American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Churup, Northwest Ridge, Direct Variation

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2006

Churup, Northwest Ridge, direct variation. On May 24 Ben Ditto and I climbed a direct line up the northwest ridge of Nevado Churup (5,493m), beginning on the west side of a squat rock buttress separated from the main peak by a narrow col. We dubbed this formation the “Entrance Stool” and climbed it in six short pitches, with a downclimb and rappel into the snow gully that drops from the north side of the col.

From this notch we climbed a low-angle mixed pitch, followed by several pitches of steep and, in places, rotten rock. I crept up the first (and worst) of these pitches using tools and crampons, then happily relinquished the rack to Ben in our single pair of rock shoes. Seeking solid rock, he traversed left to the very arête of the ridge in a wandering pitch, which I scratched and sparked my way up wishing for sticky rubber of my own. The next lead angled up and sharply right to reach the snowfields on the upper ridge, near their highest point. With darkness settling in, we climbed four long pitches up the snow ramp to the summit slopes.

For the real adventure, we descended the ‘76 American Route, which follows a wide, mixed gully on the right side of the southwest face. We renovated a number of old anchors and built new ones, as we rappelled through the night over a jumble of loose rock and rotten snow. We returned to our camp at the lower lake 30 hours after leaving it, having encountered difficulties of 5.9 M4 R/X 65°. The descent was more frightening than the climbing. From the research I’ve done, both in Peru and through the AAC library, the pitches on the rocky lower half of the northwest ridge appear to be a new variation.

Given the great Andean thaw, over the last few seasons this once-classic mixed objective has dried considerably, exposing lots of exfoliating rock. While the climbing on the lower Northwest Ridge is less than superb, the climbs position and awesome views, including that of a lone condor buzzing us at the col, made for a fine outing easily accessible from Huaraz.

Adam French, AAC

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