American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Paron Valley, La Esfinge, Dion's Dihedral

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

La Esfinge, Dion’s Dihedral. On June 23, after two weeks of effort, Larry Dolecki and I climbed to the 5325-meter summit of La Esfinge, completing the first ascent of a big wall aid route on the mountain’s east face. La Esfinge is a beautiful alpine tower of orange granite that hosts four previously established routes on its east and southeast faces.

Our original objective was to add a second route to the cold 900-meter southeast face, but due to lack of time (only 16 days total to acclimatize, ferry loads, climb and descend), we focused on the shorter right side of the east face. Although only 500 to 600 meters in height, this area of the wall had the steepest, cleanest rock on the mountain. We set our sights on a soaring orange-streaked comer that dominated the upper part of the face, which was separated from the ground by 200 meters of thin features and seemingly blank sections.

After a couple of easy free pitches, the tricky aid began with three pitches of hard nailing and heading interspersed with some rivets. The crux (A3) arrived on the fourth pitch, which took two days to climb due to intricate route finding and long sections of copperheads with ledge fall potential. During these initial days, the weather wasn’t the perfect Peruvian blue sky that we had heard about, but at least it was consistent: sunny, warm skies in the morning would last until about 3 p.m., when clouds would build up, resulting in an evening snowstorm. The following morning would then be back to clear skies.

After four days of fixing, we committed to the wall with food and water for five days and our double portaledge. We had hoped for free climbing, but the huge orange corner turned out to be more aid, taking everything from birdbeaks to #5 Camalots. Luckily, route finding was zero in the laser-cut dihedral and the pitches went quicker than expected, allowing us to top out three days later. We rappelled the route the same day we summitted, reaching the ground well after dark and in yet another swirling snow storm.

The 11-pitch route was named Dion’s Dihedral (VI 5.9 A3) in memory of young Canadian alpinist Dion Bretzloff, who tragically had been killed on Yerapaja three weeks earlier.

Sean Isaac*, Canada

La Esfinge, East Face, Papas Relleñas. Cedric Cruaud, Gired Devernay, Benoit Peyronnard and Pierre Plaze made the first ascent of the route Papas Relleñas (ED 6c+ A3, 600m) on the east face of La Esfinge (5325m) from July 20-25. The route appears to go to the right of Bohórquez’s 1985 route.

Antonio Gómez Bohórquez, Spain

*Supported by a grant from the Canadian Himalayan Foundation

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