American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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South America, Peru, Allinccapac, Cordillera Carabaya

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1961

Allinccapac, Cordillera Carabaya. As a result of glowing reports of the climbing potential brought back by the British Museum Expedition to the Cordillera Carabaya in 1959 (A.A.J., 1960, 12:1, pp. 145-146.), we also decided to visit this area of southern Peru. The Carabaya is an isolated mountain group to the east of the Cordillera Vilcanota and about 100 miles to the north of Tiripata, the nearest railway halt. The party consisted of Dr. Robert E. Kendell, the expedition doctor, Dr. Nigel A. J. Rogers, John Cole, Michael S. Binnie and myself as leader; we had all been to Oxford at some time, although Bob’s visits had been as a guest from Cambridge, and thus we called ourselves the Oxford Andean Expedition 1960. Our main objective was Allinccapac (19,250 feet), which had been attempted on two other occasions but without success. (The Peruvians Grimaldo Murillo and M. Tomayconza claim to have made the first ascent of this peak on July 13, 1959- However there are some doubts in Peru as to the authenticity of their claim.—Editor.) Base Camp was established on July 19 in the Valle de Antahua at a height of about 15,000 feet after a tedious journey by plane, bus, plane, lorry, and finally llamas. The south face of Allinccapac appeared quite impossible, raked as it was by small avalanches and threatened by enormous cornices. A possible route had been reported by the previous year’s expedition, but this lay over a col and around on the northern face of the mountain. Without delay a camp was established on this col at a height of 17,200 feet and reconnaissance went out from here. The prospect was not good; the impregnable walls and cornices continued. On the flat, snowy pampa at about 18,000 feet we made our second camp with a view to crossing yet another col and examining the fourth and last side of the mountain. This was in fact more promising and a steep couloir led up to the summit ridge. This route was taken by Kendell and Binnie on July 25 and led them to the top by way of the steep and corniced summit ridge and onto the flat mesa-like summit plateau. The summit itself is a big, flat ice cap several hundred square feet in size set on sheer rock walls. The ascent was repeated by the three other members two days later. Camp II was surrounded by a magnificent cirque of snow mountains. Huaynaccapac (18,700 feet), immediately north of camp, has two summits. The lower of these (18,650 feet) was climbed in August by two routes simultaneously. Cole and Rogers ascended the northwest ridge while Kendell, Binnie and I climbed directly up the west face, which, after gaining initial height by an easy snow shoulder, involved only about 300 feet of actual climbing. Yet, the angle was steep, about 60°, and crossing the bergschrund required a few feet of tension climbing on vertical ice. After that, tedious but straight-forward step cutting on the hard snow was all that was needed to see us to the top. Towards the end of the expedition Cole and Kendell climbed the second and slightly higher peak in an hour from Camp II by way of an easy snow slope and col. In August Rogers, Cole and I ascended "Recce Peak” (18,000 feet), which lies northeast of Allinccapac II, in an attempt to find possible routes up four 18,000-foot, fantastic rock and ice towers, which we called Screwdriver, Wedge, Tower and Cornice and which lie between Allinccapac and Chichiccapac. The next mountain of the cirque northwest of Huaynaccapac was Tococcapac (18,600 feet). The route for this was prepared that same day by Kendell and Binnie, who blazed a trail in neck-deep powder snow up the south face to a col between Juraccapac (18,400 feet) and Tococcapac and continued the final fifty feet west from the col to the summit of the former. During the night the snow consolidated and made it possible for Rogers, Cole and me to continue the route to the top of Tococcapac from the col by way of the northwestern ridge. Crossing a gap entailed a steep descent for a hundred feet, followed by a traverse below the ridgetop to pass the obstacle. Spectacular climbing continued along the ridge until it brought us to a fantastic ice cave immediately below the summit. We went through the cave and found a steep way up the final few feet on the far side. Meanwhile Binnie and Kendell climbed Allinccapac II (about 19,000 feet), which lies southeast of the main peak; this they did by the northwest face and it involved about 1000 feet of steep cramponing to the top. The only peak in the cirque which wasn’t climbed was "Trident”, the peak farthest west. A reconnaissance was made of this peak, but although a possible route was found up the steep southeast face, it was decided that the objective dangers of the approach to this face made it unjustifiable. In August Rogers, Cole and I made the complete north- south traverse of Japuma (18,300 feet), including the rock peak to its south, Cacaccapac (17,800 feet). This was a new route on the twice previously ascended Japuma. (First ascent by P. B. Fischer and Mr. and Mrs. G. H. Francis in 1954. Second ascent by P. Ghiglione and F. Mautino in 1959.—Editor.) Two days later "Pico Carol” was climbed by Rogers, Binnie and me when we evacuated Camp II. This 18,750-foot peak stands out as a prominent gendarme on the east ridge of Allinccapac as seen from Base Camp. From the summit we had an incredible view of the overhanging ice cap of Allinccapac, only 200 yards away. The expedition left the Base Camp area on September 1, having made nine first ascents and ten new routes.

K. I. Meldrum, Oxford University Mountaineering Club

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