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South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Nevado Ulta to Summit Ridge Cornices, Northwest Bowl

Nevado Ulta to summit ridge cornices, northwest bowl. At midnight on July 8 Brits Al Powell and Owen Samuel left a high bivy below the glacier and headed for Ulta’s prominent, unclimbed northwest bowl. Their route ascends the couloir to the right of the dividing rib that is prominent in the photo in the AAJ 2001 (p. 275) and continues up the headwall. They crossed the glacier, headed up the snow cone for several hundred meters and up an initial, wet icefall. That took them into a snow bowl, followed by steep ramps that led to the main lower couloir. Steep runnels (Scottish 5) then took them to a steep, run-out icefall (Scottish 5) and a big left-trending 50°-60° ice scoop in the middle of the face (Scottish 4). This led to the base of the obvious headwall. They bivied to the right, chopping a site from an ice fin. The first day involved 14-15 pitches and 15 hours of climbing.

On the second day the climbers ascended a shallow corner for 15m, then up and left for another 40m. This proved to be the crux pitch, with some Scottish 7 mixed (but decent protection). A 60m pitch of Scottish 5/6 ice led to a bay. The pair went left, across a ramp, for 60m to a small rock step and gully, then up the gully, then left to a steep rock wall covered with icicles. They continued on scary, dangerous ice and snow-covered rock that involved a few 10m A1 sections. They then trended right, into a scoop, then up and left into a couloir. This they climbed for two pitches (Scottish 4/5, bad pro) to an enormous snow mushroom guarding access to the summit. They’d been climbing for about 14 hours when they found a relatively comfortable bivouac spot below some cornices; here they stayed the night. The next day they rappelled the route, mostly on ice threads. They report considerable rockfall in the lower section when the sun hits the face. The overall grade for the route was about ED2.

Owen Samuel, U.K. and Lindsay Griffin, High Mountain INFO