Peru Expedition • May 22 to June 11, 2006

In late May and June, Marc Gallie, Rich Davis, David Dewar and Glenn Beaton joined Mark for about 3 weeks in Peru. Our goals were, a) have a good time, b) climb a bunch of mountains, c) discover the local scene, from culture to summits to hopping bars, d) to come home healthy and happy, and e) the have a good time (again).

The tentative route to these objectives was to embark on several ascents, starting in the Ishinca area, and finishing with a climb of Chopicalqui. Our hopes were to climb Urus, Ishinca, and Tocllaraju before continuing on to Chopicalqui.

The weather this year played an interesting roll in the trip. The 3 weeks prior to our arrival had been almost cloudless, with the only precipitation coming the day before we arrived in Huaraz, with a short but intense storm which dumped rain in town and about a foot (depending on location) up in the hills. Interestingly, at 5200 meters on Tocllaraju, we found a very weak layer of facetted snow crystals under the storm snow, most likely the result of surface hoar formation during the dry spell.

The first few days of the trip were glorious, as you can see from the photos below. However, as it came time to head up to Tocllaraju high camp, el tiempo took a turn for the worse, and we were frustrated in our summit attempt by generally quite nasty weather. Our only consolation was that hardly anyone (perhaps nobody) had gotten up the peak so far that year. The funky weather continued and forced a change in plans for the last part of the trip as well. Read on below...

Peter Alvarado, Aspirant Guide and son of long time "Our Man in Peru" Emilio Alvarado, joined Mark as co-guide.

Other Recent Trips

As with many of the trips we do in the Cordillera Blanca, we started this one with a hike up to the beautiful Laguna Churup, seen here. This is a great acclimatization hike bringing us to about 14,650 feet above sea level.


The "welcome" sign at the Laguna Churup trail head. I guess the park service is not much opposed to a bit of mosquito hunting.


On our hike back down into civilization we encountered this mysterious mural. Good advice for the aspiring Andean mountaineer.


The day after our acclimatization hike we head into the Ishinca Valley which will be our home for the following 13 nights. Here, in Pashpa, we unload the van and await the burros.


Hiking into the Ishinca area, Huascaran behind.


Marc and Rich nearing Ishinca Base Camp. Tocllaraju is the big peak behind.


On our first day in the valley we do a day hike. On this particular day we crossed a high 5200 meter pass under Tocllaraju and Palcaraju. Glenn and Mark cross a bit of snow just below the pass.


For our first climb, on day 5 of the trip, we climbed Urus Este, a 5420 meter (17,778 feet) peak just above base camp. In this photo Peter, Rich and David near the summit rocks.


Peter, Rich and David with Tocllaraju behind.


A beautiful day on the summit of Urus Este. From left to right we have Glenn, Marc, David, Rich, Peter, and, some 10 kilometers behind, Nevado Copa.


After a day of rest in Base Camp we climbed Nevado Ishinca, a pretty 5530 meter (18.138 feet) peak to the south of our base camp. The normal route up is via the glaciated slopes on the left, then behind the left skyline to the well-defined summit. On this particular day we did a traverse of the peak descending on the right. This photo was taken from the descent.

The weather continues beautiful.


Another party ascends the final snow slope to the summit.


On the descent we stop for a lunch break on an oddly perched boulder near the edge of the glacier.


We took another rest day in base camp before heading up to Tocllaraju. The normal route climbs more or less directly and easily up to under the west face, then traverses left under the steep serac barrier. This last is usually crossed near its center, but this year it looked more formidable than normal and an end-run to the ridge-line on the left looked to be the only feasible route.

At the time of our arrival in the area, it appeared that nobody had been able to complete the route, so we reckoned we had a bit of exploring to do.

This photo was taken from Urus, some 4 days before we made the ascent to high camp.


Moving up to Tocllaraju high camp, at about 5200 meters. You can see the increased cloudiness as the weather changes.


Setting up high camp was a bit too exciting in gusting winds, snow and the occasional crash of thunder.

But we dutifully woke up at midnight for our climb. There were indeed a few stars out and we maintained a modicum of optimism. But not long into our climb the snow started to fall in earnest. We continued upward, hoping for the best, but eventually turned back in the snow and mist, concerned about the stability of the steep snow sloped disappearing into the darkness above.

We returned to high camp for a couple more hours of sleep before a quick breakfast and descent to Base camp. This photo was taken just as we got up (for the second time) and started taking down the camp.


The weather cleared a bit in the morning before closing in again about noon. Here we do a short rappel down a bit of steep snow on the descent to base camp. Just a few moments after this photo was taken, David (rappelling) triggered a thin slab avalanche that cleaned out the slope below. The slab ran on the layer of buried surface hoar.


Back in Base Camp the weather in the mountains continues to churn.


Our time in Ishinca was up. We packed up and headed out to Huaraz for a break, before starting the second part of our trip.


Say "hello" to Señor Burro.


Peter and Rich hiking out to the trail head.


Fields of quinoa and chocho on the walk out.

We took a rest day in Huaraz, cleaning laundry, fattening up and enjoying the city life. Unfortunately, Glenn received word from home that work obligations required his return to the USA.


We had a decision to make.... With the bad weather came new snow, and the chances of success on Chopicalqui diminished. With this realization and an understanding that dangerous snow slopes might preclude climbing above high camp, we elected to put our efforts into an ascent of Pisco Oeste, seen here.

Pisco is a great peak, 5752 meters (18,867 feet) in the very center of the range. The route climbs easy glacier to the col on the left, then follows the ridge, just on the back side in this view, to the summit.

Being a bit further west than Chopicalqui, it tends to be drier, and we had hoped that the new snow of concern on Chopicalqui would be less of an issue on Pisco. We were right.


Pisco from Base Camp. The high cloud over the summit, grew.


Supper in Base Camp. Emilio whips up a great dinner of chicken and fried potatoes. Unfortunately, the timing of the flash caught David with a fry halfway into his mouth!


The approach to high camp includes a crossing of the giant glacier descending east from the Huandoy Group. Peter, David, Marc and Rich negotiate a short but tricky descent in the moraine.


Rich and Marc not far from High camp, after crossing the rubble of the glacier.


Pisco high camp under Huandoy.


Again, the weather for our summit day proved foul, with intermittent snow and lots of cloud. But the track was good, as well as snow conditions, so we continued upward to the white-out summit.

We never really did get much of a view until things broke a bit on the descent, when this photo was taken.


Rich on the summit of Pisco.

And Marc....

And David....

And Peter.


Peter and David on the descent. Artesonraju on the far left.


David continues downward on snowy rock just above high camp.


The following morning, back in Pisco base camp, brought sunny breaks, but no serious improvement in the weather.


Marc befriends a burro in base.


Rich bids farewell to the mountains on the hike out. Chopicalqui behind.


Unloading the burros where the trail reaches the road. Marc continues his friendship with his favorite burro.


We had an extra day back in Huaraz, and chose to join the Alvarado family for a Pachamanca up at Emilio's house. A Pachamanca is Peru's answer to the buried-barbecue concept. Rocks are heated, 5 or 6 varieties of potatoes added, packets of wrapped spiced meat, beans, and the whole pile buried in the earth for about 45 minutes.

From left to right we have Pedro, our driver and Emilio's brother-in-law, Yolanda (Pedro's wife), Emilio behind, with David, Marc and Rich on the right. The pile of dirt between Pedro and David hides our lunch.


Removing the goodies from the "oven".

Back at the hotel, we heard rumors of a meter of new snow at Tocllaraju high camp.....

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