Huancasayani Valley, Various Ascents
South America, Bolivia, Cordillera Apolobamba
In July the second expedition of the Polish Apolobamba Exploration Project visited the Huancasayani Valley. The first, in 2009, reported in AAJ 2010, included Wojciech Chaladaj, Jakub Galka, and me. This time I was accompanied by Filip Drozdz, Tomasz Mucha, and Magdalena Tworek. Much geographical and historical research had already been done on this valley, and we used the map drawn by Chaladaj, published on the AAJ website with our report. Two years ago we had bad experiences with a local muleteer when trying to reach Puina from Pelechuco, so this time we hired a 4WD. We established base camp lower than in 2009, three hours walk up the Huancasayani Valley in a side cwm. It had the advantages of a nice stream and invisibility from the bottom of the main valley.
Acclimatizing on our first day, we walked to the 2009 base camp and found gear left under a boulder. We attempted our first peak on July 30. We chose an unnamed and likely unclimbed rock pyramid 1km east of Hucuncunca, as named on the Chaladaj and Paul Hudson sketch maps. On the west flank of a huge south rib we found a long arête and climbed it for several hours, eventually over 50° snowfields to a col. The last two pitches from col to summit were more difficult. Although the moves were not hard (UIAA IV), the rock was extremely fragile and protection difficult. We named the peak Akuku (4,975m, digital altimeter) and graded our route AD-.
On August 1 we attempted the unnamed and also likely virgin peak 500m southeast of Akuku. It is a twin-summited mountain we called Orejas del Gato (Cat’s Ears). However, as we did not summit, we leave the final naming of this peak to the first ascensionists. We began to the southwest, ascending along talus slope until 50m below the col, then worked southeast to make our first belay on the southwest ridge leading toward the north summit. We then climbed sections of UIAA V and M4, but again found very fragile rock and poor protection, the gap between placements sometimes more than 15m. For these reasons we retreated at 4,800m (two rappels, then down climbing). As far as we got, the route was AD+.
In 2009 we had climbed the two lower peaks of the Trata Tata Massif. Now we wanted to reach the highest summit. On August 3 we approached from the northwest, reaching a col on the Trata Tata ridge, where Magdalena opted to remain. Filip, Tomasz, and I continued, bypassing the first two summits on the southeast flank to reach minor difficulties below the highest point. Overall the ascent was F+, with very loose rock of UIAA II to reach the summit at 5,156m. We returned the same way, a tiring day due to large talus.
On the 7th we made our last ascent, of a peak marked as Yagua Yagua on the Hudson map. We had learned of no documented climbs, but on top, where our altimeter recorded 4,721m, we discovered a small cairn. We climbed from the southwest and reached the summit without major difficulty (F). After 12 days in the valley, we returned to Puina with the help of Juan Sulca and his llamas. By the 9th we were back in La Paz.