Alpamayo Summit Success!
On Tuesday July 9th, we moved to high camp after a 3 day snow storm that had us tent bouded at Morraine Camp. Upon arrival to High Camp, we struggled to set camp up with the almost 1 m of snow that had been deposited at places. But Rich and Ásgeir kept the good spirits that we had had over the entire expedition. Expectant to evealuate route conditions, we decided that after a hard day of work and given the accumulated snow, we’d take a rest day on Wednesday and shoot for the summit on Thursday, putting all our chips in one basket; summiting on the very last day possible.
Since the start of the climb, we all agreed that “we’d be patient and we were not going to quit untill our planes left…” and so we did! This would involve to summit on the last day possible and also descending to Base Camp after the climb. On Wed, I grabbed Juanito, our fenomenal porter, and we went off to break the trail to the bergschund, a task that had not been done for the last 5 days and was contemplated by many from their tents. 1m of snow made it hard to approach the base of the route, but checking its conditions was mandatory, and facilitating the next day’s progress to the climb, a must.
With 2 days of sunny weather, we knew that all this snow would pack down and transform quickly. So we just continued to rest and got ready for our summit bid. At 12:30am of Thursday the 11th, we clipped into our rope and set off to the base of the route up Alpamayo, the “Direct Basque-French”. A somehow populated high camp made us decide to be the first ones up, to avoid being expossed to ice fall from climbers above. We started the climb with a train of headlamps following our tracks 1h behind. After the first 2 pitches of semi-consolidated snow, we were swinging our tools into consistently good quality ice. About 3 rope lengths below the summit of Alpamayo, the sunrise greeted us to the 3rd bluebird sky day in a row, and literally, the 3rd in the entire expedition. By tourning our headlamps off, we entered the narrowest section of the climb, the upper gully that slightly traversing right with the only deviation of the route, grants access to the summit of Alpamayo.
Rich and Ásgeir moved along the entire climb and their sincronized progress below me was pleasant to witness. It is always a treat to climb with those who do their homework before a climb and not only show up excited, but well prepared, trained and determined. At 8:30am the team reached the narrow top of this mountain, where there was only room for 3 or 4 people. After a summit’s high five and mandatory pictures, we initiated our series of rappels down, to give room to the only couple of climbers who followed us successfully to the top and to abandon the strong winds that were hitting the top. Some 9 full 60m rope lenghts after, Rich, Ásgeir and myself were back at the base of the SW face of Alpamayo, with just a few hundred yards to walk back to our camp. It had been a serious 11h30m of climbing up and down this beatufull but challenging peak. Now our minds were set on recovering and start our descent towards Base Camp… We now had only one day left to reach the trailhead, and eventually Huaraz, so to be on time to our bus to Lima and planes back home on Saturday was the goal.
Tired, but with safety in mind, we started our descent through the opened up glacier, and it was to the lights of our headlamps that we crawled back into the dryness of our BC tents, leaving the snow that had been home for the last few days. Our always sevicial cook Francisco and loyal porter Juanito helped us enourmously with this transition, without a doubt, the hardest of all during the expedition. Now, we only had to walk back to the trailhead on the safety of a grass covered path and the thickening of the lower elevation’s air. Jumping into our bus at dusk, we were congratulated by our outfitter’s personell, who took us to Huaraz. With barely a few minutes to order dinner before closure time, we celebrated to local cuissine and went to our eraned 1st bed in 2 weeks, not without greeting SJMG’s 2nd expedition at the hotel and wishing them best of luck on their jurney. This successful San Juan Mountain Guides expedition to Alpamayo was over.
Elias de Andres Martos
Back in High Camp
Elias called to report that he and his two clients successfully summited Alpamayo and were back at high camp, preparing for the rest of their descent back towards basecamp. Elias will write up a full accounting of the summit day in the days to come. Congratulations everyone!
Established at Alpamayo High Camp
Elias just called in with an update for their Alpamayo team. After 3 days hunkered down at Moraine Camp due to weather and plenty of fresh snow, the team finally made their climb to high camp and are now established and ready to push for the summit tomorrow.
The weather looks good for them and conditions on the route seem to be in optimal condition for the ascent. We will be wishing them well on their climb of the French Direct Route on Alpamayo. The French Direct (pictured) is characterized by steep snow and ice climbing up to 70 degrees. This is now the preferred route to the summit, where in year’s past many teams opted for the Ferrari Route which is no longer climbed due to poorer conditions on that route.
We will update their progress tomorrow so stay tuned!
Progress Towards High Camp
Elias and his team are making good progress on Alpamayo. On the 4th of July they checked in from basecamp, and were planning to do a carry to moraine camp the following day. Everyone was doing well and in good spirits.
Two days later Elias called in with another report. Elías reported that they did a carry yesterday and today they are camping at the moraine camp at 5,000 m.
Tomorrow they will rest and the following day head to high camp. The weather has been good in the am, with rain in the afternoons. The forecast is showing favorable weather upcoming for the next five or so days, hopefully fine summiting weather. Climbers that he has spoken to that have climbed the peak recently have said that the route is in good shape.
This morning, Elias called in again with another update and reported that they took a mandatory weather day yesterday, after taking a rest day the day before. The weather is looking beautiful Andean blue today. The team is planning to move to high camp today and summit tomorrow or the next day. Today is Rich Doren’s 53rd birthday!
