Nevado Veronica, East Face to Northeast Ridge

Peru, Cordillera Urubamba
Author: Nathan Heald. Climb Year: 2021. Publication Year: 2022.

Over the last decade, I’ve climbed Nevado Veronica (5,911m GPS) a handful of times via the north face to northeast ridge. This afforded me a view of an alternative approach to the unclimbed east face; I just had to wait for the opportunity to climb it.

On September 12, Urs Jermann (Switzerland), our porter and friend Macario Crispin (Peru), and I traveled to Collpa (via the road to Malaga Pass). Finding the usual herder’s path was difficult, though once we did we gained altitude quickly. With rain and clouds at the level of the glacier, we made camp at 4,500m in a big flat area. The next day we followed an exposed rock ridge to reach the edge of the glacier and a perfect, well-protected campsite (4,900m). We got to bed early after a few glimpses of the upper mountain.

Urs and I got moving at 1 a.m. on the 14th, and the technical climbing started right away with a full pitch of ice (AI3). Above, we followed the path of least resistance through seracs. At 5,300m, we turned up and left, weaving through big seracs with short, steep sections, and even a tunnel to gain the upper icefield (5,500m). From here, I hoped to climb directly up the final part of the east face, however, we opted to finish up the northeast ridge, reached by a short traverse to the right. We reached the summit at 9:30 a.m. in great weather but with a blanket of clouds below (900m, D).

On the descent, clouds made it difficult to find our tracks, and our pace slowed considerably. After several short rappels through the serac maze, we came to the debris field around nightfall. Eager to descend, Urs slipped from above me after stepping into a shallow crevasse. With all the slack in the rope, he slid 25m before the rope went tight, thankfully catching on an ice horn a few meters above me. After securing two ice screws to transfer the load, I found Urs hanging upside down, rope wrapped around his feet, and his face all bloody, but relatively unhurt. After a short rescue, we were able to continue, this time with only a few meters of rope between us. About an hour later, after a final rappel from a V-thread, we reached camp again at 9 p.m. after 20 hours on the mountain.

The next day, we descended the rock buttress below our camp, making one rappel down a steep section. It took only a couple of hours to descend the remaining 1,600m to the road.

—    Nathan Heald, Peru

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