Arriving into Huaraz there was only one item on the to-do list. Watch the footy grand final. With the nachos ready, the beers opened, and the rules explained to our new friends from Norway and Holland we got stuck into it. The half time break called for a lesson in making the dutch pancakes we had been promised for days while finishing the Huayhuash trek. And boy did that set the mood for the epic second half it was.
Having successfully cleared our to-do list I’m sure you’d agree that we deserved a reward. A mountaineering course sounds reasonable right?, especially since Huaraz is the mountaineering centre of South America after all. Turns out, while all the guides and courses were extremely cheap for what they were, they were still definitely out of our budgets. We were at such a loss of what to do for the next week that you may as well have buried us in an avalanche right then and there. At least that was until back in the hostel where we overheard a French guy, Ben, organising a two month expedition to climb an 8000m peak in Pakistan early next year. I think you can guess what our next conversation to him was about. We picked out two peaks to go for and that afternoon we were downstairs practicing crevasse rescues in the likely event that Pat would fall/be pushed into one.
There was only room for two on this ‘course’ but this worked well as to get to the jungle, Peru’s strange bus system meant Scott had to go via Lima anyway. So these extra few days gave him time to go with Norwegian Ben to try go surf the worlds longest left hand break.
Back on the mountain we slogged our way up to the basecamp of Vallunaraju and spent the arvo dialling in our new ice climbing skills. Hitting the hay early did not make the 2am wake up any easier. Climbing the glacier was easy because our beaming smiles lit up the way. Being alone on the mountain, following glittering snow ridges and dodging crevasses under the moonlight was such an unreal experience and has us hooked for sure. There were a few technical sections and as daylight broke we traversed a steep and exposed ridge up to the summit.
Looking down upon the crevasse riddled glacier we had ascended we knew it wasn’t long before the warm daylight would turn that beast into a scary living monster.
Having been at altitude for so long the 5700m peak didn’t feel so high, but by the time we made it back down, did some more ice training and hiked down to the taxi we’d been on the go for 14 hours. While that’s not a huge day in terms of mountaineering it was definitely enough to leave us feeling pretty shattered.
Back in Huaraz we were gifted a day of rest to explore the markets and cities before tackling our next goal, the significantly more difficult (PD+) Mount Huarapasca.
Huarapasca was supposedly much nicer because we could climb it in one day. Hypothetically this means waking up in the hostel, stumbling downstairs into a taxi and peacefully sleeping for the 2 hour drive to the mountain base, summiting and then driving back to the cosy hostel bed for the night. Easy….. yeah right. The road was bumpier than scott’s acne filled teenage face which made sleeping hard, but keeping the newly acquired diahrreah out of my pants even harder. Eventually we made it and under the gloomy, snowy sky we set off to find the steep ice wall that would be our approach. Geared up with two ropes, technical ice axes, crampons and a handful of ice screws, snow pickets, slings and carabiners it certainly felt like we were doing something proper. And I think that’s because we were. What lay in front of us was a 300m long wall of ice set at an angle of 70-75 degrees. I could look at my feet and see Pat climbing up between them, then crane my neck upwards to see Ben digging out an anchor high above me, with his snowy icy debris raining down. The exposure was immense. Before we left Ben outlined the three rules of mountaineering and I think this is where their significance truly sunk in. These rules are:
1) Don’t fall
2) DON’T FALL
3) Make sure you remember rules 1 and 2
We made it to the top and the clouds briefly opened op to reveal the insane place we were climbing in. And as soon as the clouds lifted we were engulfed by the next lot. We were close to the summit, very close. All that was left was to cross a small glacier and climb two pitches to the top. But being the end of the climbing season the conditions weren’t good. The temperature was warm, the snow was so soft we were often walking through waist deep sections and the glacier was giving loudly, disconcertingly cracking so there was no sense in continuing. Putting our faith in the ropes and anchors we repelled down and dragged our wet and weary bodies back to the car.
Back in town we spent the next day at a small Indian restaurant learning to cook some insanely delicious curries, breads and juices with them. The few previous days climbing had felt like a blur of craziness but we are so stoked to do more of this. And with the news that Ben will be in Aus/NZ late next year, we’re hoping to take on Mt. Cook.
Until next time,