THE SECONDARY earthquakes were still sending occasional trembles and frightful rumors through Lima when our Norwegian-American quintet arrived. Hence we quickly agreed on “mountain stability” as one of our main climbing requirements. Fortunately John Ricker kindly suggested 18,859-foot Huagaruncho, east of Cerro de Pasco in the central and more stable part of Peru.
The local people all the way from the roadhead at Huacho'n to the base of Huagaruncho believe the Incas put a golden cross on the summit. We were informed that the British first-ascent party* never reached the summit; they had not seen the cruz de oro. Similarly when we came down and reported no cross of gold, we had the feeling that they doubted we had ever got to the summit.
This lonely majesty unfortunately chills the hottest of ambitions by showering her southwesterly face with snow and ice fragments and so we decided unheroically just to skirt this face along the south ridge, which separates the face from Huagaruncho’s eastern ridges.
Serving entirely as our own porters, mixing sweaty trudging with aerial ferry services and new-snow acrobatics on a simple rock ridge, we spent weeks before we could lie up and recover from our exertions in a 16,400-foot base camp. The actual climb began on June 19, but even most un-Peruvian-like fog and dumpings of three feet of snow did not quite excuse the long time we took fixing ropes up the first 1300 feet. Once over this hurdle and with everybody used to cramponing on frictionless granular snow (and therefore often on rock) we moved reasonably enough through four cave camps. Two of these were in fascinating, huge, blue-green caverns, complete with glassy stalagtites of myriads of perfect hexagonal ice crystals. July 2 cleared sufficiently to let us “fly” among drifting clouds and blue sky patches, atop the final giant ice blocks. In spite of the generally foggy weather, Jon Teigland and Odd Eliassen, both from Norway, held out for a traverse down the west ridge, the first-ascent
route of 1956, a feat they accomplished the next day when the sun shone unexpectedly. Trond Aas, James Jones and I returned, as we had come, down the south ridge.
Afterwards Jones and I climbed a small, very pretty pinnacle, Incatana (16,804 feet). This is the first summit on the southwest spur, about two miles from Huagaruncho. Eliassen joined me in a scramble up Jancahuay (16,929 feet). We saw an abandoned mine high on its slopes. Odd and I were curious about what it was doing there at such a terrible altitude. We looked for gold, but found only a cairn near the summit.
Summary of Statistics:
AREA: Cordillera Oriental, east of Cerro de Pasco
ASCENTS: Huagaruncho, 18,859 feet, second ascent by a new route, the South Ridge, July 2, 1970 (whole party); first traverse (descent by west ridge by Teigland, Eliassen).
Incatana, 16,804 feet, first ascent, c. July 8, 1970 (Jones, Patterson).
Jancahuay, 16,929 feet, third ascent, c. July 10, 1970 (Patterson, Eliassen).
PERSONNEL: Leif-Norman Patterson, leader, James Jones, Americans;
Trond Aas, Odd Eliassen, Jon Teigland, Norwegians.
*John Streetly and Michael Westmacott reached the summit of Huagaruncho on August 17, 1956. See Mountain World 1958-59, pages 65 to 70.