Monday, October 10, 2011

Walking and Mountaineering excursions around Huaraz, Peru (September 8-18, 2011)

We decided to use Huaraz as a base of explorations for a few weeks.  Huaraz is smack against the amazing Cordillera Blanca, where there are 29 peaks over 6000 meters, over 600 glaciers, and a couple hundred lakes.

Our first excursion was with Patrick (Swiss German) and Natalie (Catalan), who accompanied us on a camping trip to Willcacocha Lake southwest of Huaraz: 

                                        (photos Craig Caparatta unless otherwise mentioned)

first, preparing for this excursion, Patrick went into the outskirts of Huaraz and brought back a specimen of San Pedro cactus, famous for its medicinal properties in South America...
he spent long hours cooking it down into a palatable tea, which we packed with us up into the hills

Willcacocha Lake at 3600m in the Cordillera Negra

our campsite, lakeside

... mellow campfire...
Sonja  (photo: Patrick Meury)

 Jeff (photo: Patrick Meury)

Huaraz at night backed by the Cordillera Blanca (photo: Patrick Meury)

early morning view of Huascarán and nearby peaks

...early morning tea for five... (photos: Patrick Meury)

Alán, local friendly dog who played with us all day

the scene at mid-morning

(photo: Patrick Meury)

... chilling and playing some songs...

Jeff relaxing in the shade

amazing light changes on the Cordillera Negra in mid-afternoon.  Willcacocha has one of the best broad views of the Cordillera Blanca range.

Natalie and Jeff (photo: Patrick Meury)


local ass


... Jason with cactus vision

later afternoon, after a quick storm rolled through the area (photo: Patrick Meury)

the four of us after a great day at the lake.  From here, Craig, Jason and Sonja headed towards Huancayo on bikes-- Jeff stayed behind in Huaraz to do some mountaineering.

(Remaining photos on this post: Arnaud de Lavelaye)

The second trip was a quickly-planned climb of 5750m Pisco, reputedly one of the easier nearby-peaks to climb in the Cordillera Blanca.  Jeff was accompanied by Arnaud de Lavelaye, Belgian mountaineer and cyclist whom we first met in Capurganá, Colombia in April 2011 after travelling from Panamá to Colombia on boats.  Arnaud's project is to be the first person to cycle to and climb the highest peak in each country in the western hemisphere, a daunting and massive undertaking.  Therefore, Huascarán (Peru's highest peak) was to be our main goal, with Pisco coming first as a training and acclimitazation climb.

Llanganuco Lake near the start of the climb to Pisco 

a glance back down the trail as we move upwards

the refuge at 4600m, inclement weather rolling in, obscuring all the peaks in the region (boo)

Jeff contemplating the huge moraine that we are to cross

Arnaud enjoying the scene

... now on the glacier the following morning, we were lucky to have strong moonlight to climb by...

working up in pre-dawn in fantastic alpine scenery

...Arnaud with the nearby stunning Huandoy as backdrop...

getting close to the summit now

Jeff taking a breather with the stunning Pirámide (5885m) in the background

Jeff and Arnaud on the summit of Pisco at 5750m at 7:45 AM, and cold

the mythical Chacraraju (6108m), from the summit of Pisco

two clowns on the summit of Pisco, backed by 6395m Huandoy

a great morning look at Huascarán, at 6768m our next project

... heading back down the mountain...
great Cordillera Blanca panorama, Artesonraju on the right (6025m)

this descent, as the ascent had been, featured some technical ice climbing above a dangerous crevasse zone.  We soloed all of this, for better or worse.

... meandering through a dicey crevasse field...

... we had great weather for the descent... and got off the glacier before the snow got too slushy...

our campsite not far below the start of the glacier

... incredible scenery heading down...

a good luck at the amazing mountain of Pisco, which we had never gotten a view of on the way up

this was the scene as we descended back down towards the Llanganuco lakes

... lush vegetation at the bottom...

The third excursion around Huaraz was an attempt on Huascarán.  Having researched thoroughly, and having discovered that there is a very dangerous and extensive crevasse, serac and avalanche zone called La Canaleta, we decided to hire a guide service for this trip.  Going with guides is not usual or desired for either Jeff or Arnaud (in fact usually to be avoided), but due to the reputed dangerous nature of the mountain it seemed an acceptable compromise.  We chose Enrique Expeditions in Huaraz.  As it was the end of the climbing season, we were given a big discount to join an already-scheduled expedition.  The deal was that we would carry all of our own stuff, even though the other clients would have mules carrying theirs. 

... starting up the lower slopes of Huascarán from Musho, with excellent clear weather...

we had great views of the Cordillera Negra all day

Jeff takes a rest with the north peak of Huascarán peaking through in the background

the group, besides Arnaud and Jeff, was composed of a Mexican-Australian couple, and an Italian

the mule train bringing up the rear

alpine lupine

nice trail

... the gorgeously-situated Camp One...

... spectacular sunset beyond the Cordillera Negra from Camp One...

Arnaud as we strike out for higher altitudes the following morning

the north peak of Huascarán, clear and gleaming

Arnaud rests with the humps of Huascarán Norte y Sur as the backdrop

Huascarán Sur, with its huge ice shield just left of center

resting somewhat below the start of the glacier

Jeff's gear

starting up the glacier in mid-afternoon

Manuel Maricón, our assistant guide

...coming up the glacier...

... Camp Two, dug out of the snow by the porteadores...
In Camp Two at daybreak the following morning

Manuel Maricón leads the porteadores across a sketchy ice bridge on the way to Camp Three

... this crevasse stopped our forward progress.  Even though there were various ice bridges across, the guides decided it wasn't passable, and decided to end the expedition here.  Arnaud and Jeff were furious, and had a heated conversation with the guides.  As he had done all morning, Manuel Maricón tried to convince us to turn around.  Meanwhile, Darwin Hijodeputa, the head guide, phoned the agency in Huaraz and reported a series of lies to his boss Enrique, explaining that the weather was bad (snowing and getting worse, far from the truth), that it had snowed all night and there was high avalanche danger (only flurries at night, avalanche danger actually very low), and that the crevasse was impassable (he never tried to find an alternative, which is his job, and ostensibly why we hired him!).  So, crestfallen and severely disappointed, we turned around here and headed back towards Camp One.

another look at the crevasse where we turned back
heading back down the glacier

this section featured some technical ice climbing, as there was a vertical ice wall perched directly above a deep crevasse.  Jeff making his way down.

this is the "terrible" weather on Huascarán only 30 minutes after the phone call.  Partly sunny and warm.
more "awful" and dangerous weather as we approach Camp One

Back in Huaraz, Jeff and Arnaud returned to Enrique Expeditions and had a long conversation with Enrique and later, the guides themselves.  It turns out that the guiding scene in Huaraz is a bit of a mafia, with only one guiding agency in Huaraz, Casa de Guias, licensed to operate in Huascarán National Park.  Thus, all guides are hired out through Casa de Guias, and as such are semi-autonomous and bounce from agency to agency based on demand.  Further, we learned that Darwin Hijodeputa and Manuel Maricón were going to earn the same amount of money whether the trip was 6 days (as planned) or four (as it turned out to be).  Adding this all up, it was clear that the guides had never had any intention of reaching the summit, and sabotaged our trip.  Bastards. 

We provided ample evidence of their lies and cowardice.   Enrique was fair and understanding and found himself in a difficult situation.  In the end, we were returned half of our investment ($250 each), and he deducted several days of pay from the guides, which we applauded. 

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