. Above the shrunds, 45-60 degree snow climbing is required.

That night it started snowing quite heavily as we ate dinner. Even though the snowfall was seemed heavy, very little had collected in camp.

The next morning we were up at 2 AM and spent a lot of time getting organized. We were on the glacier by 4 AM. Daniel led the short ice pitch, and we began heading up the glacier. We strayed a little too far to climbers right, but a by crossing a snow bridge over a large crevasse, we were able to fix this. Once we were high on the face, we got great views of the Huandoy group in the early morning light.

And Huascaran

We climbed into the bergshrund for a short rest while the guided party headed up and over the shrund via a small snow bridge.

I led out from here, on my pitch I placed one ice screw and three pickets. When I ran out of gear, Daniel took over, leading us to the second shrund. There was again a small step that could be used to climb over the shrund. I took over leading again. Here´s Daniel waiting for the clients of the guide to climb over the step.

I lead to the top of the ridge. Here Daniel took over and led to the summit along a narrow snow ridge. From the summit he belayed me across the ridge. There was lots of exposure.

We talked with the guide and clients at the summit, who were all extremely friendly. The guide had left anchors about every 60 m during the steep part of his climb so he could lower his clients from anchor to anchor. We asked him if we could use them for rappelling. After thinking for a moment, he said that if we started now and were quick it would not be a problem. Awesome! We only had to leave one picket behind at the top. We rappelled using a 60 m half-rope and a 60 m pull line. The system is light weight, but the thin pull line tangles like crazy, making the rope managment a lot of work. Still we did the three rappels down the face quite quickly.

From underneath the second shrund we quickly downclimbed back down towards the glacier´s edge. At this point clouds were blowing over the mountain.

We downclimbed the 60 degree ice to get off the glacier. We were back in camp by about 11 AM watching the guided party return.

As we were packing up, we had a pleasant surprise. The guide came over and told us that there was a lot of extra soup that was going to go to waste if we didn´t come over and eat it. We spent the next hour plus eating soup and chatting with the guide (Next time I climb in the CD, I will definitely hire a cook - they´re inexpensive and they train before they can become a mountain cook. The guide was saying they´re the best of anywhere he´s ever guided including Nepal, Patagonia, Aconcagua...). Before long it was time to say goodbye so we could make it back to Huaraz that night.

The cook walked us out of camp and pointed us in the right direction. We again followed the cairned trails. Unfortunately we took the wrong one. It lost several hundred meters of elevation and gained it again (training for J-berg). We got back to the road around 3:45. By 4 PM we were on a bus to Huaraz.

The bus ride was interesting. The bus could not make the switchback turns in one go, so it had to back up and try again for almost everyone. At one point during the ride, there was some sort of smoke/fog coming up from the panels in the aisle. No one, including the bus staff, seemed to take more than a passing notice. After we got off the dirt roads, the bus pulled over to the side, everyone got off; and they proceeded to wash the bus. It was a strange trip.

I did have fun on the bus playing with the little girl (3?) sitting a few rows in front of me. She would climb up to look over her seat and I would make face. She would laugh and laugh. She also played peak-a-boo with my by hiding behind her seat and popping out the top or the side. As long as I smiled or made a surprised face, she would laugh hysterically. At one point she said something about a gringo (me), I missed the rest, but all the women around her turned to look at me and laughed. Anyway, that was the fun part of the bus ride. I guess funny faces are a universal language to small children.

Daniel´s Photos:

Chopicalqui Moraine Camp (aka the infirmary at 5000 m)

On Wedensday, Daniel and I headed back to the Llanganuco (where we had climbed Pisco) to make an attempt on Chopicalqui. We headed out with three other climbers we met: J, A, and M. They were interested in sharing a collectivo to the trailhead, which was fine, but they wanted to leave late in the morning. Daniel and I ultimately agreed but we should have gone on our own. Everything is slower with a large group. Ultimately we made it to the trailhead by 12:30 and started our hike to the moraine camp.

The trail starts off ascending through a forest and meadows before you gain the moraine.

Daniel on the moraine of the Kintzl Glacier with Huascaran Sur in the background.

Huascaran Norte

We got to the moraine camp around 5 PM, which did not leave that much time for camp chores such as water gathering, cooking, setting up the tent... (it gets dark here around 6 PM). We should have left Huaraz earlier.

Here I am getting ready to pump water. I had to construct a dam here so a pool would form. The area was safe in the evening, but the next morning this area was a bowling alley with rocks that would fall as the sun hit the high mountain. Once we gathered water we set about cooking dinner. I enjoyed beans and rice, a variation from Freezer Bag Cooking, while Daniel ate Jaegertoph (beef, noodles and mushrooms). During dinner, we had a friendly discussion about who had the better meal.  By morning, I think it was clear whose was better.  By 9 PM we were settled in our sleeping bags for the night. Or so I thought...

