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South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Chacraraju, East Face, The Shriek of the Black Stone

Chacraraju, East Face, The Shriek of the Black Stone. 1999 was an El Niño year in Peru, and climbing conditions were very poor. Andrej Markovic and I were members of a Slovenian expedition. Our main goal was to open a new route on the east face of Chacraraju East (Huaripampa, 6001m). After finishing our acclimatization on Ishinca (5530m) and Urus (5495m), and after Andrej soloed his 1996 route on Ranrapalca (6162m) (see AAJ 1997, p. 232), we set up Base Camp under Chacraraju East. Ten days later (unstable weather, running out of food), we started climbing.

We needed two carries to transport all our gear, food and equipment to beneath the face. Each of us had 30 to 35 kilos in his rucksack. On July 28, we slept under a great overhang; just after we started to climb the next morning, a big piece of ice fell where we had been sleeping. The first day of climbing was the hardest, especially for the second, who had almost everything in his rucksack. The leader had just the equipment necessary for the pitch he was climbing. We climbed the main snow slope on the right followed by a snow ledge to the right (55-70°), then some rock and mixed pitches (V to VI) and 60-to 70-degree snow in the dark. We reached an overhang and started digging a ledge for our first bivy. We were exhausted and fell asleep soon after drinking some hot tea and eating tasteless soup. We did not hear the alarm clock the next morning and overslept. The day before we had been climbing beneath seracs; when we woke, we heard them breaking and falling down. We decided to wait a day and rest.

The following morning we reached the main rock section in the middle of the face, the hardest part of our route. We climbed some rock and snow pitches as well as the first pitch of aid (Al), which was combined with a 70-degree powder snow slope. When we woke the next day, the mountain was covered in clouds, and snowing now and then. We climbed one very long pitch (VII-A2) and a 70-degree powder snow slope beneath the seracs. We spent the night in the middle of the seracs digging a snow hole from midnight until 4 a.m. during a snow storm. It was my turn to cook, but as I was trying to convince Andrej to eat I noticed he was already asleep. The next morning it had stopped snowing and was pretty sunny. We decided to dry all the gear. A very big piece of granite fell a few meters from our hole. We were terrified, but we came up with a name for the route: The Shriek of the Big Stone.

The next day we started climbing early in the morning with just the climbing equipment and one thermos of warm tea. We had a lot of unnecessary equipment for extreme technical climbing, but still, we were able to climb faster. We climbed rock, snow and ice pitches up a snow ramp toward the small ridge on the left side of the summit. There were two hard pitches, first with aid (A2+) followed by a pitch of free climbing (VII-), then 70-to 90-degree ice (we had left our ice screws in the snow hole and climbed that pitch without a belay). We reached the small snow ridge in the dark; a strong wind had started blowing after sunset. We called the upper section of the mountain “the pyramid.” It offered easy to very hard rock climbing (from III to VII) and also snow/ice climbing (50-90°). We reached the summit around midnight or 1 a.m. in even stronger wind and a few minutes later started to descend. After five long rappels we downclimbed the snow ledge to the right, made one more rappel and soloed another pitch down to the snow hole. We retrieved the equipment we had left behind that morning, made two more rappels to the great snow field/ledge in the middle of the face, then soloed left along the ledge to the main snow slope and serac. We continued descending, moving right along the snow field until we reached the crevasse and the glacier. It was August 3; we had completed our route, The Shriek of the Black Stone (Krik Šrnega granita) (VI/VII A2 90°, ca. 950m, 25 pitches) in six days alpine style.

Jure Juhasz, Slovenia