American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Bolivia, North and South of Pelechuco, Cordillera Apolobamba, 1985 and 1986

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1987

North and South of Pelechuco, Cordillera Apolobamba, 1985 and 1986. The tortuous road from Ulla Ulla to Pelechuco roughly divides the Cordillera Apolobamba into a northern half that extends from Bolivia into Peru and a southern half that lies entirely within Bolivian borders. In June of 1985, my son Bill and I finally arrived at Pelechuco. Our objective was to climb the peaks rimming the valley between Kantantica and Soral Este. (See the map opposite p. 38 of A.A.J., 1960.) During the following days we struggled for 20 kilometers with huge loads up an old Aymaran trail paralleling the Río Sanches-Cucho and finally set up Base Camp five kilometers from the west end of the valley. The next day we climbed north up steep scree around the south side of the third peak east-southeast of Soral Este. We continued north along the east side of the north ridge for one kilometer, climbed onto the lower section of the ridge and continued south up crumbly, class 5.4 rock to the 5100-meter summit for a first ascent. While we were climbing, Indians ransacked our camp of food and various articles, forcing us to revisit Pelechuco to replenish our supplies. We then established a high camp (4850 meters) at the terminus of the glacier fed by the northeast face of P 5610 and the northeast face of P 5560. The next day we ascended the glacier to the col between the peaks and continued up the 65° south face of P 5610 through deep, dry, soft, avalanching snow to the broad top for a second ascent and likely new route. The following day we ascended P 5560, which lies about one kilometer west of Kantantica. We again ambled to near the top of the glacier above camp and proceeded to climb the tumbling ice on the 65° west side of the north ridge. We gained the ridge and followed it to the summit for a first ascent. We dubbed the peak Kantantica Oeste. Our next goal was Soral Oeste, located atop the icefield at the head of the valley. We took two days, one in a snowstorm, to find our way through an icefall below the south face of Soral Este and finally set up a high camp at 5200 meters below the south face of the west ridge of Soral Oeste. (We later discovered that a very simple rock- scrambling route to the icefield exists along the northernmost end of the northeast face of Azucarani.) In a thunderstorm, we climbed the east side of the south-face snow fin of Soral Oeste up 60° soft snow with many hidden crevasses to complete a new route. Three days later we climbed a 4800-meter rock tower lying below the south face of Soral Este. From our camp in the valley we ascended the tower by its southeast ridge in six leads of solid, enjoyable, 5.6 rock climbing.

Bill and I, accompanied by my daughter, Barb, returned to the southern half of the Cordillera Apolobamba during July, 1986. We headed east across the 4400-meter altiplano about five kilometers north of the road fork to Ulla Ulla and Pelechuco. (See map on page 105 of the Jahrbuch des Deutschen Alpenvereins, 1985.) We hiked past Lago Khello and two more lakes into a high valley leading to the southeast. This valley led to Base Camp 300 meters above the terminus of a large glacier at 4880 meters, eight kilometers west of Nevado de Cololo, 40 kilometers from where we left the road. On July 8, Bill and I climbed southwest up scree and snow to a snow-and-rock ridge for three kilometers (class three) leading to the top of the 5400-meter peak. A large man-made pillar adorned the top. On July 9, we all climbed an easy snow peak by its northwest ridge to its finlike summit four kilometers south of Cololo for a first ascent. Bill and I left camp on July 11 to climb a 5580-meter volcano-shaped peak four kilometers south-southwest of Cololo and 1.5 kilometers northeast of the aforementioned peak. We belayed, using pickets up the icy 60° northwest face to the long, flat, huge-comiced top, believing this also to be a first ascent. Bill and I next left camp on July 13 and made a contour across the icefield south of Cololo for seven kilometers. We descended into a huge moat and then scrambled up scree into a col between a sharp rock peak, the second summit southwest of Cololo and a more gentle summit lying to the southwest. A class-three scramble up the northeast ridge led to the top of this 5490-meter peak and a first ascent. After placing a cache, we next set up High Camp at 5300 meters near thesouthwest shoulder of Cololo. This camp was easily gained by ascending a non-obvious, yet simple rock cleaver on the east side of the icefall, north of Base Camp. Two days later, Bill and I ascended soft snow up the shoulder of Cololo onto the glaciated, broken south face and zigzagged upwards for six picket- belayed leads to the summit pyramid. High winds and heavy snowfall turned us back at 1600 hours. We then endured a three-day storm in our tent on the icefield. On July 21, Bill and I set out for a last attempt on Cololo in extremely cold but clear weather which contributed to superficial frostbite of Bill’s right big toe. We reached the summit pyramid a little before noon. Bill kicked steps up the 70° west side of the southeast arête for 70 meters and then cut through a three-meter cornice onto the arête for another lead. The exposure to the east was a sheer 700 meters. One more lead to the top of the 5915-meter peak brought us the third ascent amidst a gusty snowstorm (grade III +). We returned to camp at 10:30 P.M. after descending in a whiteout with intermittent snowfall. We later returned to Base Camp and found our cache had been stolen. After a long 12-hour slog out to the road and a miserable two-day ride we were back in La Paz.

James Petroske

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