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Shacsha Mountain (Photo: J.L. Tord)
Climbing the Alpamayo

It was May 1998, initiating the best season to climb snowy mountains in Peru. We were a group of six friends, with an immense desire to reach the summit of one of the most pretty mountains in the world, Alpamayo. We left Lima and arrived to Huaraz, trip that lasted eight hours. The difference in weather conditions and landscapes is intense, from the coast to the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountain range).

When we arrived to Huaraz we took the way to Churup lagoon. This lagoon, of the seven colors, is a unique show. We had a snack and enjoyed at the end of the day with a starry night.

The shinning sun woke us up, so we decided to walk to the slope of the dangerous Churup mountain. Then we took some pictures.

Aboard of our car we took the way to the gorge of Ishinca. From there a long hike, with the company of "queñuales", typical trees of the region. Suddenly, my friend Marco proposed to climb the beautiful west wall of the Tocllaraju snowy mountain. Our new destiny demanded one more day of hiking. Without any problems because of the weather, we decided to climb the next day the vertical wall.

After preparing an energetic breakfast, being 4 a.m., we began to climb. We found a great fissure before we could reach the snowy mountain. We had to cross a not very firm bridge, but then we could reach the other side. At that time the snow was very firm, and the climbing conditions were safer.

At the wall we started our climbing by a very firm way, it had 65° of inclination. After 400 meters of climbing, we met an unexpected blue ice wall, of 90° of inclination. With concentration and effort we could manage the situation.

After 12 hours of intense action, we reached a marvelous summit located at 6.050 (above sea level), which allowed us to appreciate part of the 180 km. of length of the White Mountain range, considered the most important and beautiful of Perú. We took an easiest route to descent, but it became dark before we could get down. At our tents we recovered eating some pasta and drinking special liquids.

After two days of adventure, we joined the group, and continued to the next gorge and destination of our trip: Parón. Almost getting to the end of the trip, we discovered a beautiful lagoon, with the snowy mountain Garcilaso Pyramid as a background of the landscape. We took a boat and sailed on the cold waters of this lagoon. We silently observe the snowy mountains around us. As the sun was intense a good sunscreen was necessary.

The next gorge, Santa Cruz, receives the climbers who pretend to climb the Alpamayo mountain (6.120 meters- 20.079 feet above sea level), that was our final destination. The last hike took four days, before we could see a steep wall with 400 m. of height. After climbing and before reaching the last camp, it was necessary to pass an ice wall with 60° of inclination, all that with the load we had on our backs. Then we could see the southwest wall, which is the one that mostly attract all the climbers in the world.

Once we arrived to the last camp we planned the last journey. Our alarm clock rang at 3 a.m. announcing the moment of the final ascent. As we walked we could feel an intense cold air. The wall was firm and our piolets (instruments used to climb mountains) penetrated the ice easily. Located at the first third of the way, we could enjoy an spectacular dawn. We reached the summit of the mountain, among joy and hugs. The landscape was magnificent, we only felt like a little piece of these colossal snowy mountains, that silently gaze at human effort.

Juan Luis Tord

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