AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

South America, Colombia, Nevado del Huilla, Cordillera Central

Nevado del Huila, Cordillera Central. In February, 1969 a U.S.-Colombian party reported good climbing and fine weather on the Nevado del Huila. (A.A.J., 1969, 16:2, p. 419.) Two members of this expedition, Guillermo Cajiao and Phillip Ritterbush, joined Caroline and Cecilia Winston, George Cochran, Robert Dietz, Steve Salva and me to return. On January 1 we left Cali and arrived at the village of Irlanda in the Río Páez valley. There we hired 15 honest and reliable porters. The Colombian army chauffeured us the last few kilometers in a dump-truck, which let us start up the Río Verdun valley. Being the “dry season” we welcomed the valley fog and cooling rain. Since it rained for the rest of the trip, dust posed no problem. After camps at 11,400 and 13,200 feet in the páramo, we established Base Camp at 14,200 feet in a glaciated basin on the north peak. We hoped to make a route up the central peak, climbed by Kraus in 1944, and then attack the impressive unclimbed summit between the north and central peaks. To this end we spent a day putting in a route through the icefall leading to the central glacier. With the stage set thus, the marginal weather deteriorated into high winds and heavy rain. Finally on the 9th the weather dawned clear and cold. Salva, Dietz, Ritterbush and I headed through the icefall and plowed through knee-deep, unstable granular snow to place a high camp in a snow-filled crevasse between 16,000 and 17,000 feet on the slopes of the central peak. From there the route threaded through crevasses on the west slopes and then skirted the rim of the westernmost fumarole to emerge on the summit icefield. We reached the summit (17,845 feet) in a whiteout after plowing through breakable crust over waist deep granular snow. Because of snow conditions and avalanche danger we decided against further climbing.

J.Gary Ullin