South America, Bolivia, Cordillera Real, Illimani, Phajsi Face, Inti Face, and Puerta del Sol; Pico Layca Khollu, Acalanto

Publication Year: 2007.

Illimani, Phajsi Face, Inti Face, and Puerta del Sol; Pico Layca Khollu, Acalanto. In June Fumitaka Ichimura, Tatsuro Yamada, Yuki Satoh, and I established four new routes on the south face of Illimani (6,439m), the highest mountain in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real.

In late May, after one-and-a-half months of climbing in Alaska, we flew to La Paz and went to Illimani’s normal route to acclimatize. Then we returned to La Paz to rest and prepare for three weeks of climbing. We approached Mesa Khala (4,700m) with six horses and four porters. Although there we had trouble with the porters, we made our base camp the day we departed.

On June 14 Yamada and Satoh gained Illimani’s south peak (main summit) by a new route, Phajsi Face (1,200m, TD+WI4+).

The line followed an obvious ice line straight up to the upper snow slope in the center of the south face. Eight technical pitches and a 500m-long snow slope led to the easy summit ridge. They descended the West Ridge (normal route) to its base (Puente Roto, 4,400m), then had a long walk back to base camp.

Pico Layca Khollu (6,159m) is a small satellite peak on the far southeastern end of the Illimani massif. [Frenchman Charles Wiener, with two local helpers, made the peak’s first ascent in May 1877 and called it Pico de Paris—Ed.] But its south face was not so small and was vertical. There was a line straight up toward the summit in the center of the face. It was connected by thin ice and so beautiful. Ichimura and I started climbing at 3:00 a.m. on June 14, getting through the lower part before dawn. The upper part rose vertically, and the rock was loose. Pitch 13 was the crux (WI5R), thin and unstable with overhangs, but the crux section was not as long as I expected. The long, sustained 15th pitch led to the summit ridge. We stood on the summit at 4:00 p.m. and descended the opposite side of the peak, walking on the glacier and reaching 5,600m by sunset. The next morning, after a short walk on the ridge, we rappelled the west side of the ridge, four rappels landing us just above our base camp. We named our route Acalanto (950m, EDI WI5R).

On June 22 Yamada and Satoh opened an alternate start, just to the left of the Phajsi Face, naming it the Inti Face (600m, TD+ WI5). Its six pitches were steeper and more beautiful than the original ones. They rappelled from halfway up, where their route meets the Phajsi Face at the snowfield. “Phajsi” and “Inti” mean “moon” and “sun” in the Aymara language.

On the same day Ichimura and I set our next target as the straight-up ice gully just left of Yamada and Satoh’s line. The first gully was easy (WI3), though it was hard to find the correct line. We then climbed thin ice and mixed terrain in the dark. By daybreak we started the crux pitch, 50m of continuous 90° thin ice with poor protection (WI5R). Then we followed a comfortable ice runnel for two pitches. Just below the upper snow slope there was no ice, so we dry-tooled (M5). The slope led to the summit ridge. We reached the summit at 1 p.m. and reversed our route, downclimbing and making over 10 rappels. Near the bottom I was hit by rockfall and injured my left leg, though it was not fractured. We got off the wall and reached ABC by sunset.

We climbed this route nearly at the summer solstice. In the ruins of Tiwanaku, near La Paz, there is a gate called Puerta del Sol, meaning “gate of the sun”; at summer solstice the sun rises just above this gate. Since the line we climbed rose toward the summit like the sun, we named the route Puerta del Sol (1,200m, ED1 WI5R M5).

Katsutaka Yokoyama, Japan