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South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Nevado Copa, South Ridge

Nevado Copa, South Ridge. From June 13-16, an expedition led by Valerio Bertoglio, with UIAGM guides Fabrizio Manoni, Enrico Rosso, Miguel Martinez, and me headed toward Camp Lejiacocha at the base Nevado Copa (6,188m) to attempt the first ascent of the peak’s 1,500m- long south ridge. [Note: The upper sections of the ridge, accessed from the southeast face, had been climbed, but an integral ascent of the ridge had not been made—Ed.] We took provisions for two days, but it turned out to be a four-day ascent, and after two days provisions began to run out. We had to ration food, water, headlamp batteries, and fuel. The cold was intense, stiffening our muscles and increasing our fatigue each day.

During the second bivy, at 5,700m, an impressive avalanche plummeted from the crest all the way to Laguna Paccharuri. It was a horrible thing. The dust of the avalanche reached 5,400m, almost touching our recently prepared bivy. We were afraid of dying, but we succeeded in briefly filming the avalanche. The following day we intended to reach the summit, but encountered various difficulties involving both rock and ice. On the last day we had neither food nor water. It was a day of fasting, and we could not push ourselves without the greatest determination. We thought that after the walls of rock and ice, everything would be much easier, but it was not so. A thick fog hindered the ascent, adding to the difficulty of reaching the summit. Miguel and I led the last part of the route, climbing an 80° wall in a direct line for 40-50m.

We arrived at the summit of Copa at 16:00. Then fatigue and uncertainty became our main concerns. “We have finished the climb—where is base camp?” After we had descended for an hour, classmates from Don Bosco School [A school founded to train young Peruvian alpinists to be local guides—Ed.] came to help us, bringing water. It was an unforgettable encounter, a profound moment of friendship between us all. We cried, from the emotion of reaching such a hard summit, then finding a team of friends awaiting us, ready to help and alleviate the fatigue accumulated over the previous days. We arrived at the base camp around 21:00, where more friends awaited us with a good meal. Although tired and without strength, we decided to continue down. Already it was 22:00, but the support of friends helped.

César Rosales, Peru (translated by Molly Loomis)