Our second Alpamayo Expedition of the season starts on Thursday and is being led by SJMG Senior Guide Andres Marin. Stay tuned for more updates!
Bruce and I climbed Wilson Peak near Telluride last week. We left the Rock of Ages trail head at 6am and were on the summit at 10am, and were back at the trail head by 1pm for a 7 hour car to car trip. Thanks for the great trip Bruce!
Alpamayo Expedition #1 Begins
The team is finaly in the capital of Peruvian Andinismo! After a late arrival into Lima due to a flight cancellation out of Houston, we made it to Lima just on time to grab some rest and be headed for the bus. Yesterday, and 8h bus drive towards the Andes, over 12,000ft high mountain roads put us in Huaraz in the late afternoon. The town greeted us with light rain and covered skies that prevented us from seen the “rajus” or snow covered peaks, as named in the local Quechua languaje.
This morning, we enjoyed a great breakfast at Olaza´s rooftop, with views of ther majestic Huascaran, Huandoy and Ranrapalca behind.
We’re headed now to arrange some logistics and doing the final shoping before our anticipated big andeand meal this asfternoon. We’re getting excited of leaving the urban life and travelling to put our feet at the Alpamayo trailhead tomorrow.
Alpamayo Expedition #1 Team Members
Guide: Elias de Andres Martos
Clients: Asgeir Jonsson, Richard Doren
A Brief History and Essential Equipment
Via Ferrata is the Italian name for what might fairly be called extreme hiking. First built in the Italian Dolomites during World War 1 these “iron roads” were intended to facilitate the rapid movement of troops through technical mountain terrain. Today, these systems of cables and iron rungs climbing up cliff faces make for an excellent mountain adventure for those not necessarily inclined to make the significant investment of money and time into gear and know-how to participate in traditional outdoor climbing and mountaineering. Consequently, the via ferrata is one of the best ways to get all of the excitement of high mountain adventure for the least investment. Fortunately, we happen to have one right in our backyard – just outside the beautiful town of Telluride.
Chuck Kroger was a world adventurer, climber, philanthropist, and ironworker who settled in Telluride in the late 70’s. He began building the via ferrata in 2006 but an untimely death from cancer left completion of the project to others. Tellurides via ferrata is affectionately known as the Krogeratta in his memory.
The Krogeratta is a fantastic introduction to the sport – with spectacular positions and views with enough air and exposure for the most experienced climbers while also being completely accessible to those with only hiking experience. Via Ferrattas are simple on the grand scale but definitely deserve respect as specialized systems and knowledge are required to complete them safely.
First, everyone needs a traditional climbing harness and helmet – falls and rock fall are a real possibility on these routes. Second, a via ferrata “rig” is required. These are made by many companies but the Black Diamond Easy Rider Via Ferrata set up is particularly nice.
What distinguishes the via ferrata rig from other climbing systems is that it builds a “shock absorber” to the system – that is, if you fall, the system, rather than your body, absorbs all the shock from a fall and you end up making a soft landing just a foot or two below where you fell. A serious mistake that many people make is simply clipping traditional runners or short pieces of rope into the via ferrata cables and ladders. This has the potential to be a serious error because forces multiply in extreme an unexpected ways on climbing systems in short falls without the shock absorbers found in the proper via ferrata rigs.
Never attempt a via ferrata without a rigging system designed specifically for that purpose. Another consideration is that via ferrata’s frequently have sections that are exposed to serious falls, but do not offer cable or rungs for you to clip into, it is important that you consider how you will maintain you and your group’s security through these sections. One way is to move very carefully and/or employ the use of a leader and a rope. Another, is the engage the services of a certified guide with knowledge of the route and a variety of techniques to manage risk.
Finally, I would suggest that everyone wear the same footwear on a via ferrata that they would on a traditional mountain climb or hike. The terrain is uneven and rough and often requires that you stand delicately on small foot stances (while safely clipped into the system of course) when moving through the route.
Via Ferrata’s, while an old approach to mountaineering, are an exciting new development for adventure and exploration of the Rocky Mountains!
AMGA Certified Ski Guide
As I was riding the coal powered steam train up to Elk Park I was checking the weather and it didn’t look good. NOAA was predicting 70% chance of precipatation and a chance of snow. Luckily NOAA doesn’t always get it right! We ended up summiting Vestal Peak and Arrow Peak with great weather the whole time. Beautiful weather, fun people, and great suroundings made for an amazing 3 days in the Weminuche Wilderness.
Tim had climbed Mount Sneffels before via the standard route and was looking for a little more of a challenge. The SW ridge is an amazing route on an iconic Colorado 14er. Climbing up the SW Ridge and down the standard route gave us a great tour of the mountain.
As always, it was great climbing with you Tim!
David and I left the Los Pinos trail head with food for ten days, not 100% sure where we were going. We knew we wanted to try to climb Mt. Oso but besides that we were going to play it by ear. We ended seeing people on day 1,2,9 and 10; but on days 3-8 we saw no one. We hiked up the Los Pinos River drainage then up Lake Creek past Emerald Lake, Moon Lake, and Half Moon Lake. Then over ‘Moon Rock Pass’ to Rock Lake. Then to Flint Lake and down Flint Creek past the ‘Popes Nose’ to Los Pinos River and back to the trail head. We saw an elk, moose, and a bear print.
Thanks for the great trip David!