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South America, Peru, Cordillera Carabaya, Various Ascents

Cordillera Carabaya, various ascents. I led an expedition to the Peruvian Cordillera Carabaya in June, and we believe we made a few first ascents and new routes. This is a very remote part of Peru, and in two weeks traveling in the mountains we saw no other westerners. One local alpaca herder said that in over 20 years no other climbers had been to the first valley we visited. The weather was unbelievably good, with only one partly cloudy day in our three weeks. It was also a dry year in the mountains, and the glaciers were quite icy, with little snow on the rock routes that we climbed. Glacier recession over the last few decades hasclearly been dramatic in this range, but there remain some substantial glaciers, particularly on the north and east sides of the highest peak, Allincapac. The Carabaya is exceptionally scenic and the rock solid granite, reminiscent in places of the granite in my home climbing area in the Galloway Hills, Scotland, but with more dramatic scenery and fewer bogs and midges.

We spent the first week camped southeast of the second highest summit in the range, Chichicapac. From a base camp just above beautiful Laguna Chungara, the whole team (guides Pere Vilarasau and I, clients John Bell, John Cadger, Bob Cole, Alan McLeod, Sarah Maliphant, and Jill Robertson) climbed Chichicapac (5,614m) by the east glacier and northeast ridge on June 14. This route was only alpine F, but we have found no record of a previous ascent of the mountain from this side, perhaps explained by the route being well hidden. The next day Vilarasau, Cole, and I made what we believe to be the first ascent of the minor peak of Chichicapac Southeast (ca. 5,285m), by an easy glacier climb from the south, followed by scrambling and climbing on rock to about British VS (5.6 or 5.7) on the northwest ridge.

After a brief rest in Macusani we walked to a base camp at Laguna Chambine, located in the unnamed valley between Chichicapac and the highest peak in the Cordillera Carabaya, Allincapac (5,780m). On June 19 Vilarasau, Cole, Maliphant, and I climbed an unnamed ca. 5,267m rock tower by two different rock routes, on the north ridge and west face. Although the tower may have been climbed by an expedition in the 1950s, it is pretty certain that the routes we climbed have only recently emerged from the glacier. John and Bob then crossed the glacier to climb another peak of 5,411m, believed to be the one referred to as White Sail in previous expedition reports. A view from there of the north side of Allincapac revealed that there is currently no easy or safe route to the relatively flat summit of Allincapac, which has become isolated on all sides by a continuous 360° serac. On June 20 Sarah, Bob, and I climbed another possibly previously unclimbed line, on a ca. 5,192m peak, which is possibly the peak marked Red Peak by previous expeditions. This was a straightforward scramble by the south ridge from the camp by Laguna Chambine.

As good weather continued, the next day Sarah, Bob, and I, now starting to tire, climbed another unnamed peak, ca. 5,044m, by the north buttress. The climb gave 300m of easy, enjoyable V.Diff (5.2) on good granite. This summit had clearly been reached before.

Various members of the team climbed three other 5,000m peaks: 5,294m Quenamari, which lies south of the main range; 5,270m Iteriluma, just south of Chichicapac; and an unnamed ca. 5,057m peak near Laguna Chambine.

With Bob Cole and I making nine 5,000m+ summits in two weeks, this was a very successful expedition, demonstrating that there is still plenty of exploratory mountaineering at easy grades to be found in the more forgotten corners of the world.

John Biggar, U.K.