The plan without a plan
Coming back to the Cordillera Blanca for the 3rd year in a row, this time with Jessica. We very quickly scrapped our original plan we made back home when arriving. With our limited number of days and being close to the end of the season, we decided to be conservative than originally expected and tick off a few of our to-do’s. Jenn from Skyline Adventure School helped us squeeze 4 peaks into our tight itinerary, working with us quite a bit to figure out the logistics on and off the mountains. With a lot of running around town, texting, and hopefully not too many unhappy donkey drivers, we settled on the following-
- Vallunaraju (5686m), SW Route (PD+, 1000m)
- Huarapasca (5420m), South Route (AD+, AI4, 700m)
- Yannapacha (5460m), West Face (PD/AD, AI2, 660m)
- Tocllaraju (6032m), West Face Direct (D+, AI4, 1000m)
Day 0-1, Getting in
July 26-27, 2019
Seattle to Huaraz always sounds easier than it really is. Somehow, no matter how many times we do it, we can’t even quite remember how long this dang trip is until we do it. Fortunately we took the finest seats AreoMexico and the Excluciva bus companies had to offer. We also managed to squeeze two highly reviewed restaurants into our 6 hours in Lima. Calorie loading, I guess?
Day 2-4, Rapid acclimatization
July 28-29, 2019
Jenn booked us at the Lazy Dog Inn for our first few days in Huaraz. Although the Lazy Dog is technically in Huaraz, it is really out of Huaraz. We were surprised by the eco-friendly composting toilets and the scholarly companions in the hotel’s living room. This was not the Huaraz experience we were used to. The higher acclimatization point of the hotel was appreciated though, and we squeezed in a quick acclimatization hike to the beautiful Laguna Churup.
July 30-31, 2019
Vallunaraju has been a climb that I have been wanting to climb since the first day I arrived to Huaraz back in 2017. Towering over the city, the peak is dramatically obvious with it’s two “horns”. Although by the standards of the Cordillera Blanca it is neither very high nor very difficult, it had been calling me. [read full]
August 2, 2019
Having an extra day to kill and refusing to allow ourselves to take too many rest days (hey, I didn’t come all the way down here to rest!), I figured this would be a good peak to shove into our schedule. Huarapasca is one of the few climbs worth doing that can be done in a single day, car to car, out of Huaraz. It and its neighbors don’t appear in guide books and their steep slopes sit relatively untouched because of that. We were glad we did this, but came back exhuasted. [link to Huarapasca, South Route]
August 3-4, 2019
Yanapaccha’s West Face is one of those routes that produces a lot of cool YouTube videos out there. I appreciate the folks climbing for the ‘gram out there posting these things for that, I guess. From the guidebook and videos, it looked like a relatively straightforward steep-ish route that would give us the opportunity to sleep at a higher elevation to prep for our later high camp in the Ishinca Valley. We had a lot of fun out here, even with the extra long travel it took to get out here. [link to Yanapaccha, West Face]
August 6-9, 2019
Tocllaraju’s West Face Direct has been a route I had been looking at for the past 2 seasons. I’ve been walking up to it, looking at its looming overhead sera, and saying “not this year”. Earlier this year, the serac had fallen leaving the face clean and unobstructed by too much objective risk. This would be the one peak that Jessica and I would be parting ways on, and there was a little drama in finding a guide to climb. I tracked down a buddy in Quito who I knew would be down to shoot for this. The route was long and clean, and 3 seasons after laying my eyes on it for the first time, I was happy to finally tick this bad boy. [link to Tocllaraju, West Face Direct]
Day 15-16, Getting out!
August 10-11, 2019
We didn’t anticipate the extra day at the Tocllaraju high camp, so we got out of Huaraz in a hurry. We had just enough time for a quick shower at Olaza’s before hopped into our scariest-and-coldest-drive-ever private transport that shot us directly back to the airport. 16 days total, Seattle to Seattle.
Overall, I was really psyched to tick a few of these routes that I had been looking at for a long while. Tocllaraju’s face had been a bit of a project for the past few years, and I was happy to have finally got up and down it.
I learned more about acclimatization than I expected on this trip because things didn’t go as well as expected. After each climb we went all the way back down to Huaraz, not consistently working our way up. This seemed to hurt our acclimatization quite a bit. For the first time in quite a few years I felt like I struggled with the altitude.
Also, this was my first trip climbing with somebody who I really cared about, which was a totally different experience for me. I found myself being much more conservative with myself and my partner than I would normally be. It was good for Jessica and I to figure out our systems together in the high altitude setting, and we will hopefully use this trip as the basis for more technically challenging high altitude trips in the future.