Cordillera Blanca, Various Ascents. Peru 1996, once a dream, was now a reality. We were in for two months of the South American goods. Our team mainly consisted of four: Lome Glick, Kent McClannan*, Topher Donahue, and myself*. After a three-day acclimatization hike up the Llanganuco Valley and down the Quebrada Santa Cruz, it was time to bring the ‘poons and tools along on our next trip in the hills. Kent and Topher headed into the west face of Churup and Lome and I spent less than three days climbing a new route on Yangyaraju. This 1,000-foot route, Triple Scoop (IV 5.8+ AI 4), ascends the southeast spur. The climb, despite a few sections of unconsolidated sugar snow, was phenomenal. Thin ice smears and solid granite allowed for very enjoyable mixed climbing
Next we headed to Santa Cruz. From Laguna Yoroccocha, the unclimbed northwest face and the west ridge, climbed in 1980, were accessible. Kent and Brad Johnson (who replaced Topher,who was forced to drop out due to an injured knee) got on the west ridge but broke from the original route and climbed a stellar fluted variation, West Ridge with Estría Plátano Variation, a.k.a Banana Flute (VI AI 3-4). From a ledge half way up they went left around the sickle serac (AAJ ‘81) instead of right. As the mayhem of seracs increased up high, the two threaded the needle between the two biggest seracs to join up with the southwest ridge. They spent a cold bivy sharing a sleeping bag at 19,000 feet. The next day they continued up the ridge until they were thwarted about 100 meters below the summit by scary chest-deep sugar snow.
Lome and I started up the west ridge a day after Kent and Brad. At about 20,000 feet on the variation, we bivied and the next morning continued straight up some steeper climbing. We tried to crack the combo that would allow us views from the summit. Summit serac chaos, massive holes, and dangerous climbing convinced us to bail with the summit cornice looming a few hundred feet above.
After climbing one more route in the Cordillera Blanca on Huscaran Sur, we headed to the Huayhuash. Kent and Lome climbed the regular route on Rasac, then the three of us climbed a new route on Tsacra Chico Norte via a direct variation to the north face route. The moderate climb included excellent rock climbing up to 5.6 on the steep, bomber quartzite summit headwall.
We all felt as if we had enough energy for one more big effort on something and decided to try a route on the south face of Yerupaja Sur. It took a direct line to the top of a point located on the southeast ridge of Yerupaja Sur. After finding our way onto the broken and questionably accessible glacier, we got on our route. After topping out on the point (5950 m) at dusk, it was obvious that there was no reasonable bivy anywhere in sight; continuing on along the crazy corniced ridge was out of the question. The route was a complete joy, involving 2,300 feet of swinging into squeaky alpine ice that only changed when pulling through the rock step or climbing the thick blue ice on the steeper section. We all agreed Two Tools, Dig It! (V AI 4+ 5.5) was the best alpine route we had done and were glad to be on the ground after a heinous all-night descent.
From here on out, we continued hiking around the range, climbing some of the moderate classics, taking photos, soaking in hot springs and taking in the views. I don’t think that I’ve ever had an adventure that has been as continuously amazing from start to finish: the climbing, culture, weather, friends, follies, etc. Kent and I are extremely grateful for the support we were given by the American Alpine Club to enable us to follow through with our dreams and make them a reality. Thank you!
Doug Hall**, unaffiliated
*Recipients of AAC Mountaineering Fellowship Fund awards.
**Killed in January, 1997, while ice climbing near Provo, Utah. Ride in peace.