American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

A Map of the Norhtern Cordillera Blanca, Peru

  • Feature Article
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  • Publication Year: 1971

A Map of the Northern Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Gerald Holdsworth and John Ricker

Survey methods are described by Holdsworth

Between July 26 and 28, 1968, observations were made from the area near the Corporación Peruana del Santa camp at Laguna Safuna Baja. The survey involved observations by theodolite from existing triangulation stations located near Safuna Baja for the purposes of the lake survey. The coordinates of these points, given in the U.T.M. system are

Latitude (m)N

Longitude (m)E.

Elevation (m)













The elevation datum was apparently established on Safuna Baja by means of a photogrammetric traverse originating on the coast. The level of this lake has remained fairly constant at 4244.5m ±.5m since 1950. Safuna Alta is unstable and its level has varied considerably: in 1950, 4365m above sea level; in 1963, 4360m; and in 1966, 4345m.

Stations A2, A3 and A4 are the data for the map and every point is relative to these. Long multiple intersecting rays were observed to the peaks: Pucahirca Norte III, II, and I, Pucahirca Sur, Alpamayo Sur and Norte, Jancarurish and Tayapampa. The computed positions were originally plotted on a grid constructed to a scale of 1:10,000. Horizontal positions are probably within ±5m in all directions for the peaks near Safuna and probably greater than this for peaks near Alpamayo.

Heights of the peaks observed are given to the nearest meter after having been corrected for curvature and refraction. However, a standard error of at least ±5m may be assumed. Other peak heights were taken from the DÖAV map of 1932. Approximate heights are indicated with “c” in front of the height, these being altimeter readings uncorrected for variations in atmospheric pressure.

Detail was added to the map by John Ricker using Brunton compass triangulation results, aerial photographs (23 July 1963 and 8 July 1963)

available from the Instituto Geográfico Militar and photographs taken by members of our 1968 climbing party. Most of the final drafting of the map was done by the drafting section of the Inland Waters Branch, Dept, of Energy, Mines and Resources, Ottawa, Canada.

Place Names are discussed by Ricker

Only locally used native names and names proposed by climbers in Quechua are used on this map. The terms cocha (lake) and hirca or jirca (mountain) are used instead of the Spanish laguna and nevado where local custom indicates.

There are really four high peaks over 6000m along the main north- south crest of the Pucahircas. On the map these are Pucahirca Sur, Pucahirca Central, Pucahirca Norte I and Pucahirca Norte II. Pucahirca Norte III is subsidiary to and part of Pucahirca Norte II. Traditionally climbers have used the terms Pucahirca Sur, Pucahirca Central and Pucahirca Norte to refer to P 6039, P 6014 and P 6046 respectively. Each of these three peaks was first climbed by a different expedition: Pucahirca Sur by Erwin Schneider of the German-Austrian expedition of 1936, Pucahirca Central by the Italians in 1961 and Pucahirca Norte by the Japanese in 1961. The American party of 1955 discovered and made the first ascent of Pucahirca Norte II, mistakenly thinking it was P 6046. This error was realized later and a correction was published by Clinch in the A.A.J., 1962, 13:1, pp. 254-6. The Americans also made the first ascent of Pucahirca Norte III (P5919), which they called “Nevado Angeles”. In 1970 (See note in this Journal.) New Zealanders climbed Pucahirca Oeste, a peak between 5900 and 6000m on the west ridge of Pucahirca Sur.

A traditional custom is that of referring to two peaks on the summit massif of Alpamayo. The union of the north and west ridges marks the north summit; however the flattening of the ridge crest here can hardly be recognized as a separate summit, strictly speaking. The true high point, commonly called the south peak, is an ice-block cornice slightly higher than a neighboring cornice adjacent to the southwest. This neighboring cornice marks the union of the south and east ridges. We have decided to include the so-called north peak on the map since it is often referred to in the literature on Alpamayo.

The Italian expedition of 1960 proposed two unsuitable names for P 5790 and P 5810: Giovanni XXIII and Bergamo. These are unacceptable to Peruvian map-makers. On the suggestion of César Morales Arnao, P 5810 has become Rinrihirca.

Lastly the DÔAV map of 1932 indicates the peak of Quitaraju erroneously. Their point labeled Quitoraju (sic) is actually Alpamayo. The true Quitaraju is to the southwest adjacent to Alpamayo and this point is the unnamed (c. 6000m+) point on their map.

I am indebted to Alcides Ames Marquez for confirming many of the place names in the following map and for providing some of the meanings: to César Morales Arnao for proposing the use of Pucarashta. Ruedi Schatz proposed the name of Curicashajana. The other names are local names, some of which appeared on the DÖAV map of 1932.


soil or earth




fungus or fungus-like. The word could be a combination of curi (hot) and casha (thorn)

Hirca or jirca

mountain peak


possibly a corruption of vilca (supreme). Quechua speakers often pronounce “v” like English “w” or Spanish “hu”.


high place, summit


cold place. Geographers use this term to refer to the highest of the ecological zones.


an illogical place name meaning, “Is this?”


a species of tree


lie, falsehood






see A.A.J., 1966, 15:1, p. 72

rasta or rashta

falling snow




inside, referring to the end of a quebrada


a plant similar to the taya


a purplish multiple-flowered lupine (lupinus aff. mutabilis). The name refers to other plants of other genera in other parts of Peru.


Goody, Richard, “Tayapampa and the Alpamayo Valley”, A.A.J., 1967, 15:2, pp. 316-321, includes sketch map.

Morales Arnao, César, “Quechua Names in the Northern Peruvian Andes and Their Meanings”, A.A.J., 1966, 15:1, pp. 63-74.

Kinzl, Hans and Schneider, Erwin, Cordillera Blanca, Innsbruck: Universitäts Verlag Wagner, 1950.

Pulgar Vidal, Javier, Geografía del Perú - Las ocho regiones naturales del Perú, Lima: Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, 1967. See pp. 160-180, “La janca”.

Ricker, John, “Peru - The Informal Approach”, N.Z.A.J., 1970. An account of the New Zealand-Canadian Andean Expedition of 1968.

Schatz, Ruedi, A.A.J., 1966, 15:1, pp. 166-7.

von Tunzelmann, Nicholas, A.A.J., 1969, 16:2, pp. 420-1.

Italian expedition of 1960, A.A.J, 1961, 12:2, pp. 401-2.

Italian and Japanese expeditions of 1961, A.A.J., 1962, 13:1, pp. 252-4.

Platts, Harvey N., “Nevado Pucahirca”,A.A.J, 1956, 10:1, pp. 27-37.

Deutscher-Osterreichischer Alpenverein, Cordillera Blanca, map 1:100,000, northern sheet.

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