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South America, Bolivia, Cordillera Real, Cerro Ventanani, Ruta de los Amigos, New Route and Cerro Sancayuni, West Face Hanging Glacier Route, First Solo Ascent

Cerro Ventanani, Ruta de Los Amigos, New Route and Cerro Sancayuni, West Face Hanging Glacier Route, First Solo Ascent. On July 8 and 9, I established one new route and made a first solo ascent in the Linco Valley of the Cordillera Real. The Linco Valley is located just north of the Condoriri Valley and requires three hours of desperate off-road driving to reach. Another two hours of hiking is required to reach the base of the glaciers.

On July 8, I left my camp at the base of the glaciers and climbed the west face of Cerro Ventanani (5400m) for the first ascent. A two-hour approach on the moderately crevassed glacier led to the 500-foot west face. I climbed the smooth 50-degree headwall to the summit, enjoying perfect névé conditions and blue Bolivian skies. I descended via the gentle south ridge, the only route previously climbed on this peak. I called the new route Ruta de Los Amigos after a friendship I developed with my camp guard, Felix, a local Aymara Indian.

On July 9, armed with technical tools, a rope, and a few ice screws, I climbed the West Face Hanging Glacier route on Cerro Sancayuni (5400m) for the first solo ascent. This route was first climbed in 1983 by Stanley Shepard, Dave Bishop, and Frank Zaftan. A short glacial approach led to the beginning of the real climbing. A ribbon of 80-degree water ice led elegantly through a daunting serac band, providing access to 1,000 vertical feet of steep névé on the upper face. I climbed a pitch of brittle ice through the narrow passage and gained the long, smooth slope above. Once on the face proper, I found the 50- to 60-degree angle and styrofoam conditions ideal for pied troisieme technique with two tools, and the consistent steepness lent awesome exposure. One and a half hours after leaving the talus, I crossed the bergschrund and pulled onto the summit ridge. A short walk along the knife-edge crest put me at the north summit. I descended via the ascent route, down climbing the upper face and rappelling the water ice pitch.

I spent July 10-11 exploring adjacent valleys. I discovered a plethora of new route potential on neighboring 5000-meter-plus peaks.

Matt Wade