Cordillera Blanca Mountaineering
Oct. 4-24th, 2009
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We enjoyed a couple of week-long mountaineering trips into the Ishinca and Llanganuco Valley’s of the Cordillera Blanca – ‘White Range’ of Peru in October of 2009 in this internationally popular area for climbers and trekkers. Most climbers visit here from June through August when the weather is considered most stable, although apparently May and September/early October were the best climbing months this year which made for a great trip for us with almost no other climbers in the peaks, and an unusually peaceful experience in South America’s greatest climbing range for beginner to expert alike.
Our climbing team of Eli Helmuth, Lawrence Kovacs, Frank Nederhand, and CLG apprentice guide Mike Arnold enjoyed overall great conditions and weather in what is considered the ‘off-season’ for Peruvian mountain climbing. Eli will be offering trips to the Cordillera Blanca again in September of 2010 with 10 and 15 day itineraries available to this great ‘white range’.
The Cafe Andino in Huaraz along with the Meza Family Hostel behind it were the main hangouts during our preparation and rest time in town. The Andino is one of the most amazing coffee house/restaurants in the world.
Hatun Ulloc spire.
Our drive to the trailhead for the Ishinca Valley was less than an hour from our lodging in Huaraz and gave spectacular views of these pointy peaks on the southwestern end of the Ocshapalca Massif.
The east face of Ranrapalca (20,217′) shines in the morning sun- viewed from our hostel in Huaraz it is an inspiring sight while preparing for a trip into the heart of these steep-sided peaks.
The bouldering and rock climbing in the Ishinca Valley is alone worth the trip and we managed to find time on the approach hike for some stretching out on these well featured granite erratics.
Nevado Tocllaraju shining in the afternoon sun as viewed from basecamp.
After an initial summit of Urus, I gave our team the option of a climb of the more moderate peak, Ishinca (18,142′) or the more formidable Tocllaraju (19,790′) and being an ambitious crew, the latter was chosen. After a night at high camp at 16,076′, we climbed to above 18,372′ in the early morning hours before being turned back by the acute AMS being experienced by half of our team members, which left them too disabled to continue upward.
Frank and Mike high on the glaciated slopes of Urus East with the Palcaraju Glacier tumbling down into the morainal lakes below.
We unroped for the scrambling section through penitente fields and 3rd class rock to the summit of Urus East.
Basecamp in the Ishinca Valley was peaceful as we were the only climbers in the area in a valley that can see more than 60 climbers at a time during the peak season of June- August. Our strategy of climbing in the ‘off-season’ paid off as we experienced only minimal moisture during the majority of our trip and the few afternoon ‘spring storms’ were benign and did not affect any of our climbing plans for our first three climbing objectives: East Urus, Tocllaraju, and Pisco.
On our rest day, we hiked the 10 minutes above camp to climb on the excellent bolted rock route on this granite crag of about 45m in height. The one established route on this cliff is a mostly crack route in the 10+ range that we top-roped laps on for a few hours of ‘rest’.
The porter that we hired to help bring our camping and extra climbing gear down from our high camp with about about 90# in his customized aluminum framed carrier.
Hiking out of the Ishinca Valley after a week in alpine paradise.
Our final week in the Cordillera Blanca was in the Llanganuco Valley, pictured here looking down valley to the west with the Orgoncocha Lake in the foreground.
The first climbing group we encountered in the peaks- a Peruvian guided group of climbers from Scotland and Belgium skirt a gaping crevasse on the way to the summit ridge of Pisco.
The northeast face of the south summit of Huandoy (20,210′) showing fresh slab avalanche fractures on this steep, unsupported slope.
Eli Helmuth of ClimbingLife Guides is returning to the Cordillera Blanca of Peru in September of 2010 for a two week climbing trip that will include mountain climbs in the Ishinca and Llanganuco Valleys.
Peru requires that all guides be IFMGA licensed and Eli is one of the few spanish speaking and Peru experienced U.S. based IFMGA guides that specializes in climbing trips in the Andes of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina (including Patagonia).
Please call with questions or to book your next backcountry skiing, mountaineering, or rock climbing trip:
ClimbingLife Guides is an authorized permittee of Rocky Mountain National Park, Eldorado Canyon State Park, Denali National Park, and the Boulder Mountain Open Space.