The Cordillera Oriental has been explored during the last decade by Tony Barton and various partners. It was reading about his new route in 2010 with Tom Chamberlain on the south face of Huaguruncho (Huagaruncho, 5,723m, AAJ 2011) that sparked our interest in the area. The area is served from the tiny town of Huachon, which boasts one hotel, where if you are lucky, you will get a room with a window.During the walk to base camp Dan Fitzgerald, James Wake, and I spotted an interesting-looking gully on the south face of Huarancayo Sur. This mountain has only one previously recorded ascent, by Barton and Andy Houseman in 2006 via the southeast ridge (AAJ 2007). On June 5 we scrambled to the foot of the small glacier below the cirque of the south face, where we bivouacked. The following morning we made our way through a crevasse field and started up the gully. For 350m the climbing was sustained and full of interest on good névé. We perched on the summit in late afternoon, then watched with a sinking feeling as cloud rolled in. The ensuing poor weather meant a forced bivouac in an impromptu snow shelter just below the summit. At first light we continued our descent. We named the route Boys Don’t Cry (350m, Scottish V, 4).
After a few days’ rest, we set off for what we’d been considering our main goal, the unclimbed south face of Huaguruncho Chico (ca 5,400m). Information about climbing on this mountain is scarce, and it has possibly not been ascended since its first ascent in 1956. The south face was attempted by Barton and Houseman in 2006, but they retreated low on the central spur, due to poor snow conditions. There are two obvious ridges on the face, and while we had initially favored the right-hand one, on closer inspection the left-hand one looked slightly better, and we thought we could see a line through the rock bands and seracs. However, the unreliability of the weather was a concern. There was no clear pattern, and we were unable to see it approaching from the north.
We worked up the glacier below the left-hand ridge and found an uncomfortable crevasse, in which we got a few hours sleep. We left in the dark, taking a line through the lower rock buttress on the snow ridge. After 300m of snow and a few mixed pitches, we arrived on the crest. Higher we reached what we had identified from base camp as the “bad step”: loose rock with poor protection. At the top of the ridge and below the headwall, we moved left into a gully. There we found excellent ice and the promise of a way through the fluted upper face. However, on the third pitch unconsolidated snow replaced ice, making climbing and protection far more precarious. The weather also deteriorated. Before long it was sleeting, mini avalanches were being triggered, and visibility was poor. It was time to bail. We cautiously made our way down to the ice, then started rappelling from Abalakovs. Lower we needed better visibility to negotiate the crevasse zone, so we dug a snow hole, and at first light descended the complex glacier to our first bivouac, where we lay in the sun. The walk back to base camp seemed to last forever.
In clearer weather we could see we had reached within 150m of easy ground and the summit. The weather got worse, and four days later we left. While it was a difficult decision to leave the valley and lose any chance of attempting the mountain again, it was eased by continuing poor weather.