During my last week in Huaraz Lena flew down to join me. This was her first time to South America and her 6th continent. I was fully acclimatized, but she had just arrived from sea level so we spent a few days wandering around Huaraz and exploring a new lake called Laguna Llaca at 14,000 feet.
|Market in Huaraz|
Besides buying food and trying to figure out transport to the trailhead of Pisco, the 18,871 foot mountain that we were planning to climb, one of our main goals was to make a fake alpine club card. The national park service of Peru--that oversees Huascaran National Park which encompasses the Cordillera Blanca mountain range--continues to come up with absolutely brilliant ideas on how to manage climbers and other visitors. In 2011 they decided that there are only two ways that they would allow you to climb a mountain: 1. Go with a guide, or 2. Be a member of some sort of alpine club. This decision came right after they closed one of the glaciers because they decided that it was melting too fast because people were walking on it! A little bit of ingenuity easily combats this utter stupidity. Don’t get me started on agencies thinking that they can close the outdoors because it is “unsafe”—that will be a rant for another time, but this one was easy to get around. We simply made our own alpine club cards that in the end we never ended up having to show the park rangers. But the hardest part was finding a place in Huaraz with a color printer that actually worked and then finding a place to laminate the cards. Luckily everything came through just a few minutes before we left town for the trailhead. Somewhere in a country where nothing seems like it will work—everything works out just fine.
Since Lena had never been mountaineering before I had to teach her a little bit about walking in crampons. But we took one look at the horrendous glacial moraine that we had to cross to get to the lowest glacier and snow and it was an easy decision to show her walking in crampons and self arrest techniques on the dirt instead of the snow rather than walk/scramble/crawl across the moraine more than once. We climbed down to the bottom of the lateral moraine to try out the trickiest section of the whole climb during the daylight rather than trying it navigate the vertical sand and dirt trail at 3am with headlamps.
|Looking back on Pisco basecampe with Yanapaqcha (the mountain I climbed a week earlier) and Chopi in the background.|
After a few minutes of snow school on a grassy slope and a few hours of sleep we started our climb. Once we finally got to the glacier, after getting lost in the moraine for a bit, we put crampons one and Lena took her first few steps in crampons on real snow and ice. Just a few hours later we were on the summit of Pisco at 18,871 feet with totally clear skies and one of the best views that I’ve ever had in the Cordillera Blanca. Sharing that climb with Lena made it even more special. It ended up being one of my favorite climbs ever.
|The view of Alpamayo and Artesonraju from the summit of Pisco.|
|Chopi from Pisco base camp.|
We made our way back to camp, threw our gear on a donkey—I say threw because we were a few hours late coming back and our donkey driver was in a hurry to get back down. I’ve never seen a Peruvian in such a hurry! We caught a taxi back to Huaraz and showered and repacked so we could jump on a bus the next morning back to Lima and then on a few flights to Easter Island.
|Lena at 18,871 feet on the summit of Pisco.|
Easter Island: Not that I had a list of travel destinations, but if I did Easter Island would have been on the top. The next post or two will be about that journey.