American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Alpamayo and Attempt on Chopicalqui

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1969

Alpamayo and attempt on Chopicalqui. John Ricker, leader, and Lisle Irwin, both Canadians, Bruce Jenkinson, Gerald Holdsworth, and Nick von Tunzelmann, New Zealanders, and David Drake, English, traveled by bus on the newly opened road to Pomabamba on the northeastern side of the Cordillera Blanca. Base Camp was at 15,000 feet on Pucacocha in the Quebrada Tayapampa. They hoped to climb the difficult east ridge of Alpamayo, first attempted by Harold Jacobs and Ed Cotter of the 1964 New Zealand Andean Expedition. After Jacobs broke his leg in the descent from a reconnaissance, that attempt ended in a major rescue operation. (A.A.J., 1965, 14:2, p. 453.) To reach a prominent col at the foot of Alpamayo’s east ridge, they placed an intermediate camp on a moraine wall. Ropes had to be fixed on the rock bluffs immediately above this camp because of awkward out-sloping holds. They then climbed up a névé to a schrund and up 150 feet of steep ice to Camp II in the col at 17,100 feet. With much bad weather they spent two weeks finding and fixing a safe route along the ridge, generally beneath the fragile line of double cornices. Still only a third of the way to the summit, with unsettled weather and the greatest difficulties still ahead, they abandoned the east ridge in favor of the north ridge. (This route was climbed by a Franco-Belgian party in 1951 as far as the lower northern summit. In 1966 a British group completed the summit to the true peak. Some ten days later Germans repeated the route. See A.A.J., 1967, 15:2, pp. 386-9.) The camp was shifted across the glacier to the foot of a steep wall of mixed snow, ice and rock leading to the north ridge. Access to the ridge, which was gained lower down by the British in 1966, who had come from the western side, was made by a snow slope and treacherous ice gully. From the glacier camp at 17,450 feet, on July 21 Jenkinson, Holdsworth, Drake and Irwin climbed in one 19-hour day to the north peak and returned, descending the wall in the dark. Since the main summit was beyond the reach of this camp, a higher camp was placed at the site of British Camp II, at the foot of the north ridge. On July 24, Ricker and von Tunzelmann, on firm snow, went to the main summit and returned before dark. In a period of fine weather the same pair made the second ascent of Tayapampa (first ascent by Goody, Morton, July 11, 1966. See A.A.J., 1967, 15:2, pp. 316-321.) by skirting under Jancarurish from the glacier camp; from the moraine camp they also made the first ascent of a lesser snow peak of c. 18,100 feet, lying between Alpamayo and Pucahirca Sur. After a week of reorganization, the party ascended the Quebrada Ulta from Carhuaz to attempt either the virgin east or southeast ridges of Chopicalqui. The east ridge was abandoned on close inspection and would involve a strong team in a major undertaking. However, virgin P 5605 (18,389 feet) at the foot of this ridge was climbed by Drake and Holdsworth on a spare afternoon. By contrast, the southeast ridge looked reasonable and two camps put them at the start of the difficulties at 17,900 feet. Ropes were fixed up the first part of the ridge and generous steps cut. Unfortunately, the arrival of the rainy season on August 16, unexpectedly early, prevented an ascent. In the Alpamayo region Holdsworth made a theodolite survey while Ricker worked with prismatic compass and altimeter. Heights by theodolite were 5947 meters or 19,510 feet for Alpamayo and 5675 meters or 18,620 feet for Tayapampa. (The Editor is very grateful to the Editors of the Alpine Journal, who made available material from Nick von Tunzelman.)

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