American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Puscanturpa Este, Stonehenge

South America, Peru, Cordillera Huayhuash

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 2008

Puscanturpa Este, Stonehenge. Grega Kresal and I, who climbed Chacraraju’s 700m east face (VII A2) together in 1993, returned to Peru for the east face of Puscanturpa Este (5,410m). The peak is located in the extreme southeast corner of the Huayhuash, a great distance from the standard western approaches. Our new line, Stonehenge (600m, 10 pitches, VII+ 70° ice), ascends a wall that had not been attempted for over twenty years. In 1986 a set of loose blocks turned around Nixon and partner, the first and only team to attempt the face, only half a pitch up the ridge. (We found one of their abandoned carabiners 20m up.) Ours is likely the second ascent of the peak. We completed the climb in 14 hours roundtrip on July 6, in pure alpine style.

We drove 11 hours from Huaraz to Cajatambo, from where we trekked two long days to the south side of the peak. Here we established base camp. Starting at 4 a.m. on July 6, we made a one-hour approach to the base of the east face. We climbed 200m of moderate ice to reach the steep wall of lithic tuff, typical Puscanturpa rock. (Several rock routes have been established on the west face of Puscanturpa Norte.)

Climbing on volcanic rock was something special, with excellent friction, clean cracks, and thin sharp edges that seemed made for boots (I had rock shoes with me, but kept them in my pack.) However, some sections of the climb were spiced with large, unstable blocks.

With a 60m rope we climbed 10 pitches on the face. The first two pitches (V, VI) worked up steep slabs and cracks to an obvious ledge. A system of cracks and corners followed. The fifth pitch (VII) offered perfect rock with few protection possibilities, and the sixth (VII+) began with the “Scary Corner,” a loose 10m dihedral that moved so much it nearly crushed a Camalot. We then traversed right into another corner, and after more long pitches (VI, V) we reached the broken summit ridge from the north side. We summited early in the afternoon and cautiously rappelled the same line, because the normal route (West Ridge, 1986) was so broken and difficult, I was scared to descend it.

According to Jeremy Frimer’s guidebook, which inspired me to attempt this wall, Stonehenge marks the peak’s second ascent.

Pavle Kozjek, Slovenia, AAC

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