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South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Santa Cruz Norte, West Face Attempt; Pyramide de Garcilaso, East Face Attempt

Santa Cruz Norte, west face attempt; Pyramide de Garcilaso, east face attempt. Jay Burbee (Canada), Michel van der Spek (Netherlands), and I (Canada) spent June in the Cordillera Blanca, where we began with an attempt on the unclimbed west face of Santa Cruz Norte (5829m). Uncharacteristic of the region, the weather was not good. In marginal weather we climbed a runnel on the right side of the face (the first one that completely avoids the prominent rock band at three-quarters height). Eight pitches were climbed, principally on ice and snow of varying quality and as steep as 60 degrees, as well as minor mixed sections. We topped out on the west ridge at 5700m late in the day and retreated to avoid an unplanned bivy. Our climb is not to be considered a new route, since it does not connect with an established route (the west ridge remains unclimbed) or reach the summit.

Next we unsuccessfully attempted a route on the unclimbed east face of Pyramide de Garcilaso in the Paria Gorge. The easiest approach to this face seems to be straight up the valley headwall, but is exposed to ice and stone fall. We took the quickest route, which climbed a glacier, formed entirely by icefall, traversed a bombarded scree ledge, and climbed one pitch of Grade 3 ice up the toe of the glacier. The east face of Pyramide de Garcilaso contains about a dozen steep ice streaks and runnels. We chose what looked to be one of the easier ones, a water-ice line descending from the col between the north and south summits. From a bivy cave at its base Jay led the first pitch in the dark of early morning, fighting with an eight-meter vertical pillar. Three more pitches up excellent 45- to 70-degree water ice and snow led to a 20-meter vertical ice curtain at 5500m. The lower part of the ice sheet was thick and of good quality, but higher the ice became thin, detached, and rotten. The underlying and surrounding rock was not of good quality, making the climbing somewhat unprotectable. An attempt to aid the curtain on ice tools was abandoned just below the point of no return. A safer but more complicated descent route below the east face of Paron, on rock slabs and steep grass, was used to regain the valley.

Jeremy Frimer, Varsity Outdoor Club (UBC)