Yanapaccha, West Face is part 3 of 4, in Cordillera Blanca 2019, Redemption
Technical climbing info
- Mountain: Yanapaccha
- Elevation: 5,460m
- Route: West Face
- Length: 660m
- Grade: PD/AD, AI2
- Day 1: Drive from Huaraz, approach to moraine camp
- Day 2: Climb on!
Yanapaccha is another one of the lower altitude and lower difficulty peaks that I have been wanting to climb for a little while. With the funky schedule in the Cordillera Blanca this year, I thought that it would be a great opportunity to knock this one out. Jenn from Skyline warned us that it would be a lot of traveling for single climb, which I originally discounted. After the 5 hour ride, half on dirt roads, I understood that she knew what she was talking about.
This was our first time in the Llanganuco valley, which was more spectacular than we expected. Making our ways under the Hundoys, Chacraraju, Pisco and Pisco East, and obviously Yanapaccha, the valley was truly reminded us that we were small. The hike in was easy, especially considering we hired an army of porters to bring up our gear- wait, is 3 an army?
I do like hiring porters out here, first because it makes the climbing way more enjoyable, and second because it does do well for the local economy. The hike in was slow and pleasant, and presented a good opportunity to get to know Fredi, a new guide to Skyline. (We had planned to climb with Nacho for this whole trip, but he had come down with a bad lung infection over the previous few days.) Fredi turned out to be an awesome guy.
As we settled into our camp, my watch read exactly 4800m. This would be the highest night so far on the trip. Jess and I had a slight bit of a headache, but we couldn’t decide if it was the altitude or if we were just starting to get exhausted from the other 2 peaks we climbed over the past 3 days.
Take me, my body is ready
I woke up seconds before our alarms rang in tandem at 2am, my body must have been really ready for this. For 4800m, my sleep was very sound. The acclimatization was working. The plan was to get out of camp by 3am, so we had a relatively chill alpine start. I dusted my granola with powdered milk and chewed with purpose.
We hopped through the moraine for about 10 minutes before we were greeted by the very dry late-season glacier. To gain it involved a few meters of steeper ice, then quite a while of navigating through small but open crevasses all around us. The snow was thin and filled with debris- not the easiest sort of walking.
We cruised past the other two teams on the mountain, one of which looked like they were really suffering. Although hunching slumped over their ice axes, I held no judgement against them- I’ve been in that state more than once. The climbing remained as moderate steep snow that we spent the next couple hours side stepping over.
It’s so beautiful, probably
Once things began steepening out, I could pick out a notch in the cornice onto the ridge. That would be our entry point to the summit. We went into steep climbing mode and pitched out the steepening loose snow. The weather chose to give us a little excitement as well, and we could see the clouds crashing into the ridge above us. With the sun peering over the horizon, it made for a beautifully dramatic scene. A scene that would blast us as soon as we entered it.
As expected, the enjoyably steep climbing was sharply interrupted as I pulled over the cornice into the wind. Damn, you can just never truly prepare for that sort of thing. Jessica pulled over shortly afterwards and we began climbing up the ridge ahead of us. It was probably beautiful, but we couldn’t see more than a few meters ahead of us.
In no time, we were on the summit. 4 hours to the top, not bad. Especially considering this was our 6th day at high altitude and climbed 3 peaks since then. We snapped a few photos while watching the rhyme ice build up on our clothing.
Safety knots and smelly socks
We focused up and began our way day. We merged rappels with another team on their way down. “What the f**k is this?!”, yelled Jess and she rappelled down. The team turned out to be a less-than-ideal partner, ignorantly untying our rappel safety knots as they reached the exposed anchor below us. (I usually don’t trash talk anybody on here, but seriously, what the heck.)
Another hour of walking down our now dusted over boot pack and we arrived at our tents. We were greeted by our Hernan, our cook, and his pancakes. Hopping into our tent and ripping off our boots, the smell of socks couldn’t be denied. 3/3 for this trip so far.
Up next, Tocllaraju via the West Face Direct
“Three seasons ago, I met a friendly Spanish-Argentinian duo in the Ishinca Hut. We would be climbing Tocllaraju on the same day, them from the West Face, and me from the Northwest Ridge. I snapped this photo as a memento for them, but it ended up being my cell phone’s background for the next 2 years. I couldn’t stop looking at it, thinking about it, what an epic route. “ [read full, Tocllaraju via the West Face Direct]