Chopicalqui, Peru Alpine Climbing • June 9 to 26, 2005

Our second trip in Peru this year was a Chopicalqui expedition, which we chose to combine with another jaunt in the Ishinca Valley to acclimatize. We were again joined by Peter and Emilio Alvarado, the latter our logistics manager, cook and all-around organizer, the former his son who took advantage of the chance to climb some more with Mark, and pick up some portering work.

Other Recent Trips

After one member had to back out due to an accident in the family, Kathy was joined by Laurel Arndt, of Phoenix, AZ.


We again began with a day "hike" to Laguna Churup at 4485 meters above sea level (14,870 feet). Laurel is a keen rock climber, so we went a bit out of our way to find some appropriate recreation along the way.


For our camp in the Ishinca Valley, we have become attached to a site in a relatively "upstream" location, with morning sunlight starting from about 8am.


A good rest day and waiting-for-dinner activity, Peter caught on to Gin Rummy pretty quickly.


After an acclimatization day hiking around the base of Ishinca, our first climbing objective was Urus Este, at 17,778 feet. Laurel is seen here on the summit, with Tocllaraju in the background.


After a rest day, our next climbing objective was Ishinca. Laurel is also a steep ice enthusiast, so we took in a short, but very vertical variation, which at 16,500 feet felt a little different than the Ouray ice park!


After the lung-busting start, the climb was straightforward, if hot. Laurel here takes a break before the final steep summit slope. The busted-up face of Palcaraju is in the background.


Another rest day, and it was off to Tocllaraju. The top part of its West Face is seen here in the background.


We returned to the very scenic camp we discovered on the previous trip. The views and (relatively) warm evening sunshine were just as we remembered them.


OK, not so warm, but nice wall-paper in the kitchen!


The evening sunshine on Aquilpo, with part of Copa in the background.


Laurel enjoying beautiful weather on the summit of "Toclla". The impressive South Face of Cop-a in the background here.


Descending from Tocllaraju, Kathy and Laurel were met by Mark and Peter, to help them carry their high camp down to base camp. We couldn't have asked for a better day!


The following day we said good-bye to the Ishinca Valley, and returned to Huaraz for a well-deserved rest and recovery day.


One likes to think that in the high Andes of Peru, traffic jams are un-heard of, but all it takes is an untimely meeting of two mule trains and a sudden need to adjust a poorly balanced load, et voilá! Grid-lock!


Local children likely take the mountains in their backyard very much for granted.


Here are Laurel, Kathy and Peter descending into the smoke-filled air accompanying the San Juan holiday, when both country and city dwellers light bonfires and fire off bottle-rockets during several days of festivities.


Mark took in the beauty of perfectly-fashioned adobe bricks set out to dry.


Our next and final project was 20,817 foot Chopicalqui. Acclimatized and (we hoped) rested, Laurel, Kathy, Peter and his cousin Miguel headed straight to moraine camp, at above 16,000. Although Laurel is seen here on descent, the approach to camp follows this dramatic moraine, where the traces of glacial flow and retreat can be easily seen.


Many climbing groups appear to have determined that Alpamayo and Huascarán are both out of condition, or too risky, this year. This, plus political unrest temporarily closing the border with Bolivia, resulted in much traffic being diverted to the Ishinca Valley and Chopicalqui. Our arrival at Moraine Camp coincided with that of a very large asian expedition, plus a half-dozen other smaller parties. The usual camp being "chocker" as our Kiwi friends would call it, we found a gorgeous camp with expansive views (and better water gathering), just above.


A very social day on the approach to Chopicalqui high camp! Climbers and their porters and guides are strung out here on the lower glacier. Despite the numbers, a friendly esprit-de-corps seemed to rule among most of these groups. The porters prefer to descend off the snow for the night, while the climbers and guides deployed themselves among two camps at about 18,400 feet.


A couple of groups establishing their high camp in the early evening.


Despite our efforts to eat and sleep well in Huaraz, the challenge of sufficient caloric intake conspired with the weather to turn us back from the summit the next morning. The in-and-out clouds cleared around us as we descended to the road, and Huaraz.


With every year we return to Peru, we become more attached to its beautiful, alpine peaks, and its genuine, hard-working people. We plan to be back for an Ishinca-Chopicalqui expedition again in June of 2006. Join us!

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