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South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Alpamayo Norte

Alpamayo Norte. On Huascarán Norte, Glen Bryden, John Hodsdon, Terry Thomas and I were turned back some 400 feet short of the summit by excessively deep snow on April 29. It would seem that there is usually too much snow on Huascarán in April for pleasant climbing. The major icefall below the Garganta in late April was not very dangerous and there were at least two good routes up it. Very large avalanches from Huascarán Sur covered almost the whole area of the Garganta, indicating the desirability of camping on the far northern side for climbs on either peak. We then drove to the eastern side across the northern Cordillera Blanca to about six miles beyond Palo Seco. From there we set out with four horses on May 4 for the Laguna Safuna camp of the Corporacián Peruana del Santa, about 21 miles to the west, under the spectacular northwest faces and ridges of the Pucahirca group. The following day we took the horses to Pucacocha and commenced backpacking gear onto a prominent moraine-covered ridge which gave easy access to the northeastern glacier of Alpamayo above the largest icefall. The next two days were spent in bad weather establishing a route through some large creavases and setting up two successively higher camps on the glacier, the latter almost directly beneath the col on the north ridge of Alpamayo. A steep snowfield leads straight up from the glacier some 650 feet before ending in the cliffs that extend around from the north face of Alpamayo. We climbed this to reach a rock chimney on the northern edge of the snowfield. Fixed ropes were set up from the base of the chimney for 200 feet to a point where we had access to a steep and hazardous couloir, presumably the one mentioned by the 1968 party. (A.A.J., 1969, 16:2, pp. 420-1.) Nine inches of snow tenuously attached to the badly honeycombed ice made the climb of some 350 feet up this couloir in bad weather most difficult. We camped on the north ridge col and made an unsuccessful attempt the following day, in a snow storm, on the north ridge. This was terminated by waist-deep snow and dangerous cornices. On May 10 Hodsdon and I ascended the northwest face in almost a direct line up to the centre of the face for 600 feet to a large schrund which crosses nearly the whole face. We then followed its rising line to the upper flutings, snow not ice, which we traversed onto the upper section of the unstable west ridge, which was often less than a foot wide and with three feet of soft snow. We climbed the west ridge some 250 feet to the north peak of Alpamayo. (Their route was similar to the German route of 1966. See A.A.J., 1967, 15:2, pp. 388-9. — Editor.) No attempt was made to traverse to the slightly higher south summit. The descent was both interesting and exciting as the snow storm in which we had been climbing since about 11:30 had reduced visibility at most times to 30 feet and had wiped out all our steps. We reached camp at 8:15, nearly two hours after dark.

RICHARD A. HIGGINS University of New South Wales Bushwalking Club