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Pure and Perpetual Snow: Two Climbs in the Andes of Peru

Pure and Perpetual Snow: Two climbs in the Andes of Peru. David Mazel. The Free Solo Press, Alamosa, Colorado, 1987. 136 pages, 22 black-and-white photographs, 1 illustration, bibliography. $10.95 (paper).

I enjoyed Mazel’s small but personable book about climbing Alpamayo and Ausangate in Peru’s Cordilleras Blanca and Vilcanota. The text alternates between experiences on his own guided climbs and extensive research about the history and culture of Peru’s mountains and people. A rough map would have been useful.

In the last ten years, not many books in English have been written on Peru’s Andes. The two that come to mind are John Ricker’s Yuraq Janka, guide to the Cordillera Blanca, and Jim Bartle’s Trails of the Cordilleras Blanca and Huayhuash of Peru. Mazel adds a short, fun work to this list. On a month’s journey, the author joined the American Alpine Institute’s guided itinerary but failed in ascending the southwest face of 19,100-foot Alpamayo. However, he succeeded in climbing the less visited 20,945-foot Ausangate in the Cordillera Vilcanota.

Mazel gives a fascinating account of the history of Andean climbing, focusing on such pioneers as Annie Peck, Georges and Claude Kogan. But he does not omit the climbs of the ancient Indians, who built structures for religious observances at 20,000 feet. He covers the disastrous earthquake of 1970, which killed 67,000 people in the Callejón de Huaylas below the Cordillera Blanca.

The author discovers, as many do, that the joys of the Andes lie not only in the ascent itself, but in the valleys, villages and ruins below the mountains. Peter Getzel, a wonderful American anthropological researcher, who has made the Andes his life work, and archeologist Johan Reinhard help convey some enlightening religious relationships that Peru’s people had to the white ranges.

John A. Rehmer