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South America, Bolivia, Illimaini, South Face to Southwest Ridge

Illimani, south face to southwest ridge. After acclimatizing in Peru’s Cordilleras Huayhuash and Blanca, and a short trip to Huayna Potosi (Bolivia), Yvonne Koch and I planned to try a new route on the rarely visited western sector of Illimani’s south face. [This face is west of the Southwest Ridge (Dowbenka-Ziegenhardt, 1983) that forms the left skyline of the south face shown in AAJ 2007, p. 237, and is thus hidden from view in that photo—Ed.]

After a drive from La Paz, we met our porters between Mina Venus and Punta Tojran Pata. Three more hours brought us to our base camp at 4,790m in the moraine north of Mina Urania. After some exploring we started our climb on July 21 at noon, after a porter took our gear that we wouldn’t need during the climb. We reached the border of the glacier at 5,000m and climbed its eastern side (up to 40°), then over a serac (up to 80°) with a rappel down the other side to a bivouac at 5,400m. The next day we crossed the steep glacier to its western side, in order to take a gully rather than seracs. We followed the gully (up to 60°), with ca 12m waterfall ice (WI2 to WI3). At 5,600m the gully widens and becomes more like a firn face (60°). Due to increasing darkness, we bivouaced there at 5,760m. The next day we reached the west-south- west ridge at 5,900m, over firn (up to 70°) west of an articulated gully that we avoided due to rockfall.

We were tired, and the weather cold and stormy, so we descended instead of following the ridge to the summit. We had to climb down firn faces (60°) and a short section of rock (UIAA II) and rappel one serac, two pitches of waterfall ice, and 8m of rock, before we reached the path to Pinaya.

Andreas Bayerlein, Germany