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South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Tuctubamba, Middle Earth

Tuctubamba, Middle Earth. Clay Wadman and I tried the prominent couloir on the right, climbing ca 300 meters and reaching the rock band before rappelling the line of ascent. We found conditions that varied from one-inch ice over rock to perfect névé to bottomless snow. The crux involved thin, 75-degree ice protected by knifeblades. On our descent we used primarily knifeblades and small stoppers, but placements were difficult to find, as the rock is compact.

Topher and Patience Donahue did the probable first ascent of a line that is hidden to the left behind Tuctubamba, and Clay and I repeated it two days later. Middle Earth (IV 5.8 WI5, ca 400 meters) lies in a cleft and deposits the climber on the saddle between Tuctubamba and Taulliraju. Another 70 or 80 meters of moderate snow climbing takes one to the summit. Pitches two and four were the cruxes. The first crux involved rock climbing to access a tenuously adhered, five-meter vertical pillar, while the second involved vertical ice for 15 meters, protected at the steepest part by rock gear in the wall. Conditions were generally excellent, as was protection. Middle Earth is a recommended route to a great summit and lends itself to being climbed from Punta Union in a day.

Christian Beckwith, AAC