South America, Peru, Cordillera Occidental, Solimana, Cordillera Occidental

Publication Year: 1971.

Solimana, Cordillera Occidental. Accompanied by Julián Blanco Herrera of Cuzco, Peru, the German Paul Götz and another person, I made a first attempt at the end of June to climb the last unclimbed 6000-meter peak in the south of Peru, Solimana (20,730 feet). (According to Dr. Parodi, who was with Ghiglione, Motta and Rebitsch in 1952, their party did not climb the highest point, but rather the northern summit.—Editor.) It failed because of the lack of support by mules on the approach. In this unsuccessful attempt, three of the four members of the expedition reached 19,200 feet on the southeast face after having bivouacked three times, the last time at 18,375 feet on the glacier at the foot of the face. Fatigued from 75-pound packs carried to Camp III and from having spent the night in deep snow at -15° F., we gave up and returned to Camp II at 15,760 feet to avoid another night on the glacier.

The final assault on Solimana took place from July 28 to August 2, taking advantage of the closing of offices for the national holidays. The Prefect of Arequipa helped by obtaining for us two horses. We changed the route of approach to the main (south) summit of Solimana. On July 30 we left our jeep at km 340 on the Cotahuasi-Arequipa road in the village of Cerro Visca Chico and loaded the horses to skirt the northeastern spurs of Solimana, entering the Quebrada Secoro and placing Camp I at 16,250 feet. The bad weather kept us from having to send the horses back from a lower altitude, since they could spend the night at above 16,000 feet; with the cloud-covered sky the temperature would not drop below freezing. On the 31st we kept on, passing to the east of a place called Sora, where there was fodder for the horses; we tried to go as high as possible and reached a level spot near Cerro Ccaño at 17,400 feet east of the northwest glacier and set up Camp II in icy terrain. The arrieros and horses were sent back to pasturage with the request that they return on Sunday morning, August 2. Taking advantage of the remaining hours of light, Blanco and I climbed to 18,375 feet to study the route and to mark the way with cairns. In this reconnaissance we saw the climb would take at least eight hours and so decided to set out at four A.M. on August 1. With the help of flashlights we covered the first 1000 feet. At eight A.M., after a short rest under an overhanging rock face, we began the real assault on the summit. We climbed the first 650 feet amid penitentes to reach the principal (central) glacier which leads to the final ice wall. First in two-foot powder snow and then crossing penitentes for another kilometer amid big crevasses, we got to the foot of the 55° to 60° face which leads directly to a snow col, 500 feet from the summit. We left behind an emergency tent, food and flashlights; with 10 ice pitons, 3 rock pitons, 6 carabiners and 3 wooden wedges at 12:30 we attacked the wall. After climbing the first 250 feet in three rope-lengths without pitons, we continued, placing pitons every 80 feet. We broke through the overhanging cornice and then traversed to the col, cutting steps. From that point on, there were no more technical difficulties. A few meters from the summit, I gave Blanco the lead, who so well deserved to be the first to put foot on the top. It was four P.M. and the weather was changing rapidly; mist rose from the southeast and southwest faces and Coropuna was disappearing from sight. We took still photographs and 8-mm movies on the summit with Italian, Peruvian and German flags. The descent began at five P.M. and followed the route of ascent. We reached the base of the wall at seven o’clock in clouds and darkness. With flashlights we crossed the glacier, following our uphill tracks to avoid falling from snowbridges, and reached Camp II at two in the morning, after a 22-hour day. The horses arrived at eight A.M. to cover the 15 miles to the jeep.

Mario Bignami, Club Alpino Italiano