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South America, Peru, Cordillera Huayhuash, Jirishanca Summary

Jirishanca summary. The impressive southeast aspect of Jirishanca (6,094m [sometimes given as 6,126m]) was a focal point of Huayhuash activity in 2003. In June, Brits Nick Bullock and Al Powell, returning after a near disaster in 2002 when they were avalanched off the start, climbed in alpine style a bold, difficult line (Fear and Loathing) up the central ice depression, branching right to join the East Buttress route (1957 Egger-Jungmair) after 17 pitches. They continued for approximately eight more pitches up the technical and corniced summit ridge of the 1957 route, retreating a couple of ropelengths below the summit.

In September young French alpinists Aymeric Clouet and Didier Jourdain established a difficult new route up the steep 900m, east-facing rock wall. The route—Tambo, Churros y Amigos—parallels much of the 1973 Japanese route, just right of the central ice face. At the start Clouet and Jourdain used 300 meters of fixed ropes, which they removed, but they carried no bolts. A red sling in a linule (rock hole) 15m up the first pitch marks the start of the route, but belays are not equipped (only rappel anchors). Above the rock wall their route joins the 1957 route and continues to the summit, likely the first time Jirishanca’s summit has been reached from its formidable eastern side since the 1973, 49-day Japanese siege (some sources say 45 days). The French route shares approximately 4m of the Japanese route, on which old fixed ropes remain. Both the British and French climbs are covered in a feature article earlier in this Journal, as is the history of climbing on this face.

In July a team of three Italians climbed a route on the right side of the east-facing rock wall (see report below). Although the French climbers mentioned above report seeing 10mm belay bolts beside good cracks on the Italian line, and the Italian route was certainly a stylistic contrast to the above two routes, rumors of the Italians placing 150 or more bolts are greatly exaggerated.

Accomplished Austrian alpinists Alex Fidi and Julian Neumayer, who were in the area around the time of Bullock and Powell and who had plans for the same face, were killed in an avalanche below nearby Jirishanca Chico. Although the specifics will never be known, it appears that they were headed for an acclimatization climb on Jirishanca Chico’s unclimbed southwest face when a large avalanche released. Bullock, Powell, Mark Richey (president of the American Alpine Club), and members of the Yungay rescue group USAM (Unidad de Salvamento de Alta Montana—www.huaraz.org/usam) conducted an initial search, recovering the climbers’ packs and a helmet. USAM, a well-trained volunteer organization, continued the search in the ensuing days and proved instrumental in recovering the bodies.