American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Bolivia, Cordillera Apolobamba, Sunchuli Valley Area, New Routes

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

Sunchuli Valley Area, New Routes. Italians Marcello Sanguineti (Club Alpino Italiano Chiavari) and Alessandro Bianchi (CAI-ULE Genova) returned to Bolivia for the second year running to climb three hard new routes in the southern Apolobamba, a.k.a. Puyo Puyo or Pupuya. The southernmost part of the Pupuya Range was discovered by Germans in 1957, who saw these mountains from the top of Huelancalloc, but didn’t climb them. The first to climb there were the Japanese in 1961 and 1965. Since many of the routes opened before 1998 are normal routes, there is in Puyo Puyo potential for direct routes on previously unclimbed walls.

After 300 kilometers and 12 hours in a jeep from La Paz, the pair established Base Camp just south of Paso Sunchuli (4700m). On August 14, they climbed a new route on the east face (D, 400m) of Cavayani (5700m), for the peak’s fourth ascent. They descended the southeast ridge (F, 400m) and then the east slope to rejoin the approach route. On August 16, they climbed the normal route (east side and northeast ridge) on Cuchillo (5665m) to check out the ridge running west toward Cavayani and descent routes from Pt. 5550m, which they climbed five days later. A second new route (ED1-, 700m) on August 19 was put up on the southwest face of Corohuari (5668m); this was the hardest route yet recorded in the Apolobamba and the third ascent of the mountain. The pair climbed the hardest part of the route through seracs at up to 90° to reach a broken plateau, then up on 55-60° slopes to the beginning of a rock wall. They then traversed left on ice (70°, then 60°), to rejoin the snow and, after 100 meters at 60°, reached a col. After 200 meters of 70-75° snow, they finished along the west ridge. The descent was to the north, followed by a traverse northwest below the ridge and then up to a col between Sunchuli (a.k.a. Cuchillo II, 5450m) and Pt. 5400m and then down the northwest slope.

On August 21, they made the second ascent of Pt. 5550m via a new route (TD, 350m) up the previously unclimbed south face. The route went to the left of an obvious serac to reach the bergschrund, crossing it in one pitch (max. 85°). They then followed a snow gully (55-60°) to below a big serac. They traversed to the left of the serac, then climbed three pitches (max. 70°) to reach the summit. The pair down climbed the north side of the mountain rather than abseil to avoid stone and ice fall once the face was in the sun.

They observed a remarkable glacier recession in the Apolobamba, which was confirmed by miners who work in the region. Also because of the very dry season, many glaciers presented a great quantity of big penitentes (particularly on Cavayani, Cuchillo, and the north side of Pt. 5550m). The extremely dry season also caused many walls to present more difficulties than they offer in normal years.

Marcello Sanguineti, Club Alpino Italiano

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