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South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Huascarán Norte, North Face

Huascarán Norte, North Face. In the latter half of June my brother Alan, Brian Hall and I were camped in the Llanganuco valley in preparation for an ascent of the French (Paragot) route of 1966. Alongside the large, well-organized expedition of Desmaison, we felt small and insignificant, but they were making a film and had more of a burden to bear than we. Two load-carries to the foot of the wall at 16,400 feet and we were installed for a five-day acclimatization period. This was the minimum time we had planned for, but with no more load-carrying, we became bored and set off on the route not fully acclimatized. The lower part of the route had changed since 1966 and the lower ridge had large ice towers along its crest, which certainly increased its difficulty. We had planned to take four days over the ascent, but it was not until the seventh day on the wall that we finally emerged for a near-summit bivouac. On the eighth day we made it to the top and back to Huaraz. We all suffered from the rapid rise in altitude and from the lack of nourishment. One of the hardest days was the final one, where the rock climbing of UIAA V+ led to the summit slopes. We afterwards agreed that it was one of the hardest climbs we had ever done and compared it in difficulty to the harder mixed routes in the Alps … but longer!

Adrian Burgess, Alpine Climbing Group