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South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Huandoy Norte, North Face, Attempt, and Northwest Face, Solo Ascent

Huandoy Norte, North Face, Attempt, and Northwest Face, Solo Ascent. It was 7 a.m. as Ed Diffendal and I began the task of flagging down a taxi in Huaraz, Peru, our sights set on climbing Huandoy Norte. As we flagged down a taxi, we realized that it just was not the same heading off to climb without our partner and good friend Sean Ogle, who was unfortunately still in bed, sick. His company and Spanish-speaking skills were missed on the taxi ride into the Paron Valley. Despite illness, Sean was planning on catching up with us the next morning.

Once Ed and I arrived at Laguna Paron, we spotted an unclimbed line on the north face of Huandoy Norte. We took off immediately, leaving Sean to fend for himself. He was so sick, we were sure he would not show the following day; little did we know that he was en route.

Ed and I took off for the long hike up to Huandoy Norte through a heavily crevassed glacier. Our motto was “light, fast, and furious,” and we brought along only the essentials. We left Sean a note to catch up with us, but forgot to tell him where we were.

Ed took the first lead of the day, almost plummeting into the bergschrund as the bottom of the lip broke off, leaving him hanging by his poorly seated tools. Somehow he managed to hang in there and not drag us both into the bowels of the beast. Sean, meanwhile, was on his way, eager to arrive and join us on the climb.

For Ed and me, many pitches of steep ice, the extreme cold, and lack of sleep left us exhausted after our second day of climbing. As the rotten vertical ice taxed our bodies and minds, we chose to retreat, leaving our dream of a new route in a quick style behind. Little did we know that Sean was alone climbing on the face just next to us. He figured that we would be on the route that we had proposed to climb the night before at the bar. Sean soloed the Northwest Face of Huandoy via a brilliant variation, climbing on the rim of the exposed north face and the giant rock buttress below. The climb took over 42 hours from top to bottom. He climbed this route sans bivy gear, stove, etc., running out of water on hour 20 of his push up the mountain.

We returned to Huaraz to find that Sean had taken off to meet us! We began to get worried, as we had all the ropes and gear he would need to descend. One more day passed and we were getting ready to head back to the Paron to look for Sean when a knock came at our door. In came a note explaining that Sean was fine and resting up in a refugio on the other side of the mountain. Badly dehydrated and exhausted, he had climbed up the northwest face and then downclimbed the standard route on the south side. An excellent effort, to say the least.

Robbie Williams