American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, La Esfinge, Cruz del Sur, New Route

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

La Esfînge, Cruz del Sur, New Route. Silvo Karo (Slovenia), Mauro “Bubu” Bole (Italy), and I traveled to Peru on my birthday, June 23. Upon our arrival at Base Camp (4650m) below La Esfinge (a.k.a. the Sphinx) on June 27, we had some problems with the altitude. The third day after our arrival at BC, Bubu had to go back to the valley. After his return, the whole thing ran smoothly, and our climbing could really start.

Silvo managed to climb the first pitch on June 29, with me belaying because of Bubu’s sickness. I rated the first 35 meters 6b+. It was good for warming up. The crack had to be cleaned a little bit—there was some soil and vegetation—but in general the rock in this part of the face was very good.

Silvo and Bubu planned primarily to climb on the southern face, but the rock quality was poor, and the face only got about two hours of morning sun. Because their intention was free climbing, they decided to go to the left part of the eastern face, which has sun for the half of the day.

Silvo and Bubu had a portaledge and fixed rope on the lower parts, equipping the route and allowing easy access to BC, but planned to climb the upper part of the face without fixed rope in a single try. We also needed the fixed ropes for my filming and photographing.

On July 3 and 4, they continued to climb, equipping, cleaning, and then freeing pitches up to 7c+. After a day of rest they continued, adding more free pitches to a large shelf under a smooth column in the middle of the lower part of the face, which we named the Nose. It was now obvious that we were adjusted to the altitude. On the right side of the Nose another three new pitches (7b+, 7b, and 7a+) were added. Now they were climbing everything onsight.

The first pitch on the Nose is extraordinarily beautiful and photogenic, following on a dihedral up to a smaller column and then over smooth rock above. They had to climb and drill at the same time, which they managed to do onsight. The climbing continued with cracks that had to be cleaned, and that day we stopped above the Nose. The next day, they climbed another three easier pitches and reached a steep shelf in the middle of the face, meeting the 1987 route.

Up to here, we had fixed ropes; above, it was necessary to continue without descending. That day I climbed alone to a peak to the right of the Sphinx (5380m) to try for photos. The tour itself was interesting and beautiful. I climbed its right couloir, went over the peak, and then descended its western ridge to the Sphinx and the left couloir. In spots I had to rock climb up to 5b, and the snow in the couloir was 30 to 60 degrees. We had a day of rest, and then we planned to climb to the summit.

On July 10 at first light we set out for the face, although Bubu did not feel very well, probably because of the food. That was our seventh day on the face. Within two hours we were on the top of the 11th pitch, where our ropes ended. Silvo and Bubu were climbing, and I was jumaring behind them. The upper part was a little bit easier than the lower part, but all on mostly good rock. Five very long pitches (6a, 7a+, 6a+, 6b+, and 5a) in dihedrals and cracks brought us, at 1:30 p.m., to the top of Sphinx, where we had a wonderful view of Lake Paron and neighboring peaks. We enjoyed one and a half hours in the sun on the summit. Bubu did some acrobatic tricks on the rock, and then at 3 p.m. we started back down. During our descent we took some ropes and other equipment, and some we left for the following days, when we went one more time to the face and filmed some material. On July 13, we said goodbye to everybody in the base camp and went to the valley.

Silvo and Bubu thought for a very long time about how to name the route, and then at the end we named it after a constellation in the sky that we could see every evening and which can be seen only in the southern hemisphere: Cruz del Sur (Southern Cross). There are 33 bolts and 16 pitons on the route, of which 17 bolts and 12 pitons are for belays. The most difficult pitch, pitch 2, was given 7c+, the obligatory free spots in the route are up to 7a, and the route is 800 meters long and 650 meters high. Some Friends and chocks are needed; a variety of pitons would be advisable, as would double 60-meter climbing ropes. The sun shines on the face from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

A return trip for us would be worthwhile, especially because of the beautiful colors and sunsets, and the friendly people.

Boris StrmŠek, Slovenia

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