Urus Este, Ishinca, and Tocllaraju
After spending two days in Huaraz to recover a bit from our climb of Nevado Pisco we moved to the Ishinca valley where the plan was to climb Ishinca (5530 m) and Tocllaraju (6032 m).
We hiked in to the beautifully set Ishinca base camp and found a nice spot where we pitched our tent. We ate and went to bed.
When we got up for the climb of Ishinca at 2am of the first night, Jim had developed a cold with a bad throat pain and we decided to put in a rest day.
Later that day I climbed Urus (5420 m), which is an easy climb involving no glaciated terrain so I can safely be done alone. After a 5 hours round trip I arrived back in camp and Jim was already doing better. So we decided to give Ishinca a try on the following day.
At 4am the alarm went off and Jim was feeling ok. So we were good to go. We got up and where on our way by 5am. The climb was fairly straight forward. It involves some hiking until one reaches the glacier and then some easy glacier travel until the final step pitch which leads to the summit of Ishinca. Since we where both feeling a bit weak, we didn´t arrive on the summit until 1am. We only saw a couple other people on the climb: an Australian guy with whom we had a nice chat on the summit and two skiers. So few people on such a popular climb is probably quite unusual.
After our successful climb of Ishinca we decided to rest for one day. Besides enjoying the gorgeous scenery and eating Alps-style in the hut the only activity was to hike halfway up to the Tocllaraju glacier camp to store climbing gear for the climb of Tocllaraju which we had planned for the next day.
The next day (Sat, July 19) came and Jim was feeling even sicker than before. We discussed our options and Jim decided that it would be best for him to travel back to Huaraz to recover in town instead of staying at 4600 m in the cold and dry mountain air. It was very sad for Jim to abandon the Tocllaraju climb but it was the right decision. Since I was feeling good and was well acclimatized by now, we decided that I would try the climb and join Jim in Huaraz 2 days later.
I hooked up with Tony, an American from Los Angeles, and Paula, an Aconcagua mountain guide from Argentina, whom we had met on the previous day while caching gear. The plan was to move up to the glacier camp, spend the night there, and try Tocllaraju the following night.
Later that day I packed my stuff and started hiking up toward glacier camp. On the way, I picked up some of the cached gear (left Jim's stuff there), and arrived at the camp about 2 hours later. After I set up my tent, Tony and Paula had arrived as well. We enjoyed the beautiful views, melted snow, and cooked dinner. Besides us there where two parties at the camp: an American couple from Colorado and a Finish woman with her Peruvian mountain guide.
We wanted to get up at midnight to start out at 1am but somehow that didn´t quite happen... There was a lot of packing and cooking and shuffling about so that we weren´t on our way until 3am -- much later than planned. Paula led out, I was in the middle of the rope, and Tony at the end. After about an hour of walking Paula didn´t feel quite well, possibly an acclimatization issue, and decided to abort the climb and head back to camp. Tony and I continued.
We sped up a bit and soon reached the serac zone just before one enters the ridge. After stepping over a seemingly bottomless crevasse, we decided to belayed the next few pitches. There was some good ice for screws and later good snow for picket placements. The rest of the way up the ridge was a mix of normal glacier travel with some belayed crevasse crossings, a few steeper pitches that we belayed or overcame by using running picket belays.
We reached the the last pitch, which starts about 25-30 m below the summit, at 9:15 am. The couple from Colorado was on it. It looked steep but doable. After some debating, however, we had to acknowledge that is was fairly late in the day to spent another 1-2 hours to reach the true summit. Two days before we had witnessed a huge avalanche that came down the west face completely covering the trail. And on that same day a serac had fallen and the debris (microwave sized ice chunks) had covered the route as well. It was very hot on the mountain and so we decided to call it a day and started to head down an hour later.
We rappelled twice, wondering, where the pickets where that we had been told a Chilean party had left the day before. Later we would find out that the guide of the Finish woman had cleaned them when he bragged about it in camp. What a dumb ass. We rapelled using my 60 m rope and a 60 m 5 mm pull line. That combination worked quite well.
Back in camp I was pretty wiped out. It took me over an hour to pack the tent and my stuff and tie everything to my backpack. To make matters worse, on the way back I also had to carry Jim’s climbing gear that I had retrieved from the gear cache. Luckily, Tony and Paula helped me carry down another rope, Jim’s helmet, extra food, ice screws, etc etc
Back in camp, we celebrated the climb with a bottle of red wine from the hut, fresh tomatoes (!) that Paula had carried in, and some cheese and crackers.
The next day we organized a burrow and 2 horses to carry our stuff out. I arrived in Huaraz that evening where I met Jim who was feeling much better and who had visited some interesting ruins in Chavin. All was well and good and we made plans for our next climb.
Be sure to check out Jim s blog post about our adventures in the Ishinca valley.