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South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Various Ascents, and Observations on Glaciation

Cordillera Blanca, Various Ascents, and Observations on Glaciation. From July 20 until August 20, Jimmy Surette and I climbed in the Cordillera Blanca and found conditions utterly unlike anything we expected. For years the glaciers have been receding in the equatorial regions, but the last two years have been exceptionally dry in Peru, accelerating the deterio-ration of ice features at an alarming rate. First we found much rock exposed on the previously icy south (shadowed) face of Chacraraju. A recent snowstorm completed our jinx and caused high avalanche hazard. We then hiked to the Pisco/Huandoy area and found faces that have been climbed on ice melted to the unstable earth beneath. Rockslides were more common than avalanches. A line of blue water ice gave us a safe route on the 1,500-foot south face of Pisco. We were happy to climb, but the deterioration of the once-stellar alpine area weighed heavily on our spirits.

We moved to the Santa Cruz Valley to try the awesome granite-and-ice plumb of Taulliraju. We found established routes utterly dry or with just a veneer of slush bonded lightly to the rock. The less steep northeast ridge looked like the least of many evils, and we found some of the wildest ice features we’d ever seen. From a bivy atop an ice face, we tried for the summit in a day, but turned around when navigating the steep ridge guarded by every conceivable ice goblin proved too time consuming.

With enough time for one more thing, we tried Rinrijirca, a peak called “easy” in the guidebook. The book suggested two to three hours for the ascent; it took us 12, and we encountered overhanging ice where climbers once walked on a snow ridge.

Topher Donahue, unaffiliated