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South America, Bolivia, Ala Norte, Condoriri, West Ridge, Cordillera Real

Ala Norte, Condoriri, West Ridge, Cordillera Real. Beautiful Condoriri’s two outspread wings give the image of a great bird in flight. The wings are separate from Condoriri itself. We climbed the Ala Norte (North Wing), which actually lies rather more west than north of the main peak. We believe that its west ridge had not previously been climbed. The prior five days saw successful climbs of Ilusión (5330 meters, 17,487 feet) and Pequeño Alpamayo (5370 meters, 17,618 feet) between unseasonably heavy snowfalls of three feet. We moved camp to 16,500 feet on the southern edge of Condoriri’s west glacier. One attempt on Condoriri proper was repelled by avalanche danger. The next day, June 8, a smaller team of four began the climb of the Ala Norte. We postholed across the glacier in three feet of fresh snow to the westernmost point of the wing. An unsuccessful attempt was made to ascend an obvious couloir leading to the ridgeline. Bottomless snow and avalanche danger forced a retreat. We then climbed two pitches over rotten rock and traversed to the couloir above the deep snow. A 100-meter wind-blown snow ramp led to the ridge crest. Two pitches of hardpack and two of steep, rotten ice followed. One member had to drop out because of fatigue; he awaited our return on a well protected platform. Geoff Bartram, Robert “SP” Parker and I climbed the corniced, exposed ridge in worsening visibility and got to the summit (5532 meters, 18,150 feet) at 1:30 P.M. As we began the final abseil off the ridge, our heads throbbed and ice axes hummed from the electrical storm. On the glacier, new drifting snow had covered our steps.

Mark Nawrocki