American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Peru, Cordillera Blanca, Cajavilca III, Southeast Face, and Contrahierbas, Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2008

Cajavilca III, Southeast Face, and Contrahierbas, attempt. John Pearson and I accessed the glacial basin below the east faces of Nevados Contrahierbas and Cajavilca from the northeast, and I am pretty sure we were the first climbers to do so. It’s actually very accessible due to the mining trail to Mina Cajavilca, and then there is only one route leading into the upper basin.

On July 6 we climbed Cajavilca Ill’s (5,419m) Southeast Face (550m, AD+). The route started easy, perhaps 40-45°, up to the gully through the lower rock wall. A short, steep step then gave access to the gully, and two 55-60° pitches led to a belay on an ice ridge. A three-pitch 50-55° snow face led to the next rock wall and gully. The gully to the right of this rock wall gave another two pitches, 50° initially but increasing to about 70°. The second of these two pitches led nearly to the summit.

I made a second trip to the Contrahierbas massif with Xabier Arbulo, and we made it to 5,650m on Contrahierbas’ east face. It’s a serious route, as you traverse above a 400m vertical rock wall. We started at night to avoid objective dangers, but a half-hour after sunrise, under a fair amount of stonefall, a rock hit Xabier, and he dropped his rucksack. Fortunately, clouds rolled in, allowing us to escape.

We were fortunate, but had it not been for the stonefall incident we would have made it, as the final part was straightforward and safe. We carried all of our kit, intending to descend by the mountains easy western slopes, since a direct descent didn’t seem possible, and the objective danger would make it extremely risky.

Anthony Barton, U.K.

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