Tambo, Churros Y Amigos
One crazy adventure on the southeast face of Jirishanca.
After a last long night in El Tambo, we took the bus directly the Cordillera Huayhuash. We had with us three weeks of food, which amounted to seven bags of 30 kilos each. After about 10 hours of the collectivo bus, we arrived at Queropalca in the night, a little town lost at the end of the Peruvian mountain pampas. Already it felt like an adventure. Then a long day of walking with mules took us past the pretty Carhuacocha (Lake) to the foot of Jirishanca, at 4,500 meters. Along the way the mules took a little bath in the river, and when it started to snow, we faced the hard fact that our gear was totally soaked. Then we realized something even worse: “Oh my god! The toilet paper!” It, too, was soaked. We managed to save eight napkins—how many days would they have to last? And then the weather turned really miserable.
Edgar, a 14-year-old shepherd, visited to exchange some trout for rope after the climb. He became the only person we would see in 22 days. Only Christophe, the two-kilo chicken, kept our morale up. But she was losing weight too quickly. Eventually we left camp for four days of climbing. Aymeric attacked the first pitch at the lowest, most overhanging part of the face. It snowed every day. We climbed slowly in the mud and grass, half aid and half free, having to clean the cracks to place protection. A pitch a day for the first two days, spiced by a fall from a sky hook. What a start.
The next day, two pitches took us through very steep, dirty, poor rock to the top of the first bastion. Then we crossed a snow ramp, where we found an odd dropped bolt (of Italian origin). Now the free climbing could begin, as the rock was much better here. One more 80-meter pitch in crazy sculptured limestone, and then a new storm. Back to the bivouac, with 300 meters of fixed rope above and finally high-quality rock.
The next day we returned to the base camp for two days of rest and eating, and of course to save on toilet paper. Six big trout awaited us, along with a thinner chicken. We looked at our supplies and realized that only eight days of food remained. It was time for the final push, which looked like it would provide aesthetic free climbing.
A day took us up the fixed ropes, where we learned the old lesson that there is always something that doesn’t work on an ascent; this time it was the stove: two hours to heat soup. Another great start.
The crux of the second day was a steep freeclimbing crack to reach a good ledge: no portaledge this night. But Aymeric lost his mind over the stove. The next pitch had a ridiculously good belay: two 10mm bolts! Why a bolt when there were such good cracks? We had left our own bolts behind so as not be tempted. Then snow began falling again.
The third day we diagonaled left up a dihedral with an icy pitch and met the Japanese route, with its old fixed ropes, pitons, and bolts. We used three of those bolts to cross a slab, and climbed two hard pitches on the right with a bit of aid climbing on poor rock, using a skyhook. We placed the bivouac on a poor ledge.
The fourth day, we crossed some gray slabs on the right to reach the central chimney gully; a long mixed pitch took us to the ledge under the final bastion. We were free climbing again, but now under a friendly sun. We went to sleep to the rhythm of the stove. That night the sky brightened from storms far below to the east, over the Amazon Basin. Impressive.
We left the portaledge there, on the fifth day. Three splendid pitches in cracks and slabs were steeper than expected; it was a gas at 5,800 meters. Then Aymeric played with his ice-axes in the large ice roof ringing the entire top of the mountain, a roof that had frightened us since the first day we saw them. He climbed it free, which was amazing. We played at being tightrope walkers on the snow arête that glided into the sky. As night fell, we discovered a cave under a icy roof. Nine technical pitches through icy roofs, bad rock, ice-flutes, and cornices eventually took us to the summit the sixth day. It was a magic moment.
Another night in the ice cave, and then a long day brought us back to the ground. We removed our fixed ropes, and on the last abseil down, in the night, another storm hit us. Snow had returned, but for us it was “la buena suerte” (good luck). The following day, over-tired, sick, and beyond any feelings, we shuttled back the last of our gear. Edgar came to give us some potatoes and to take us back to civilization. We gave him the rope. It had been a crazy adventure, which wouldn’t end until the first meal, the first beer in El Tambo.
Summary of Statistics
Area: Peru, Cordillera Huayhuash
Ascent: Southeast face of Jirishanca, Tambo, Churros Y Amigos (1,100m, ED3/4, 7a A2 95° M4). Aymeric Clouet and Didier Jourdain. August 29–September 10, 2003.
Clouet and Jourdain also climbed a major new route on Chacraraju during their visit to Peru. See Climbs & Expeditions.