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South America, Peru—Cordillera Blanca, Caraz II (Caraz Este), North Face, and Artesonraju Tragedy

Caraz II (Caraz Este), North Face, and Artesonraju Tragedy. The first week of June brought us to Base Camp at 13,000 feet beside Jatuncocha, halfway up the Quebrada Santa Cruz. We spent a few days acclimatizing and reconnoitering the approaches to our proposed routes. Clare Sheridan, Tom Hand, Dermot Somers and Joss Lynam set out to climb Kurikashajana (5510 meters, 18,078 feet) by its southwest side. After a bivouac, Sheridan and Hand reached the top, but the last two halted 100 meters below it. Emmett Goulding and Harry O’Brien made several unsuccessful attempts on the northeast ridge of Caraz II. They reached a point where their ridge joined the east ridge. A 300-foot section of loose, vertical rock looked as if it would collapse at a touch and they descended. Tommy Irvine and I set off for the north face of Caraz II or Caraz Este, a route of snow and ice with a little rock. (First climbed by John and Spaff Ackerly, July 19, 1977. A.A.J., 1978, p. 564). After ten hours of dangerous gullies, boulder fields and scree, we reached our first bivouac. On the second day we found a route through the icefall in only a surprising three hours and rested for the rest of the day. The next morning, June 13, above the bergschrund the pitches were steep and difficult with nieves penitentes. The route was very direct, up the middle of the face. We soon reached the rock buttress, two-thirds of the way up the face. Above the buttress, the snow was steep, soft and rotten. From the summit (6020 meters, 19,751 feet) we climbed back down to bivouac on a ledge on the buttress. It took a dozen rappels to reach the bergschrund after a long night. Meanwhile the other four had made an unsuccessful attempt on the north ridge of Caraz III but were foiled by hideously rotten rock. Next, unsuccessful attempts were made on the southwest face and north ridge of Alpamayo, while Sheridan, Lynam, Hand and Somers turned their attention to Artesonraju. They went up the northwest spur of the north ridge, easy climbing except for one narrow gash, 150 feet deep. Early on the third day, at the col near the junction of the northwest and northeast spurs, they met two Americans, who had had an easier approach from the northeast. The Americans continued to the top, but our companions backed off when the unstable ice ran with water. They returned to Base Camp. Somers and Lynam made a final unsuccessful attempt on Caraz III while the rest of us decided on a second attempt on Artensonraju. The six of us set off on July 8 for the col on the north ridge, taking the shorter route from the northeast. From our second bivouac we all reached the summit (6025 meters, 17,767 feet). Shortly before noon, we began the descent, fixing rappel points. At the third stake, Tom Hand rappelled and soon reached the stance. Then, without warning, the snow gave way under his feet and he fell down the slope and disappeared over the northeast face. Attempts to locate him failed. All we could do was to continue our descent in a state of shock and distress. All subsequent attempts to locate his body failed.

Calvin Torrans, Dal Riada Club, Ireland