My Dad, Hank and I drove from Portland to Reno, met Floyd and made our way down the 395 for a little early fall backpacking. We planned on taking seven days to go from Toulumne Meadows to the top of Half Dome and back via a circuitous route. With the exception of PM rain storms on our last two days we had absolutely perfect warm weather.
Unfortunately for my back, I couldn't pass up some of the peaks we were going by, so I packed a rope and rack for a little Sierra granite.
Floyd and Hank nearing the pass near Volgesang Camp. We went a couple extra miles the first day and camp lower down, at Emeric Lake.
We climbed the Cable Route on Half Dome from our Mud Lake camp (named in memory of the two water filters it killed). Strange to go from complete solitude off the beaten path to the hundred or so people we saw at Half Dome.
Here I am low on Tenaya Peak. I came in cross country from Upper Cathedral Lake joining the route a few pitches up and finished it solo in 15 minutes. The route is fantastic with good friction, great cracks and flakes to yard on. Views of the Cathedral Range all the way to the Ditch.
Here's the route I climbed on Tenaya Peak. Tenaya Lake is below.
Upper Cathedral Lake after one of our PM rain storms.
Training is the only edge we can give ourselves in the mountains. All the ambition and desire on earth won't keep you alive when the storm comes in and your too far up to go down. There are no shortcuts. You need to give yourself an edge at home because the mountains don't care.
The problem with making summiting is that it makes you optimistic. You tend to forget about all the failures after a little success. Until a couple days ago I was on a losing streak only Cubs fans could imagine. Any way here are a few summit shots to put those failures in perspective...
BJ letting it all hang out on Mt. Stuart.
Stuart, Chad and myself on Colchuck.
My Dad and I after my first Hood climb.
Stones Jones and myself on a wintery SEWS.
Here's one of me on either Lexington or Concorde during an WA Pass linkup.
I'm not sure your allowed to call yourself a climber, live in Washington, and not have done the North Ridge of Stuart. After many years of climbing and a couple of prior attempts, lets just say I was on probation. I had to climb this route or leave the state forever...
BJ and I made the long drive, him from Bellingham and I from Camas to the Ingall's Way TH. We left at 2 am and made good time all the way to Goat Pass. We turned off our headlamps around Stuart Pass so we could have left about an hour earlier to utilize every once of daylight but in the end we wouldn't have needed it.
At 7:30 am we were roped up and moving. We brought one strand of half rope, doubled it up, and simul-climbed with 30m between us. I can't imagine having anymore rope out that this. The rope drag can get horrendous at times. 20m might be optimal.
We made pretty good time. By 9:30 we reached the Great Gendarme and two fantastic pitches put us within a few hundred feet of the summit, which we reached at 12:30.
I've heard from many people that the descent and walk out can be difficult, but it was straight-forward for us. Basically you just traverse E around the false summit, crossing a rock rib at about 8980ft (not the 8950 mentioned in Nelson's guide). Then find a large snowfield which faces SE and go down. The CascadianCouloir ends at a large avalanche carved meadow.
We made it to the car at about 6:00 had a beer and started the long drive home.
BJ approaching the notch at the bottom of the N Ridge.
I'm not sure where this or the next two shots were taken. There's so much immaculate climbing up here, its hard to remember any particular spot.
I took this shot while leading the second pitch of the Great Gendarme. There was some spectacular exposure here.
We didn't have much success this trip, but I've never been more excited about alpine climbing. Plans are already in the works for another Peru trip next year and an Alaska trip this spring. Here's me and Chad killing the last few hours in the Lima airport.
Chad, Stewart, and myself in the taxi right off the plane.
Ah, Cristal la cervesa mas cervesa! Is there a better way to kill time in a leaky tent during a rain storm?
Elias' burro in basecamp. Our route tackled the buttress between the right side of the mountain and the summit. Had we continued up we would have gone up the right hand skyline.
I can't wait to have another crack at Taulliraju. Although I'd like to do a more difficult route next year. This is Chad's picture of sunset on the Huandoys.
After two weeks of rotting in Huaraz we pulled it together and gave one more go on Taulliraju. We knew we only had this last chance to do this mountain with our flight home rapidly approaching. We packed a week's worty of food and headed out. The mountain is about 25 miles from the nearest road so it takes a couple days to reach basecamp. The weather was bad. It rained everyday, and it never rains in Peru. Never the less we headed out on a so so day and gave it a go. I took the first block of leads which ended up being the most enjoyable climbing I have ever done in the mountains. The ice was perfect, the setting amazing, and the climbing steep. The above picture is looking up the first pitch which ended up being a 70m WI4.
After the first pitch and a small snow field we reached the main couloir sytem. Take a look at Alpinist 7, this picture is nearly identical. The climbing was incredible.
Here's a view from the belay down the first pitch. Chad is in the foreground and Andy is coming up from behind.
From the second belay.
My block ended after two 70m pitches and one longer ~100m pitch. We were moving slow, it took us around six hours to do those pitches and we were not even halfway up the buttress. After some discussion we decided to rap rather than continue up. It was a decision we all later regretted.
We walked all the way from the climb down to basecamp and crashed. The next morning Andy and I decided to give the mountain one more shot. Chad had had enough and went back to town. Unfortunately we didn't have much food left. We went down to half rations eating a couple packs of oatmeal for breakfast and then a thing of pasta for lunch and dinner. We were quickly running out of food and time. On the last possible day we left for the climb. It had rained every day so far and it rained that day too, absolutely poured. Our down sleeping bags got wet, our tent was wet, and we guessed that at least 6 inches had fallen in a few hours. After all that work we knew it was time to call it. It was a long walk out, but the chocolat bars we had hoarded for the climb had never tasted so good.