Around 10 PM, Daniel bolted out of the tent, and I heard the sounds of vomitting nearby. Apparently the Jaegertoph did not agree with his stomach. As a result, the two of us got very little sleep that night. I lost count of the number of times he left the tent, but he had a very, very unpleasant night. I am extremely grateful that he was speedy each time and there was no mess in the tent.

By 8:30 AM the sun had hit camp, and I ate breakfast, while Daniel managed to hold down some tea. Daniel hadn´t slept at all, plus he was feeling weak and worried that the vomitting might return. He was definitely going down to Huaraz. Other than being tired, I felt fine. I could go up. We talked with others in the camp: J hadn´t slept much, A had diarrea, and M had a cough that may have been part of a cold. A and M decided to wait a day at 5000 m to see if they could recover enough to climb. Your body is already taxed at 5000 m, healing takes a lot longer there so I was not optimistic. J was planning to go up with a group of four from France, who also had a sick climber. This camp had turned into a hospital ward of sorts. No one was moving out of camp to the high camp with any sense of urgency and I was not optimistic about the other climbers´ health, so I decided to descend with Daniel.

I loaded up my pack with extra gear to lighten the load for Daniel, who was feeling understandably weak due to lack of food and sleep, and down we went. About a third of the way down, we ran into a porter who offered to carry down Daniel´s pack (for a fee of course), which helped quite a bit. Daniel then took some of the gear I was carrying and down we went. There was a cab waiting at the trailhead, so after I negociated the price down, we were off to Huaraz. In Yungay, the cab driver explained that there was a problem with the wheels wobbling. He helped us get a collectivo back to Huaraz.

When we got back, there was a massive stage set up in the center of town, and around 7 PM the singing started. Not good singing either, and this being Peru, louder is better (sigh). It took a long time, but I fell asleep. Daniel slept through the night and dinner and breakfast have stayed down. We´re going to try to sneak in a two day climb of Yanapaccha before our bus on Tuesday back to Lima. Hopefully, we´ll get a little more climbing in on the ¨climbing¨ part of our trip. In 21 days, I´ve put on my crampons twice.

Oh, by the way, this is Chopicalqui (6354 m):

Our route would have been the beautiful southwest ridge (AD), which follows the skyline from the right side of the photo to the summit.

Exploring the Chavin Culture

 After two nights of recovering in town, I was feeling much better, but my climbing partner was still in the mountains.  As a result, I headed for Chavin de Huantar.  This town is about a three hour bus ride from Huaraz along a narrow, mostly dirt road that crosses over to the East side of the Cordillara Blanca.  The sleepy little town houses an archaeological site of a Chavin Temple.

The streets were often abandoned, but during lunch they were filled with children playing and relaxing during their break in school.

I headed to the temple and hired a local guide, whose English was quite good for only six months of practice.  He did an excellent job of taking me through the temple and explaining the significance of what I was seeing.

The Chavin culture was one of the most significant in Peru and dominated from approximately 1000 BC to 300 BC.  They developed quite a bit of art, engineering, and spiritual culture, which was later stolen by the Incas and others.  The temple I visited was discover in the early 20th century and buried in the mid 20th century by landsides.  It has been largely excavated through the hard work of graduate students from Stanford and locals.

The temple was used for a variety of religous serves and run by a shauman (perhaps seven).  The shauman(s) would give the people hallucinogenic drugs, including juice from the San Pedro cactus, which suposedly helped the people temporarily cross from the human plan to the spiritual.  The shaumans would use a sophisticated system of water ducts and mirrors to create special effects to manipulate the population.  It was quite facinating.

The  Chavin were also good astronomers.  The stone shone above has seven holes that would be filled with water.  At a certain time of the year, the shauman could stand at a particular location and the light of seven particular stars would be reflected in the water.  This told them it was time for a particular ceremony.

This was the main portal.  Half of the stairs are black and half are white symbolizing day/night and female/male.  The columns have female and male art work that has been etched into them.

The coolest part of the tour was getting to go into the temple itself and see the different passageways and chamber used to prepare for different ceremonies.  In this corridor, you can see the Incan cross, which was around 1000s of years before the Incan Empire.

Me in the tunnels.

The way out.  Before we descended, my guide assured me that the ladder was not the original used by the Chavin.

This is the only remaining tenor on the outside.  There were orginially over 400 around the temple.  Many are in museums around Peru.  The face has the eyes of the Eagle (god of the sky) and teeth of an alligator (god of the underworld) and the nose of a human.  This is to symbolize the transformation that takes place during the ceremonies.

After the tour I had lunch and headed back to Huaraz.  It was a great day!

I am feeling better this morning so Daniel (back from Tocllaraju) and I are now planning one last adventure in the mountains before we head to the jungle.