American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Peru, Cordillera Central, Nevado Huaguruncho, Tancash

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

Nevado Huaguruncho, Tancash. Huaguruncho, meaning “the white tusk,” is the 24th highest mountain in Peru (according to web pages that give the summit an altitude of 5,780m [See note below for explanation—Ed]). Located in the Central Andes region, it is best reached from Huachön, about three hours from Ninacaca (on the road from la Oroya to Cerro de Pasco, seven hours from Lima). The Huaguruncho Range is not big, with only about 10 peaks above 5,300m, of which Huaguruncho is the highest. Its isolation makes it visible throughout the region. The range being near the jungle, the weather is typically wet and cloudy most days of July and August.

We were told in Pasco that Huaguruncho was a virgin mountain. “No strangers reached the top,” because, the locals said, there is a big golden cross on the very summit, shinning in the morning sun, put there by descendents of the Incas using a secret tunnel. None of us found the cross—nor did the British expedition in 1956, the Norwegian-American in 1970, or the Japanese in 1975—but 28 years after the last ascent, they said we were the first, apparently believing us though we hadn’t a cross to show. Or did they believe us?

We acclimatized by walking, bouldering, and rock climbing in the wonderful weird rock formations of the Bosque de Rocas de Huayllay (4,150m) for about two weeks. In the last days of May we walked around the mountain looking for a fast way to ascend. The east face and south ridge seemed to be five-day climbs, at least. We moved base camp to the north face, making Camp 1 on the Matthews Glacier where we spent three nights at 5,000m. Once there, we did not like the west ridge, which took the 1956 team more than a week to climb, but we saw a line without seracs that leads to the upper section of the ridge, at about 5,400m. The wall was not overly steep, but did involve a short M5 pitch. The ridge was Peruvian: deep snow, double-corniced, slow going. In a mist, we realized that there was no further up to go. We looked in vain for the cross, but it was nevertheless the summit! We climbed alpine style, and so enjoyed the ambiance of Andean tradition. The golden cross is not a legend but a fact, as the people believe in it more than in gringos’ accounts, so maybe you can still make the first ascent of Huaguruncho, one of Peru’s beauties that is not in the Blanca or Huayhuash.

Tancash, direct way by the north face (but not a direttissima, which would be suicidal) to the west ridge, May 29, 2003: 700m, MD- (“very difficult minus”). Oriol Baró, Xavi Farré, and Albert Bargués from the Centre Excursionista, Alta Ribagorça, and lordi Marmolejo of the C.E. Lleida. All from Catalonia (Southeast Pyrenees).

Xavi Farré, Pyrenees

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