P.S. Three people sleeping in a Firstlight tent is a very bad idea.
When the sickness came, it came hard. After Vallunraju I had a couple days where I felt good. Ambition probably got the better of me and I headed out with Andy and Richard to attempt the French Army Route of Taulliraju. Taulliraju is probably the least climbed difficult peak in the Cordillera Blanca. Needless to say, I really wanted to climb it. I felt healthy and strong until about four hours before the alarm for our climb. Whatever I had forced me to sprint to the bathroom almost ten times in just a few hours. My stomach was in knots and I couldn't get food down without needing to stop. It didn't help that we vastly underestimated the length of the approach. We thought it would take three hours to reach the base of the climb; it took eight. We carried far too much gear too. The followers packs probably weighed fifty pounds. The climb was doomed from the beginning.
We started up a bit of the first pitch before deciding we needed to bivy and try again the following day. We walked back down to the moraine, set up the tent, and waited. The GI bug was really doing a number on me, I couldn't get anything in my body without immediately evacuating it. Added to that I had what I can only estimate as an asthma attack which left me head between knees in the tent worried about my next breath. That ended the first Taulliraju misadventure.
This pretty much sums up the next two weeks...
The base camp diet. Take one part dysentary/parasite add altitude and explosive bm's. It's hard to be sick when Taulliraju is at your doorstep.
This is taken from near our first highpoint. Notice Andy's enormous backpack.
After a week or so the incliment weather improved to the bluebird skies one expects in the Cordillera Blanca. It worked out great with our schedule, one of the first nice days coincided with our acclimitization climb of Vallunaraju. Vallunaraju is usually done over two or three days from Huaraz but we wanted to get it over with so that we could be at the polloria drinking beers by dinner time. Unfortunately our health deteriorated. Chad got the flu so we postponed our initial attempt, then Stuart came down with it the night before our climb. As it happened I got the flu during the climb.
Both Chad and myself were wrecked from the flu. We had to dig really deep to get up this peak. Even though it was only a walk up, our bodies were wrecked from the flu-bug and altitude. This made for all kinds of nasty symptoms from vertigo to not being able to eat.
The dizzyness certainly made the last exposed little bit to the summit interesting. Once on top we had amazing views. Behing me is Oschapalca. The pyrimid shaped mountain in the background is Tocllaraju.
Andy and Richard showed off there healthy immune systems by doing airsquats at nearly 19,000ft.
Here's the view of Vallunraju from Huaraz. The left summit, which we climbed, is the higher of the two.
School could wait. I had only one quarter left but I was not going to miss a trip to Peru. When else would Ihave three solid partners who were willing to take six weeks off of work, spend a few thousand dollars, and do nothing but climb (and drink)? After months of training and preperations finally we made it to the mountains with our mouths foaming at the possibilities and our minds reeling from the uncertainty.
Huaraz would be our home for the next six weeks. The city's located at about 10,000ft so getting used to even this altitude is a bit of a chore. We stayed at a great hostel called La Casa de Zarela. Andy had stayed there a couple times before so Zarela always made sure we had a place to stay when we got back from the mountains. The picture above is the view from the top of the hostal. The large mountains in the center are the Huascarans and Chopicalqui (L to R).
Speaking for myself I don't think I ever got properly acclimitized until very late in the trip. Our plan was to do a couple hikes, then climb Vallunaraju 5686m before thinking about any objectives. Initially we had three major climbs in mind. The three were: the NE Face of Huascaran Norte 6664m (seen above), the S Face of Chacaraju Oeste 6112m, our just about any route on Taulliraju 5830m. We took a hike in the Llanganuco Valley so that we could get views of both Huascaran Norte and Chacaraju Oeste. Huascaran certainly looked in bad shape. We never got an entirely clear view but there appeared to be mandatory rock climbing where the ice had completely melted away, as well as huge gouges in the face from rock fall. Chacaraju looked great but it was still early for a S Face. Taulliraju started becoming the most attractive objective, speaking at least for Andy and myself.
The view of (from L to R) Huandoy Este 6000m, Pisco 5752m, Chacaraju Oeste, and Chacaraju Este 6001m from the Llanganuco Valley.
Drinking at the local haunt, Vagamundo. Adjusting to Peruvian cervesa is difficult coming from the Northwest, just ask Chad.
Here we are on our first acclimitization hike up to Laguna Churup.
Polar Circus has been somewhat of an obsession for me. It is the quintessential ice climb and one that has thwarted me due to wheather, partners and ability on far too many occasions. After getting some encouraging words from a local climber at Magic Mountain and having the only good weather opportunity within a week we decided to test the waters... The journey begins at the majestic Chateu de Banff. The chateu was built in 1993 and kept original to maintain that rustic charm and certain je ne sais quoi. Like all great climbing trips the plans were hatched over beers and bushmill's.We were beat to the base by a party of Japanese climbers who were apparently pro marathon runners but lackluster climbers. They jogged past us on the approach, then took numerous falls while following the pitches. Here, BJ takes the first pitch, a very respectable and somewhat brittle WI4. After the initial pitch I took the sharp end up a WI3 that was classic but easily overshadowed by the upper tiers of the climb which come into view soon afterward. The Japanese party can be seen on the first tier. After enduring a seemingly endless barage of icefall from the flailing climbers BJ finishes off what ended up being a 75m WI4 pitch.
My turn again, climbing through steep snice to some rambly WI2-3 bringing us to the final two-pitch tier.Here I am leading the first pitch on the third tier. It was much more sustained than it initialy appeared. The Japenese climbers are at the belay station on climbers right.
We finished the climb in 11 hours car to car. We estimate that had we not had to wait for the other party we easily could have taken off 2-3 hours. The key is just to move fast both on the snow slogging but especially while leading and following the pitches.