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South America, Colombia, Alto Ritacuba, North Face Ascent and Tragedy

Alto Ritacuba, North Face Ascent and Tragedy, Sierra Nevada de Cocuy. A Polish-Colombian climb of the north face of Alto Ritacuba (5464 meters, 17,928 feet) ended in disaster. We were Marek Danielak, Zbigniew Kaleta, Edward Krauzowicz, Krzysztof Oleksowicz, Stanislaw Szczerba and I from Poland and Jairo Guerrero and Krzysztof Szafranski from Colombia. On April 15, Danielak, Oleksowicz Szczerba and I climbed the 450-meter-high south face of Pico Sin Nombre (5000 meters, 16,404 feet). On April 17, Danielak, Guerrero and I started up a new route on the center of the 700-meter-high north face of Alto Ritacuba. The first bivouac was beneath a big overhang in the upper part of the lower rock wall. The next day, we climbed the overhang and 300 meters of mixed terrain (UIAA V + , then III-IV). A second bivouac was made 150 meters below the summit ridge. On April 19, tragedy struck. The summit sérac barrier broke and caught Danielak and Guerrero, who were instantly killed and hurled to the foot of the face. I escaped and climbed to the ridge and summit. The bodies were found on April 23 and buried in a crevasse. Danielak had taken part in three Himalayan expeditions and had climbed Cho Oyu. Guerrero was an experienced mountaineer and president of the Colombian climbing club, El Escalador.

Ryszard Gajewski, Klub Wysokogórski, Zakopane, Poland