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South America, Peru–Cordillera Blanca, Chacraraju Oeste

Chacraraju Oeste. Swiss Xaver Bongard, Pierre-Alain Romagnoli, Frenchman Philippe Edouard Beaud and I set out at four A.M. on June 26. (They were to climb between the Yugoslav and the 1979 Yves Astier routes.—Editor. ) We traversed with headlamps to the west of our 16,400-foot camp to the foot of the 2700-foot-high south face of Chacraraju. The first rope-length was vertical ice but luckily ended in a belay niche. We then traversed perilously on overhanging ice and rock to continue below another step; this pitch took an hour and a half. We then climbed 350 feet of 60° deep powder snow to reach extremely difficult pitches which took us up some 1300 feet of ice. We climbed through a storm at nine P.M. until we found a hole in the ice in which to spend the night. On the morning of June 27 the weather changed and we climbed in clouds. We found the most difficult pitch of the climb 150 feet above the bivouac: 65 feet of rock covered with four inches of ice and snow. After six hours of effort and numerous leader falls, one climber made it over this section and we could continue. We climbed on in bad weather and at nightfall carved a small snow cave where we could cook and sleep. The bad weather continued on June 28 but we kept on up the last part of the face. The last two rope-lengths were on vertical ice below unstable cornices. We finnaly bivouacked on a flat place on the ridge top. On June 29 the weather continued bad and so we decided to descend from there without climbing the final 150 feet to the summit. We rappelled down the face all day. At five P.M., on the 15th rappel, the rappel picket broke and all four of us fell 350 feet onto the glacier, miraculously all unhurt.

Hugo Colonia, Club Andinista Cordillera Blanca, Peru