Huantsan 2015 Expedition Dispatches
Dispatch #8: July 23, 2015 – Huaraz
Apologies about the delayed dispatch from our summit push on San Juan. The team was busy packing up base camp and this meant that our communication equipment was also packed away early.
The original plan for this expedition was a Himalayan style expedition to one of the most prestigious peaks in the Cordillera Blanca. We came equipped with aluminum ladders, static fixed rope and Sherpas from Nepal to fix the route where necessary. After the Sherpas did an amazing job of putting the route in to camp one, the conditions of the ridge that leads to camp two left myself very concerned for the safety of our staff. Dangerous cornices which formed on both sides of the ridge, combined with dangerous looking snow mushrooms left me no choice but to abort the route we had intended to climb.
The Cordillera Blanca offers many climbs from various valleys but the valley we had choose to climb from was awkward in regards to mules to and from base camp. Seeing as this peak is not that popular, for various reasons including its technical nature and expensive mules leading to a logistical headache, we knew that it would not be easy to change our objective once we were at base camp.
After the group had decided that Huantsan was not a safe option for our Sherpa and Peruvian high altitude porters, we switched our attention to San Juan. This peak is nearly 6,000 meters but it is usually climbed from the next valley over from where we were. Instead of a Himalayan style climb with fixed rope and multiple camps, we were know looking at a fast and light alpine style climb, which excited us all.
Due to the bad weather we experienced at base camp and higher on the mountain for three full days, we had to allow the slopes of San Juan to consolidate for safe passage. We had hoped to make an attempt early but the weather ruled and we then had to be patient to let the sun do her thing to the slopes.
Several of our team members took advantage of the bad weather and made the short trek down to the road head and the even shorter drive back to Huaraz for some rest and relaxation. They only spent one night in town and then returned to base camp for lunch the following day.
We made the climb to glacier camp in the afternoon sun before heading to bed early at around 8 pm as we had planned a 2 am departure. Kami Neru Sherpa and myself climbed from the glacier camp and established a route through the crevasses and up on the col. We placed bamboo marker wands en-route to help with the route finding in the dark in the morning.
The team made great progress with both Pasang and Kami on the front rope team placing the running belay protection where needed. These guys made the col in no time where us mortals reached the same spot in about one hour forty five minutes.
Kami and myself had inspected our options from the col the previous evening and we knew that the only way to access the normal ridge would be by some pretty technical climbing on the wrong side, to say, of the mountain.
As the team members slowly arrived at the start of the ridge it became apparent that the situation here on San Juan, was very similar to what we had encountered on Huanstan, with a very dangerous overhanging serac that looked as if it could collapse at any moment, and we needed to traverse under it to gain any chance of trying to reach the normal ridge that leads to the summit. The Sherpa and team members decided it was time to head back down and possibly look for another route.
All was going fine until one of the members accidentally dislodged a couple of rocks on a tricky mixed section which hurtled down towards the other climbers at a great speed. The customary shouts of “rock, rock, rock” were heard and we all managed to escape their path as they gathered speed. Unfortunately, Eloy and Jeannette were lower down the route and did not hear all our cries of the danger above. One of the rocks hit Eloy on the hand and arm and we believed he had broken his arm. Immediately the Sherpas and HAP’s started a rescue mission, first by securing his arm in a makeshift sling and then lowering him down the steep slopes that we had just ascended. Everything went like clockwork and we had him back in Huaraz several hours later where he received the best medical treatment available. I am glad to say that he has not suffered any broken bones to his arm or hand but will be unable to work for a couple of weeks.
We dismantled base camp on the morning of the 22nd as this was the day the mules had been scheduled to arrive at base camp. The team members made the short 90-minute walk to the road head and then an hour later we were back in Huaraz. The guys and girls went for beers, steaks and pizza whilst the Sherpas and I had the glamorous job of unpacking 20 haul bags and drying a large number of tents. We did manage to meet up with the rest of the team for dinner which turned out to be a late night for those who decided to go to the disco after dinner.
Even though we were unsuccessful in reaching the summit of Huantsan or San Juan, I think the team had a great time and many new friendships were formed. The Cordillera Blanca and its local people are amazing and I for one am looking forward to returning next season.
Update – July 20, 2015 –
The team is back at base camp. There will be a full dispatch on Wednesday when they return to Huaraz.
Dispatch #7 – July 19, 2015 – Base Camp
After three straight days of snow and rain at base camp and snow on the mountain, the sun has finally shown up in the clear skies.
Several of our team members went to Huaraz for the evening to recharge after the constant bad weather we have been experiencing. They are returning to base camp for lunch and the plan is for all the team to climb to glacier camp after lunch. We will let the snow consolidate before climbing any higher.
If the weather gods allow us, we hope to make a midnight alpine start for the summit of San Juan.
Dispatch #6 – July 17, 2015 – Base Camp
The weather has not been too favorable for us here at base camp with continuing rain and snow higher up. The sun has finally shown itself but now is accompanied by very strong winds. We plan to let the sun consolidate the slopes today and hopefully move to high camp if the wind allows us later this afternoon or evening.
Fingers crossed that the sun shines all day and the winds drop to allow our summit attempt tomorrow.
