July 28th, 2008

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: