American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Bolivia, Cordillear Apolobamba, Huancasayani Valley, First Ascents and New Routes

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2009

Cordillera Apolobamba, Huancasayani Valley, first ascents and new routes. After receiving the AAC’s McNeill-Nott Award and funding from the New Zealand Alpine Club, James and Sarah Dempster (N.Z.), Aaron Gillespie (N.Z.), and I explored the remote Cordillera Apolobamba in northern Bolivia. Based on months of researching and interviews with Bolivian mountain guides, agencies, and locals, we concluded that the extreme northern edge of the Apolobamba in the Huancasayani Valley offered the best opportunities for first ascents and new routes, though it’s hard to be certain, and good maps and ascent histories are difficult to obtain. We encourage anyone with additional information about this area to contact us through www.home inthehills.co.nz/apolobamba/ or alexalexiades@gmail.com. We intend to use the website as a resource for future expeditions.

We met in La Paz, traveled to Pelechuco, and reached our base camp at 4,600m in the Huancasayani Valley on June 29. The next day Aaron scrambled from the saddle between it and Coquenzi up fair quality 5.6–5.8 rock to a peak we called Rumi Mukuku (5,010m).

The next day, though feeling sick and weak, I accompanied James and Aaron on a new route up Coquenzi (5,270m). The Southeast Face involved AI3 (up to 70°) and a 4th-class scramble to the summit. We traversed the peak and descended an even steeper face, on the west side (in Peru). The following day we carried bivy gear to our first advance base camp, near a glacial lake at 4,900m. In the morning we took a direct line up the glacier between FAE 8 and FAE 2 (FAs: 1997 German team) through the icefall to the North Ridge of FAE 8. The icefall was AI3+/AI4 followed by a glacier plod to the penitented ridge (AI2 60°). The Germans reported this peak at 5,300m, while our two altimeter watches and GPS showed ca 5,700m.

After a rest day we headed past Paso Lasani along the north ridge of Chaupi Orco/FAE 2 to an amazing bivy at 5,200m. The next morning we continued along the ridge to the summit of FAE 2 (5,890m) and then traversed to the summit of Chaupi Orco Norte (5,997m). Next, on Kura Huari (5,300m), we traversed a mixed face (M2/M3) to a hanging glacier (up to 70°) and traversed steep ice and loose rock to the final summit col. From there James and Aaron took a direct line to the north summit (likely first ascent) on 4th class-5.5 rock, while I ascended an extremely loose 5.2 gully to the south summit. During the descent James and I climbed another peak on the Kura Huari massif, also a probable first ascent. We named it Punta Nott (5,260m) in memory of Sue Nott, whose legacy made our expedition possible. This route was easy 5th class up steep rock with great holds to a knife-edge summit. Our final climb was a probable first ascent by Aaron and me, of a peak we called Pakaska Mukuku (5,380m), via the east ridge. We scrambled up slabs to a snow-covered col at ca 5,200m, then climbed excellent rock with a beautiful 5.8 pitch in a dihedral, then 4th- and 5th-class rock to the summit.

Alex Alexiades, AAC

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