American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, El Misti, Cordillera Volcánica and Climbs in the Cordillera Blanca

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1968

El Misti, Cordillera Volcánica and Climbs in the Cordillera Blanca. Dick Birnie of Dartmouth College and I spent a productive month in the Arequipa area, visiting El Misti and Ubinas. Our first climb of Misti (19,166 feet; probably first climbed by Spaniards in 1677), which we made with Fred Ayres, served only to introduce us to the mountain, for reaching the summit we discovered that a visit to the crater and its fumaroles to collect gas samples would involve a thousand-foot descent and a climb back up scree slopes perched almost at the angle of repose. After a look at the crater of Ubinas (18,610 feet) on July 2, we decided that to get gas samples there we needed a larger party. Back on Misti we reached the summit in four days with all our gear. We descended to the crater and were successful in obtaining gas, condensate and mineral samples. Dr. Ayres has the gas samples at Reed College for analysis, Birnie the condensates at Dartmouth and I the minerals here at the California Institute of Technology. On July 26, Arlene Blum, Paul Pennington, Bill Ross, Peter Schindler and I arrived by truck at the lower Llanganuco lakes. After several days establishing Base Camp at 13,000 feet, we set a high camp at 15,000 feet just below the northwest ridge of Yanapaccha Norte (17,651 feet). Despite an early start on July 29, soft snow and a lack of acclimatization delayed our summit "brunch” until slightly after noon. Snow conditions became worse as we descended. What began as a descent under tension belay soon became a glissade under tension, leapfrogging leads. As we approached our exit from the northwest ridge onto the flatter glacier below, the second rope slipped and unable to halt their fall, Schindler and Ross disappeared from view over the south side of the ridge. We found them at the bottom of the snow slope where their rope had snubbed a rock and prevented a further fall. Ross suffered only an arm injury, but Schindler had broken both ankles. He was able to return to High Camp that evening and with the aid of porters from Huaraz was evacuated two days later. Pennington, Blum and I turned to Pisco (c. 19,000 feet) after a heavy, two-day snowstorm. From camp between Pisco and the Huandoys we waded up easy snow slopes to the summit on August 6. Rejoined by Bill Ross, without delay we packed most of the remaining food and set off across the quebrada for Chopicalqui (20,998 feet). Our first summit attempt on August 11 was thwarted by the same fresh snow conditions we had encountered on Pisco. How far the summit still lay above our high point we discovered two days later when we climbed that entire part of the route in less than an hour from High Camp. Still delayed by the deep snow, Pennington, Ross and I exchanged leads frequently, reaching the heavily corniced summit late in the afternoon. We remained on top only long enough to fly the Swiss flag which Peter had hoped to take to the top.

John Henry Hall

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