American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Bolivia, Illimani

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

Illimani. Gustavo Iturralde, Moises Unzaga, José de Henestrosa and I joined to make an ascent of the normal route on the south peak of Illimani. On June 20, after five hours of driving on the Mina la Urania road, we reached the shoulder from which the route ascends a loose rock ridge. There we pitched our Base Camp. The next day, after eight and a half hours, we placed Camp I just below the Nido de Cóndores. The four of us spent a chilly night in our single tent. On the 22nd we made an early start, hoping to reach the summit with only one bivouac. We climbed all day. Extensive crevassing complicated our route. Normally easy ridges were covered with blue ice that required step-chopping and ice-screws for protection. By the end of the day we were confident of reaching the summit the next morning. At four A.M. we set out from our snow-cave bivouac for the summit with very light packs. Two impressive walls of 55° ice, which required step-cutting, faced us first. There was the last problem 1500 feet below the top: a gigantic crevasse, cut only in the middle by a steep ice couloir exactly below the summit. The possibility of an avalanche discouraged us from taking the regular direct route. We climbed up to the crevasse 1000 feet to the left of the couloir and followed the sharp lip of the crevasse across, belaying all the way. The couloir was covered with avalanche-prone fresh powder snow lying on blue ice. Just below the summit, Father Iturralde and I concelebrated the highest Mass ever said on a mountain, at 20,800 feet. By seven P.M. we were on the summit (21,201 feet). A few moments later it was pitch dark; we had to wait for the moon. After five hours we reached our bivouac cave at four A.M. of the 24th. By midday we were at Camp I and the next day back at Base Camp. In August this ascent was repeated by my friends, Paul Barker and Brian Rennex, both Americans, On the way down Paul slipped and fell 800 feet to his death. Barker had made the first ascent of the west ridge of the north peak of Illimani in 1966.

Jorge L. Urioste, S.J., Dios y Montaña

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