American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Peru—Cordillera Blanca, Huantsán, Attempt on East Ridge

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1975

Huantsán, Attempt on East Ridge. Our attempt on Huantsán (20,981 feet) failed on the summit rock band at about 20,500 feet. We arrived at Base Camp in the Quebrada Huantsán with six climbers: Bill Lahr, Chris Chandler, Craig McKibben, Malcolm Moore, Patrick Padden and me. We placed Camp I on the col after a few days in Base Camp and began moving up the ridge without ferrying loads. At Camp II Chandler got a slight case of pulmonary edema and Padden volunteered to descend with him. At Camp III McKibben’s cut hand became so severely infected that Moore descended with him. That left Bill Lahr and me. We occupied Camp IV at 18,000 feet. The next day we proceeded to Camp V at 19.700 feet, at the base of the summit rock band. Our summit push from Camp V failed because of the lack of pickets and ice-screws to protect the leads on very soft, deep snow over rock as well as to provide anchors for a safe descent. It was a hard decision to turn around only 500 feet from the top when we were still in fine condition. I believe that we were higher than the high point of last year’s French expedition. (They reached 19.700 feet.—Editor.) We followed their shredded fixed ropes except above Camp V for the summit push, where there was no evidence of anyone having been that high. The climb was a modified alpine-style. We used caves and schrunds except for the two tents on the col. Three of us used half sacks and the other three were sleeping in two bags zipped together, a real weight saving. We used only dehydrated food at high camps. We did carry 600 feet of fixed rope as far as Camp III. Half of us fixed a few pitches above the new camp each day while the others dug a cave.

Richard Ridgeway

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