Apolobamba Area, Various Ascents. The first team out during the 1997 season was the Walsall expedition of Dean Wiggin, Eamonn Flood and Yossi Brain (U.K.), who climbed in the Katantica group north of the Pelechuco Valley. The torture of the 18-hour bus journey to Pelechuco was alleviated by the liberal use of Valium. On May 24, we climbed the southeast ridge of P.5550m and continued along the northwest ridge to Katantica Oeste (5630m)—a new route (PD). We camped just below the col between P.5550m and Katantica Central, and the next day climbed a new route on the west ridge of Katantica Central (5610m) via a beautiful line (75°+ AD+, max. 65°). The cornice switched from right to left; on the right-hand (south) side, we found bottomless powder. It was also the first British ascent of the mountain. We then dropped down the east-southeast face to camp below the col between Katanticas Central and Este. (The east-southeast face was used by the Germans Karl Gross and Dieter Hain for the first ascent on May 27, 1968.) On May 26, we went through the pass between Katanticas Central and Este and headed up the north face (AD 65°, 300m) in three hours (a new route), then followed the ridge up for 15 minutes to the summit of P.5560, a first British and second-ever ascent of the mountain. We continued for 30 minutes along the impressive ridge southeast to the base of Katantica Este’s summit pyramid. We climbed a beautiful 50- meter pitch (70° AD) up the southwest face to join the mushy northeast face, which we followed to the summit (5592m). It was the first British and possibly the second-ever ascent of the mountain. We descended to a dry spot between two lakes surrounded by a glacier due south of Katantica Este.
On May 27, we climbed up to a col on the northeast ridge of Katantica Sur, then headed northeast to reach P.5200 (PD), a probable first ascent. We crossed the glacial basin and followed the southeast ridge to Katantica Sur (5300m), finishing up on loose rock (AD-, 45°). It was a new route, the first British ascent, and (probable) second ascent of the mountain. We descended the German route (north face), returned to camp, and crossed the extremely broken glacier to get back to first camp. The next day was spent descending to the road, and the following day we squeezed onto a bus going down to Pelechuco. The team then had to wait in Pelechuco for four days while the presidential elections took place (there is only one bus a week out of Pelechuco and all transport is suspended while elections take place). The three of us then attempted the traverse of Illimani but bailed because of strong winds on day three, having climbed 3000 meters of vertical to reach the base of Pico Layca Khollu, the first peak of the five-peak traverse. Morale had not been helped by the discovery the previous day of the remains of a Spanish climber, José Ignacio Zuazubiscar Eguidazu, reported missing in September, 1994. He appeared to have soloed the normal route, got lost on the summit and descended in the wrong direction, falling 300-400 meters to his death.
Andy MacNae (U.K.) and Kevin Dougherty (Kenya) put in a couple of productive weeks in the Apolobamba, climbing A Glaciar on August 11 and then, on August 14, climbing Radioaficion (second ascent) from the northwest (AD+) to reach a ridge. They then continued traversing Bures, Apollo and Presidente. On August 16, they climbed the south ridge of Montserrat South and continued along the ridge to ten meters below Montserrat North, where they were stopped by an overhanging section. This was farther than the 1969 Spanish expedition got and included a new route up the south ridge of A Suches. They descended via a snow gully between A Suches and Montserrat North. The next day, they climbed the impressive south ridge of Soral Oeste and continued to traverse Sulka, Manresa, Quire and Montserrat North before heading back to a pass west of Manresa and dropping back down to a camp on rock above the Collado Ingles. MacNae went on to make an attempt on a new route on Pico Norte of Illimani with Pete Grosset and me but was beaten back by bad weather. Dougherty failed to make an attempt due to the attractions of La Paz nightlife and a combination of giardia and alcohol poisoning.
Yossi Brain, United Kingdom