South America, Peru, Verónica, Soray, Salcantay

Publication Year: 1957.

Verónica, Soray, Salcantay. In May and June 1956 the French guide, Lionel Terray, the Dutch geologists, C. G. Egeler and Tom de Booy, and the Swiss, Raymond Jenny, made three remarkable ascents west of Cusco. From camp at 15,400 feet on the northern slopes of Verónica, 18,832 feet, they reconnoitered for several days before finding a snow couloir that gave them access to the northeast ridge. Using fixed ropes, on May 13 they climbed about 1000 feet to camp on a small snow-platform just below the ridge top. The Peruvian porter, Eliseo Vargas, who accompanied them on the whole of this climb, carried about ninety pounds on this very difficult ascent. The following day was spent reconnoitering and fixing ropes. On May 15 they all left on the 9½-hour climb to the summit. There were great technical difficulties, including a 200-foot rappel during the ascent.

Their camp on Soray, 18,964 feet, was established June 2 at 16,000 feet, on the glacier at the foot of the northern face of the mountain. The climb was made next day in doubtful weather with poor visibility. They had to climb two 60° ice-walls and cross two large and dangerous couloirs to reach the ridge east of the summit. This they followed for 1000 feet before they were blocked by a final ice cliff. Traversing out onto the south face, which dropped for 5000 feet below them, they climbed the last 300 feet to reach the summit at 5:30 P.M. The difficult descent took them until midnight. That night an avalanche swept down to within 50 yards of their camp. Next morning, while descending a couloir below this camp, they were nearly caught by another avalanche.

The party climbed Salcantay, 20,000 feet, by a new route which led diagonally across the north face. Leaving Camp I, at the base of the northeast ridge at 16,750 feet, in doubtful weather, June 10, the climbers traversed a steep slope, climbed an ice wall, a couloir, and another ice wall, where by exception they cut steps. (Ordinarily they climbed slopes up to 60° on crampons, using the ice axe for support only.) The ascent of a rock- and ice-ridge completed the climbing for that day. They cut a platform in the ice for Terray’s special tent that had a perpendicular back wall. Wall and floor fit exactly into the right angle of the niche, while the sloping part of the roof has the same pitch as the slope and is designed to let avalanches pass over it. There, at 19,000 feet, Egeler had an attack of kidney stones and had to remain the next day while the other three traversed 650 feet and climbed a very steep face to the saddle between the two peaks. They reached the summit June 11, at 9:15, after a 3½-hour ascent from their high camp. The descent to Camp I was finished after dark, Terray losing his ice axe.