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South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, La Esfinge, Mech Taq Inti?

La Esfinge, Mecho Taq Inti? Our team was two women, Tanja Rojs and Aleksandra Voglar, and I, Andrej Grmovsek, all from Slovenia. After acclimatization on Vallunaraju (5686m) we put up base camp under La Esfinge on July 11. Because of many articles in recent climbing magazines, we were expecting big crowds on and under the wall, but we were all alone. In the month of our stay under La Esfinge, only a few parties came and climbed the classic 1985 route.

Our plan was to put a new route on the wall, but the wall was almost full of routes. Nevertheless, we found a nice unclimbed lineon a very steep buttress on the far left side of the east wall. The wall is highest there and faces southeast. We started 50 meters left of the route Cruz del Sur. We climbed mostly free but used aid while cleaning dirty cracks or placing hand-drilled bolts. We used mostly natural protection, which was hard to place. The cracks were dirty, filled with earth and plants, and also flared. That’s why it was much easier to free climb, with runouts, than to use aid. The women found the climbing hard and climbed two pitches with aid, at 6b, A2+. We placed 13 bolts for belays on the lower part of the route and 9 on the pitches. On the lower part of the wall we fixed ropes and returned to the base every night. We had problems with weather, which is not typical for this mountain at this time of the year. During our 16 days under La Esfinge we had six days of snow, wind, and cold. In five climbing days we fixed six 60-meter ropes. Then in one day we climbed the upper wall to the summit. We named the route Mecho Taq Inti?, which in Quechua means “Where are you, sun?” It’s 800 meters long, 15 piches, Grade VI.

After two weeks of resting and healing a heel injury, I returned to the wall with Tanja in August. Our plan was to free climb the harder, steeper first half of our route (we free climbed the upper part during the first ascent). I climbed it free, despite strong wind and cold. The difficulties were up to 7b (obligatoire 7a), with some long runouts. (1. 6c, 60m; 2. 7b, 60m; 3.6c+, 60m; 4. 6c+, 60m; 5. III, 20m; 6. 6c, 60m; 7. 7a, 60m; 8. 6a+, 30m; 9. 6b+, 60m; 10. 6a, 60m; 11. 6b, 60m; 12. 6b, 60m; 13. 5c, 60m; 14. 6a+, 60m; 15. 6b+, 30m.) After a day of rest we also climbed the 1985 route (free onsight, at 7a). Of course it was snowing from the midpoint to the top. Then we took two days of rest and tried Cruz del Sur, a route that was climbed last year by a very strong party, Slovenian Silvo Karo and Italian Mauro “Bubu” Bole, and rated 7c+. We climbed it in three days. On the first two days we returned to the base by fixed ropes. We were really getting tired, because we climbed so hard day after day. Except for the second pitch, which I needed to first nail (I climbed it on my second try), I climbed the route free onsight. I think the first-ascent climbers overgraded the route. It is only a little harder than Mecho Taq Inti? and not as serious.

Andrej Grmovsek, Planinska zveza Slovenije