South America, Bolivia, Cordillera Real, Various Ascents

Publication Year: 1999.

Cordillera Real, Various Ascents. In June and July, 1996, Scott Backes, Ed Pope, Betty Roberts and I visited the Cordillera Real. We first traveled to the Jhanko Kota region, where we made a quick ascent of Cerro Wila Llojeta (5244m). I then soloed a fourth-class route on the south side of Pt. 5458m. The next day, Backes and I climbed a new five-pitch route up the northeast face of a subsidiary summit of Cerro Wila Lloje (17,400'). The route, And Justice is Served, featured two “real” pitches on perfect granite—5.9 and 5.10b respectively—followed by moderate climbing to the summit.

Pope and I then climbed a new four-pitch waterfall route, Judgment Day (WI4), on the southwest side of Cerro Waja Apacheta (it does not go to the summit). Rarely getting any sun, the ice was so hard I stripped the hangers off two titanium ice screws.

Pope and Roberts returned to the States, while Backes and I made our way to the east side of the Ancohuma-Illampu Massif. We made Base Camp at Laguna Negra (15,300'). Backes came down with amoebic dysentery so I went soloing, first climbing Merciful Release, a new 1,200-foot route (D-) on the northeast face of Viluyo Ancohuma (18,200') that had sustained 45-50° ice, in four-and-a-half hours round-trip from BC. I then climbed Jhankopiti (19,300') by the northeast ridge in an easy afternoon.

The return of Scott’s health coincided with three days of snowfall. Despite the weather, on the third day of storm he insisted we move up to a bivouac at 17,000 feet below Illampu and Pico del Norte.

The following day we rested while spindrift ran and a strong high-pressure system moved in. On July 13, we went for it. Backes opted for a fanny pack while I simply stuffed my pockets with a hat, gloves, GU, and a pint and a half of Cytomax. We each carried two ice tools, one collapsible ski pole, the waistbelt to our harness and one carabiner each. We left the bivy at 11 a.m. and stepped onto the summit of Pico del Norte (19,800') at 3:08 p.m. after having simul-soloed a new route we graded TD. The route shares the normal line on the south side to the col between Pico del Norte and Gorro del Hielo; the final 1,400 feet are independent and feature difficult, but reasonable mixed climbing. Short, fierce mixed climbing cruxes were interspersed with sections of 50-55° névé. After reaching the summit, we down climbed the east ridge, raced under the seracs below the Gorro del Hielo and ran back to the bivy, arriving after six hours and 15 minutes on the go.

We named the route Fuck ‘Em, They’re all Posers Anyway. It’s our comment on the sport-climbing, alpinist wanna-bes whose paper-thin résumés pretend to confer on them the right to suck the life and spirit out of alpinism, replacing its soul with high number grades and prerehearsed routes, “Hot Flashes,” power drills and contracts. These climbers might prefer the definition of “alpinism” be expanded to include whatever it is they choose to do, but alpinism is a very specific type of climbing. Alpinism defines mountain climbing reduced to its purest essence. Carrying a minimum of equipment on their backs, climbers move quickly and autonomously in a single push. Alpinism means attempting to climb mountains on the most equitable footing possible, neither applying technology to overcome deficits in skill or courage, nor using permanently damaging tactics, and adhering to this ethos from beginning to end.

Mark F. Twight, Groupe de la Haute Montagne

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