American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Sirijuani and Chainopuerto, Cordillera Urubamba, and attempts onYerupajá, Cordillera, Huayhuash

South America, Peru

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Malcolm Slesser
  • Climb Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 1965

Aided by the unlikely combination of the Peruvian army and the Evangelical Union of South America, our Scottish Andean Expedition set up a forward base in the Urubamba valley at Calca, north of Cuzco, on July 3. At the head of the Quebrada Cancha Cancha, north from Calca, lies the highest peak Saguasiray, climbed in 1963 by the Italians (A.A.J., 1964, 14:1, pp. 217-8), which is flanked on the north by Chainopuerto (18,954 feet*) and on the west by Sirijuani (18,375 feet). A quick sortie up this valley enabled us to climb Sirijuani, a fine isolated ice and rock peak, from a bivouac at 15,000 feet. Kenneth Bryan and Robin Brooks made a route up the west flank, following three icefields linked by buttresses, while Norman Tennent and Robin Chalmers approached by the more continuous rock of the south ridge. Both parties gained the summit within half an hour of each other on July 9. On July 16 from a base camp in the Huacanhuayco, farther east, Bryan and Donald Bennet climbed Chainopuerto by the southeast flank. From a camp at 15,500 feet they gained the northeast ridge of Saguasiray and dropped down into a final icefall which they crossed to gain the steep south ridge up the final 1000-foot cone of the mountain. Cornices prevented them from traversing the last 200 feet of the virtually horizontal ridge. The next day Bennet, Jock Anderson and I climbed the 18,000-foot snow peak between Saguasiray and Chainopuerto, while Bryan and Dr. Evelyn Mc- Nicol ascended a small fluted peak (17,060 feet) on the cirque above Huamachoque. An attempt on the west ridge of the Padre Eterno in the Verónica group was defeated by impenetrable scrub on the lower slopes, and a further attempt on the northeast flank from the Quebrada Cosnaniti on July 25 and 26 was turned back when 15 inches of snow fell in one and a half days. Meanwhile Bryan, Bennet, Chalmers, Dr. McNicol and Betty Stark moved a few miles east to the northern slopes of Huacratanca. From camp at 14,750 feet they easily climbed the northwest peak of Huacratanca (17,060 feet), but time prevented traversing to and making the second ascent of the higher southeast summit (17,717 feet). The last climb in the region was a traverse of Chucucullani (16,400 feet) by Bryan and Bennet; a cairn on the west peak testified to an ascent by an earlier, but unknown party.

The expedition travelled 1000 miles from Calca to Chiquián by truck, and after a three-day march reached Caruacocha on August 16, just as a fortnight of bad weather commenced. A direct route to the foot of the northeast buttress on Yerupajá (21,759 feet) was made by fixing ropes on an intermediate 1000-foot rognon, but thereafter the route was deemed too dangerous as it had to cross an extremely unstable icefall. Camp II was finally placed at 17,000 feet and the position used to study other possible routes. The easterly spur of the buttress falls to a col, above which rises Peak 5660 (18,570 feet). This peak would ordinarily present few difficulties, but the mild condition of the wet season completely softened formerly good snow; though a rock route, which involved a short 20-foot overhang surmounted by artificial aid at 17,700 feet, brought us onto its difficult snow and rock summit ridge, we turned back when the lead man’s ice axe broke. The weather never again permitted access. However it was fairly certain that no practical route to the summit of Yerupajá lay that way. From the east side, the best chance remains the northeast spur of the eastern ridge, which will not be easy, though it is not excessively steep. The route is capped by two ice roofs, and then at 19,500 feet the difficulties really commence: almost a mile of ice ridge with two enormous breaks. Yerupajá from this side remains a stupendous mountaineering problem. We returned to Chiquián on September 2.

Malcolm Slesser, Scottish Mountaineering Club

*Altitude is from 1:100,000 map of Institute Geográfico Militar, Lima of 1964. This tallies with our aneroid readings. Other altitudes in region were taken by aneroid. (It seems that previous altitudes here were thus all about 100 meters too low — Editor.)

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