A Peruvian Eiger—Yerupajá Chico’s East Face
Stéphane Schaffter, Mountain Guide, Switzerland
IN 1957, LIKE OTHER LATER climbers, Toni Egger and Jungmeier climbed the east ridge of Yerupajá and had front-row seats to see its east face. In 1980 on my first visit to the Cordillera Huayhuash I discovered several possible new routes. A year later, on the way back from the first ascent of the south-southeast spur of Siulá Grande, I stopped near the lake, Carhuacocha, above which rises the east face of Yerupajá Chico, a peak of 6121 meters (20,082 feet) between Yerupajá Grande and Jirishanca. With field-glasses I traced a direct route in the center of the 3500-foot-high triangular limestone wall. It would be a shame to deflower this virgin with arabesques. One could follow a nearly straight line. Not being a loner naturally, I sought other Don Juans to return in 1983 and seduce this Peruvian.
On May 29 Lucien Abbet, Patrick Delale, Jean-Pierre Frossard and Pierre-Antoine Hiroz joined me in Lima. On June 1 we made the long bus trip to Cajatambo, a typical village at 11,500 feet, the starting point of our approach march past Lake Viconga. For acclimatization we decided to climb a minor peak in the south of the range. Hiroz suffered from an intestinal infection and complete dehydration and had to return to Cajatambo, accompanied by Abbet and porter Alejandro.
At Carhuacocha we had a great surprise. As we turned a comer, we caught sight of an enormous camp. We speeded up, scanning the face for climbers or fixed ropes. It was a Spanish expedition of fourteen climbers from Barcelona who hoped to traverse Yerupajá Grande from south to north. (Unfortunately they were unsuccessful.)
Several carries to the foot of the face at 15,750 feet completed our acclimatization. For four days, setting out from 13,800-foot Base Camp, we prepared and fixed 18 rope-lengths, the crux of which were four pitches of UIAA V to VI and A2, which overhung in the first third and all of which was comparable to the Eiger north face. Delale, Frossard and I alternated leading in PAs and belaying, while the third hauled loads on Jümars. A final day of preparing the route with Abbet, who had returned, led us to the foot of the diagonal, the only way up the final bit. Stormy weather kept us inactive for several days.
On June 19 Alejandro’s “eternal fair weather” prediction seemed assured. We left for the summit, this time dressed for winter but with one pair of PAs for the leader. We jümared the 24 pitches. Lucien Abbet and Jean-Pierre Frossard went ahead to lead while Patrick Delale and I carried food, bivouac gear and ice-climbing equipment. It was ten P.M. when we finally found ourselves on a ledge on top of the magnificent pitches above the base of the diagonal. Unfortunately it was snowing.
When we awoke, the sun was out. What luck! We were wet and the rocks were coated. Clumsy in my climbing boots, I left the comfort of our eagle’s nest. We prepared seven steep and unrelenting pitches which led us to the ice and the upper part of the climb. At seven P.M., having fixed even our climbing ropes, we had to return to our bivouac spot, as there was not a single ledge higher.
At dawn of June 20 we left for the summit, light and without bivouac gear. As soon as we got off the rock, the ice climbing became serious, a succession of organ pipes, which forced us to take risks. At one P.M., we emerged on the snowy summit ridge.
The very precarious conditions made us wonder if we were toying with suicide. If the leader fell with a windslab slide, he would certainly have dragged off the other three, now all on one rope for illusionary security. There were no belays possible. Having joined Toni Egger’s route and having completed the climb of the face, we decided to descend on our own without the assistance of a windslab. It took 37 rappels that afternoon and night before we could abandon our loads and descend rapidly to Base Camp. A day later, with Hiroz who had also returned, we went back up and partially cleaned the face.
Summary of Statistics:
Area: Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru.
New Route: Yerupajá Chico, 6121 meters, 20,082 feet, via East Face, June 8 to 21, 1983 (Abbet, Delale, Frossard, Schaffter).
Personnel: Lucien Abbet, Patrick Delale, Jean-Pierre Frossard, Pierre-Antoine Hiroz, Stéphane Schaffter.
Climbers may wish to subscribe to BERGSTEIGER, the excellent German-language monthly. Much emphasis is now placed on international mountaineering. For a year’s subscription send 64 German marks to BERGSTEIGER, F. Bruckmann KG, Postfach 27, D-8000 München 20, West Germany.