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South America, Peru—Cordillera Blanca, Chopicalqui, Northwest Face, Solo in One Day

Chopicalqui, Northwest Face, Solo in one day. From camp at 13,125 feet above Yurac Corral in the Quebrada Llanganuco, I decided to attempt a new route on the northwest face of Chopicalqui to the left of the route climbed in 1981 by Sigayret, the Rollands and Roberts (A.A.J., 1982, pages 176-7). I searched the route among the séracs with binoculars. Late in the afternoon, a huge avalanche swept the whole face and glacier. At three A.M. on July 24, I set out in the frigid cold with my headlamp. At dawn I climbed verglas- covered rock to set foot on the glacier. The avalanche had swept the whole glacier, filling crevasses. I rapidly ascended the resultant toboggan chute, letting me reach easily the icefall of the northwest face. Several nearly vertical gullies of blue ice led me to 18,700 feet. At eight A.M., I was at the foot of a chiseled wall of ice flutes, which averaged 60° to 70°. The ice was glassy and even black in the steeper pitches. After eating a bit, I chose the widest furrow and climbed without stopping to the very sharp north foresummit. Life took on a new savour, ice-axe, ice hammer and crampons were remarkably secure tools to give me confidence and a feeling of freedom. On the foresummit my altimeter read 6050 meters (19,850 feet). The main peak was cloud-covered. The last 1000 feet were torture. In heavy clouds I plowed up knee-deep snow. Finally at 10:30 A.M. I forced myself up the last meters to the summit (6345 meters, 20,817 feet). No visibility, but I delighted in the solitude and calm. I immediately began the descent. Through a hole in the clouds, Huascarán smiled at me. I left the north peak and descended to the glacier and made the long traverse off the glacier, thinking of yesterday’s avalanche. Then rock, moraine, grass came. At three P.M. I found our porter, Pompeo, waiting for me by the stream.

Eric Dossin, Club Alpin Français