South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Huandoy Norte and Este, Alexandra and Adam's Variation

Publication Year: 2004.

Huandoy Norte and Este, Alexandra and Adam’s Variation. I arrived in Peru with the idea of climbing all four Huandoy summits. I came alone and decided to climb alone. I approached each Huandoy from the east (except when attempting the southwest face of the west peak), which is easily accessed with a collectivo (bus) going up to the Pisco base camp in the Llan- ganuco Valley. This is also the least expensive way of reaching the Huandoys. From there I could reach the edge of the glacier and the bivouac sites for my climbs.

The northeast side of Huandoy Sur (6,160m) was my first climb. On the approach I had a cup of tea and fried salmon in the Pisco Hut, which friends were taking care of. In case of a storm I wouldn’t have to wait under a wet rock for days. Anyway, the east side was a natural choice, and I climbed it early, as it receives the first rays of the sun. The face consists of mostly snow- and-ice climbing, with a short mixed section to cross the rock band in the lower part. The band is tricky but doesn’t require much more than carefulness. The main icefield is 50-60°. The upper runnels are confusing because they divide several times and are much steeper than the rest of the face. The runnel that I climbed, which led directly to the top, has three difficult steps, of which the last is the most difficult. The first two are 75°, but the last has a short section of 95°, which I avoided by climbing to the side on a fragile snow flute—less steep but more delicate. The runnel exits 10-15m from the summit. The descent involved some moderate climbing down the 200-300m high north face, which is mostly 50° with a short section of 65°. The main difficulty was descending seracs to easier mixed ground below the saddle between the north and south peaks. It demanded vertical downclimbing, but could have been easily overcome by a single rappel.

The northeast face (Astier Route, MD/MDsup) was a marvelous climb; the last runnels had the most waterfall-like feeling you can ask for on a 6,000m peak.

Next was the southeast face of Huandoy Este (5,900m), which I climbed in early July. The day I arrived I made a trail up the glacier. In daylight it wasn’t difficult to reach the face, and there was no real crevasse danger. I started at 2 a.m. and reached the base in 1-1/2 hours. This face is relatively short but sustained in steepness, with mixed climbing, around M4, and a difficult section of fragile honeycomb ice to reach the ridge to the left of the summit. [The route starts just left of the American Route, soloed by Alex Lowe in 1984—Ed.] Otherwise marvelous ice climbing, 55-75°. The descent was the main difficulty. I climbed to the summit and down a runnel on the right side of the buttress separating Huandoy Este and Norte. Old slings were in place, but I had no rope, and climbing down the first 150m was very difficult. The runnel was also exposed to large, free-hanging icicles that would have cleaned the runnel had they come down. It was a serious mixed route, and after much research, I concluded it was a new route (Adam’s Variation, 550m, MD).

I finally climbed Huandoy Norte (6,395m). I bivvied to the left of the snow gully of the French Route. At 12:30 a.m. I departed, crossed the bergschrund, passed the French gully, and traversed onto the east face. I climbed straight up on 55° snow until I reached an ice gully; the adjacent face mostly consists of loose rock. This 70° gully led to a little snowfield under a band of icicles. I traversed left under the icicles, on less-steep rock and ice, until I reached an ice flute that took me to the upper ice runnels (80°, then 60-65°). The exit to the upper snow plateau was the hardest part of the climb, consisting of steep, fragile ice, just like the exit on the southeast face of Huandoy Este. From the exit I needed another half hour to reach the summit. The snow was soft and deep, and I had to circle large crevasses: the scariest part of the climb. I believe what I climbed to be a new route (Alexandra, 1,000-1,100m, MD+ 55-75° (80° max)). [This route is right of the 1976 Polish route—Ed.] Without a full moon I could not have found my way up the face. I descended the southeast slopes to the saddle and continued down the east face on its leftmost side. This is the so-called easy, normal route but it isn’t easy, with ice to 60° and danger when the sun hits. I had to wait several hours under a rock overhang for the continual whistling of ice and stones to stop.

Adam Kovacs, Sweden