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Czechoslovaks in the Cordillera Huayhuash

Czechoslovaks in the Cordillera Huayhuash

Jaromír Stejskal, Czechoslovakia

OUR SIX-MAN PARTY from Czechoslovakia visited the Cordillera Huayhuash in June. We established Base Camp on Jahuacocha.

The two youngest climbers, Dušan Becík and Ján Porvazník, chose the most difficult objective. Joined by the Englishman, John Tinker, they attempted to climb the center of Rondoy’s west face. After a second bivouac in the first third of the face, on a very difficult traverse, Tinker took a 100-foot leader fall, but was luckily not much hurt. They decided to back off as the difficulties were greater than expected. Long sections of steep bare ice alternated with rotten rock.

They spent four days recovering in Base Camp, sampling pisco and going through “psychotherapy.” Finally Dušan and Ján told John Tinker they were sorry to leave him and decided to start up again.

On June 6, early in the morning, the pair set off. On the following day in the afternoon, they reached the previous second bivouac. Nearly the whole next day they traversed below a huge sérac which hung from the upper third of the face. After entering the system of gullies that plunged down from the summit ridge, they had their third bivouac. They pushed forward, hoping to reach the summit the following day, but the snow gullies and ridges seemed endless. Approximately 650 feet below the summit, they had their fourth bivouac. At ten A.M. on June 10, they broke through the summit cornice.

But that was not the end of difficulties, as they faced a dangerous descent down the east ridge. After rappelling 1650 feet, they reached the glacier and by crossing the Paria Col, they returned to Base Camp.

Another two-man party, Slávek Drlík and I, attempted Jirishanca’s southwest face. After the first pitches, still full of enthusiasm, we were “cooled down” by a huge, unavoidable bergschrund. After climbing 125 feet of nearly overhanging ice, we waded up 650 feet in the snowfield above. Below the huge ice couloir leading to the summit wall, there was another bergschrund. Getting over this took a lot of time, as a section of completely vertical ice had to be climbed. Overcoming these two obstacles deflated any hopes of a fast climb of the face. We decided to retreat, leaving 250 feet of fixed rope hanging over the schrunds.*

Another attempt—with proper respect this time—was made starting on June 11. We got past both the bergschrunds very fast and halfway up the 70° central couloir. On the way up the gully, an avalanche fell from the summit cornices. There was no hiding place, but fortunately we lost no more than a Bluet stove. On the next day we got to right under the summit wall, where we hacked a bivouac platform in the ice.

In the morning, sure of reaching the summit, we started up the rock summit wall in the mixed terrain, without bivouac gear. The difficult terrain—smooth slabs and unpleasant traverses—required a lot of time. It was obvious that we were not going to reach the summit that day and so we returned to the bivouac, leaving the most difficult sections fixed.

During the rappel to the bivouac, the weather deteriorated. All night we kept being buried beneath the snow collecting there from the whole summit wall. Our “great day” finally came, when we managed to find the right groove leading exactly to the summit. At two P.M. we balanced on the unstable cornice, hoping it would not break away. That same day we rappelled to the bivouac and on the following day descended to Base Camp.

Next, Yerupajá’s west face was climbed on its left side by Ján Krajcík, Ján Kulhavý and Ján Porvazník.

The third new route was the first ascent of Mituraju, the 5684-meter summit which lies between Rondoy and Jirishanca. On June 21 Dušan Becík and I started up the southwest face, up a 65° gully that led directly to the summit. During the day and a half we were on the climb, the weather conditions were bad. It snowed continuously and small snow slides kept sloughing down the gully. We had to dig through the summit cornice. There was room on top for only one person at a time.

Summary of Statistics:

Area: Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru.

Ascents: Rondoy, 5870 meters, 19,259 feet, new route via West Face, June

6 to 10, 1982 (Becík, Porvazník).

Jirishanca, 6094 meters, 19,994 feet, new route via Southwest Face, June 11 to 14, 1982 (Drlík, Stejskal).

Yerupajá, 6517 meters, 21,381 feet, via West Face, June 20 and 21, 1982 (Krajcík, Kulhavý, Porvazník).

Mituraju, 5684 meters, 18,648 feet, first ascent via Southwest Face, June 21 to 22, 1982 (Becík, Stejskal).

Personnel: Jaromír Stejskal, leader, Dušan Becík, Slávek Drlík, Ján Krajcík, Ján Kulhavý, Ján Porvazník.

*To that point the Czechoslovakian climbers followed the route first climbed in 1971 by Dean Caldwell and Jon Bowlin and followed by French climbers in 1981. Those two groups traversed from there upwards to the left to join the Cassin route on the west ridge. The Czechoslovaks continued on directly upwards.—Editor.