South America, Peru, Southern Peru, Climbs near Pumasillo, Cordillera Vilcabamba

Publication Year: 1974.

Climbs near Pumasillo, Cordillera Vilcabamba. With the arrival at Cuzco of Peter Radcliffe from Patagonia, our party was complete. John Gates and I had flown from New Zealand to meet Dave Bamford and Tom Clarkson following their different successful climbing trip in Patagonia. The area we were heading for was the head of the Raccachaca valley, north of Pumasillo. On arrival by train at Santa Teresa on June 2, Radcliffe and Clarkson set off to organize mules. However the other three of us managed to hire some locally and were not to see the others for eleven days. On June 7 we established Base Camp at 15,800 feet on the Río Raccachaca. While awaiting the others, on June 10 Bamford and I from a camp on the nearby Río Ninaccocha climbed Kaiko (17,273 feet), an easy scramble on rock and snow. On July 13, from 15,800-foot Mellizos col, Bamford and I climbed Nevado Blanco (17,790 feet) by the south ridge, physically difficult in the soft, south-facing snow. We all climbed Cima Rocallosa (16,810 feet) the same day. It was great to find Radcliffe and Clarkson at Base Camp when we arrived back. We returned to the Ninaccocha, climbing the east peak of Ñu Ñu (16,404 feet) on June 15, Torayac on June 16 (Bamford, Clarkson, Radcliffe and I) and Kaiko (Gates and I) on June 17. Torayac (c. 18,000 feet) provided some interesting climbing near the summit. A nearly vertical 50-foot rock pitch took some time to surmount. The summit icecap looked formidable, with gaping holes extending right through the ridge many feet below the summit. Fortunately it proved possible to traverse below this section to reach the fragile summit. A reconnaissance of the north ridge of Pumasillo showed too great objective dangers. A return was made to Mellizos col, from which Clarkson and Radcliffe climbed Nevado Blanco and Cima Rocallosa on June 21. The whole party ascended the Mellizos (17,750 feet) the following day, although it was snowing by the time the second of the twin summits had been climbed. On June 24 snow fell again but by evening we had another high camp at 16,500 feet near the head of the Raccachaca. The following day Bamford, Clarkson, Gates and I climbed easy Redondo (17,061 feet). The morning of the 26th saw Bamford, Clarkson, Radcliffe and me heading for Mitra (18,635 feet; “Mitre” in English), hoping to ascend the unclimbed west ridge. We wanted to gain the basin below the west face but could find no way down. However after retreating a short distance, we climbed a steep couloir and gained the north ridge overlooking the basin. The final eight rope-lengths demanded continuous front-pointing. The summit was reached after five hours of climbing. The following day all the party climbed Copo de Nieve (c. 19,200 feet) via a rather broken icefall. Bamford, Clarkson and Radcliffe also climbed Fortaleza (19,300 feet) that same day. By this time we thought a change of scene was called for and headed for the Cordillera Blanca. The climbing there is covered in a note in that section.

Graham McCallum, New Zealand Alpine Club