Dispatch #5 – July 16, 2015 – Base Camp
The Sherpas and HAP's didn't take the rest day as planned as they went and established the route from base camp to the glacier for our climb of San Juan yesterday. Today they are resting.
Some of the team members made the climb all the way to the start of the glacier of San Juan whilst others made the climb to the half way mark.
We celebrated a team member's birthday yesterday, and during the evening we experienced a heavy downpour at base camp which has left some snow on the route we intend to climb. The plan is to leave base camp tomorrow and climb to the col camp before making a summit attempt the day after. If the bad weather we are experiencing continues, we may have to abort our summit push for another day to let the fresh snow consolidate.
Dispatch #4 – July 14, 2015 – Base Camp
As planned, we spent the evening at the Glacier Camp at an elevation of 5,000 meters whilst the Sherpas were camped at Camp One. The team members, along with Alex and Eli, roped up and made the climb up the glacier. The Sherpas had fixed rope on the final 300 meters into Camp One which was steep and very exposed.
Upon arriving on the knife edge ridge that led to Camp One, we watched as Pasang and Kami Neru Shepa fixed ropes up this steep and heavily corniced ridge. They had climbed about a third of the ridge and had yet to reach the area of the ridge that was double corniced and had several dangerous looking snow mushrooms looming over them. With the conditions of the ridge being deemed too dangerous by myself and the impending bad weather approaching us, I called for the Sherpas and the team members to descend.
The team members all descended to the Glacier Camp where they retrieved some personal gear and then descended all the way to Base Camp. The Sherpas and HAP's stripped the mountain of all the fixed ropes and retrieved all the bamboo marker wands on the route so we would leave no trace of our passing.
After discussion among the team, it was decided to give San Juan an attempt in a few days after all the team and staff have had a rest.
The Sherpa and HAP's went to Glacier camp once again today to retrieve all the fixed rope and hardware that we had cached for the ridge above Camp One.
Tomorrow whilst the staff take a well deserved rest day, the team members will explore the route along the moraine to reach the glacier of San Juan. The mountain is not usually climbed from this valley so we will have our work cut out to find the easiest way to reach the glacier. The face of the mountain has huge seracs so we will elect to approach her from the left side which although is heavily crevassed, does not have the threat of the seracs collapsing on the route.
Dispatch #3 – July 11, 2015 – Base Camp
We arrived at base camp on the 8th in good time with the trek from the roadhead taking only 3 hours. We quickly established our base camp with kitchen and dining domes and each member having their own personal sleeping tent. Our base camp sits at an elevation of 4,250 meters.
The following day, we reviewed roped glacier travel, climbing with two tools whilst using a Tibloc device, and aluminum ladder crossings. Our Sherpas and Peruvian high altitude porters made a load carry to moraine camp and then continued onto crampon point at the edge of the glacier.
The 10th saw the team members make a carry to moraine camp at an elevation of 4,750 meters and then return to base camp for lunch. Our Sherpas and HAP's made another carry reaching camp one. The route from crampon point to camp one is through a heavily crevassed glacier and then climbs a ridge of a neighboring peak to a flat level on the glacier where the campsite sits. The guys had a long day and returned to base camp in the dark to be welcomed by Juvencio's dinner.
The 11th was a rest day for everyone except for the kitchen staff and myself, who was packing supplies for the next few days. Tomorrow, the Sherpas will head to camp one and start fixing rope on the steep ridge just out of camp one that will lead us hopefully to the summit of Huantsan Norte. The HAP's will assist the Sherpas with loads to camp one and then return to glacier camp where the members and I will spend tomorrow evening. All the team will spend the night at camp one the following evening.
All going to plan we should all be back at base camp on the 14th with the Sherpas and HAP's having made good progress on the ridge and the route to camp two.
Dispatch #2: July 7, 2015 – Huaraz
Our team has now finally all assembled together yesterday in Huaraz and today they made last minute purchases before we leave town tomorrow and head for base camp. We are a pretty good sized team including Sherpas, Peruvian high altitude porters and kitchen staff and climbers.
The weather has been fantastic in Huaraz and there have been many summits on most of the popular peaks in the Cordillera Blanca. We hope this weather pattern continues for the next couple of weeks which allows us a summit shot at Huantsan. The Sherpas and Peruvian guides are very excited about this climb as there have been very few summits of Huantsan in the past and the Sherpas will be hopefully be the first Nepalese to put their name on the summit list of this amazing peak.
More from the Junkies in the next few days.
Dispatch #1: July 4, 2015 – Lima
Several of our Huantsan team members are already in Lima and the rest should arrive later this evening including our Sherpas who have flown all the way from Kathmandu. Two of our team will arrive tomorrow as commitments back home this July 4th weekend mean they will make their own way to Huaraz and meet the team on the 6th. The rest of us will take a large private bus to Huaraz tomorrow for the 6-7 hour scenic dive along the Pacific Ocean and then up into the higher elevation of the Cordillera Blanca.
Once in Huaraz, we will be spending three evenings at Zarela’s guest house for a cautious acclimatization schedule before we drive and trek to base camp.
Peru is welcoming as always and the Cat Park in the center of the Miraflores District of Lima is always a refreshing sight in such a large and busy city. We look forward to the quietness and normality of Huaraz for a few days.
Phil CramptonContact us: firstname.lastname@example.org