American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Huandoy Group, Various Ascents and Descents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001

Huandoy Group, Various Ascents and Descents. In June, Stephen Koch, Kris Erickson, Chris Trimble, Nat Patridge, Rob Buchanan, and I established Base Camp at an aqua blue lake near the toe of a glacier on the north side of the Huandoy group, one of the most rugged and impressive cirques in the Cordillera Blanca. Our main objective was to climb, ski and snowboard the impressive northwest face of Huandoy Norte (6400m), a 55- to 60-degree face that topped out 1700 meters above our camp.

To prepare, we spotted a beautiful line off the shoulder of Huandoy Oeste. On June 6, we skied the rarely (if ever) touched face, later dubbed “Los Bonitos Penitentes,” which topped out at about 5600 meters. It sported 50-degree turns over a large cliff and some of the strangest snow I have ever turned in. Wild. Blue skies and warm temps, and the sound of our skis and boards slicing through slushy penitentes, made for a truly sublime experience.

On June 11, we left Base Camp at midnight, arriving at the base (5400m) of Huandoy Norte at 6 a.m. We started climbing, ropeless, up 60-degree snow and 70-degree sections of water ice to reach the col (6200m) at 1:30 p.m. Snow conditions were less than ideal for the descent and soon the weather crapped out, engulfing us in a white-out. Considering the poor visibility, the sportiness of the snow, and the serious consequences of a mistake, we deemed the descent too dangerous. Down climbing and rappelling (with a single headlamp) brought us to the base of the face around 8 p.m. A quick brew-up and hours of glacier travel brought us back to BC, 25 hours after we started.

On June 22, Nat Patridge, Kris Erickson, Chris Trimble and I descended Huascaran (6768m) from the summit via The Shield, a 400-meter, 50- to 60-degree ice face that hangs in the middle of the west face. The snow was soft, edgeable and smooth the whole way. The line was well sustained, with not a turn under 50 degrees (after the upper flat football fields, anyway). Carving turns in easy, turnable snow at 6000 meters, toying with the void lurking below, was a real treat.

Hans Saari, unaffiliated

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.