Alpamayo Expedition – Peru
Guided Climb of the French Direct
Long considered one of the world’s most beautiful mountains, Alpamayo remains one of mountaineering’s most coveted summits. Situated in the “Himalayas of South America,” the Cordillera Blanca is much more accessible than its Asian counterpart, yet there are scores of peaks over 19,000 feet and 6000 meters. This expedition takes advantage of the rich Peruvian culture and the magnificent alpine terrain to climb the French Direct on the Southwest Face of Alpamayo.
Similar to it’s neighboring route up the fluted face – the now seldom climbed Ferrari Route – the French Direct is characterized by steep snow and ice climbing up to 70 degrees. This now preferred ascent route offers less objective hazard and is a more direct line to the summit on Alpamayo’s SW face. After our summit climb, we carry our equipment back down to base camp, then retrace our route back to Cashapampa, Caraz, Huaraz and finally to Lima where we depart for home.
Expedition Support: Burros, Porters, & Cooks
- Our trips are fully supported with burros, porters, and cooks. This allow us to limit pack weights on the approach to help ease the adjustment to the altitude, and give us a greater chance for success on the climbs.
After spending a day in Huaraz (9,800′) checking and repacking gear, we drive north along the foot of the mountains to the trailhead of the beautiful Quebrada Santa Cruz, passing Huascaran on our way. We trek up the Santa Cruz valley for two days to Quebrada Arhuaycocha, below the rugged and majestic peaks of Taulliraju and Artesonraju. Here we will place our base camp in preparation for our climb of Alpamayo. We begin by carrying up to an intermediate camp called “campo moraina” or moraine camp. From moraine camp, we catch a glimpse of the first steep snow climbing between high camp and the col between Alpamayo and Quitaraju. Once established at the col camp, we prepare for our summit bid.
The SJMG Difference
SJMG has been running programs in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca since the late 90’s. As a result, we have developed an in-depth understanding of what it takes to manage the overall flow and logistics of the Alpamayo Expedition. From a refined and time-tested itinerary, and up-to-date and detailed knowledge of the route on Alpamayo’s SW face, to choosing the perfect hotels and other local operators – you can rest assured that our program represents the best in the industry when it comes to the execution of all the little details that help make this a rewarding and successful experience.
As a blind climber, I’ve done expeditions all around the world and dealt with all kinds of local outfitters and guide services; San Juan Mountain Guides is the best! – Erik Weihenmeyer
Alpamayo Expedition Itinerary
Over the years, we have refined the Alpamayo Expedition itinerary to a time-tested 16 days. Travel in Peru can, at times, present some unique challenges regard to program logistics. Therefore, a flexible “easy-going” attitude will serve you well.
Depart U.S. for Peru arriving late evening. We will be there to pick you up at the airport and transport you to our hotel near the US Embassy in the Mariscal Sur district.
Today we travel to the high mountain town of Huaraz (9,500 ft.), and our hotel accommodations for the evening.
In Huaraz, we organize equipment and food for our expedition. This also serves as a valuable acclimatization day.
Drive to Cashapampa (9,000′). Along the way we will pass through many smaller Peruvian villages and enjoy beautiful views of many Cordillera Blanca peaks, including the massive Huascaran. We begin our trek up the lovely Santa Cruz Valley to camp at Illma Corral (11,500′).
Another splendid day of trekking in the high Andes to reach our base camp (13,500′) for Alpamayo.
We hike a load of equipment and supplies to camp 1 (moraine) and return to base camp.
Today we hike to and stay at moraine camp.
A rest and acclimatization day at moraine camp.
Today we will move to Camp 2, also known as Col Camp. This is one of the more challenging days of the expedition, as we will be navigating crevasses and some steep two-tool climbing with heavier packs on the way to our camp at 18,000′.
Summit Day on Alpamayo (19,512′). After we cross the bergschrund it is approximately 7 – 9 pitches of 55 – 70 degree neve and ice climbing to the summit ridge and the top of this sought after peak. We will rappell the route back to high camp.
Extra summit day or rest day at Col Camp.
Extra summit day on Alpamayo. Alternatively and if the group is feeling strong, we may choose to climb Quitaraju (19,820′) by it’s North Face. Though not as steep as Alpamayo, the route is longer and crests the magical 6000 meter mark.
Descend to basecamp from Col Camp.
With the aid of horses we will descend from basecamp back to Cashapampa and continue to Huaraz.
Depart Huaraz and return to Lima.
Return to the US.
Alpamayo Expedition Equipment List
- Duffel Bag: Large durable bag for airline and in-country travel and organization.
- Backpack: Internal frame, 50-60 liters max. Guides’ pick: Osprey Aether 60 or Variant 52
- Sleeping bag: Down or synthetic bag rated between 15-20 degrees with compression stuff sack. Guides’ pick: Neutrino Endurance 400
- Sleeping Pad: Full-length Therm-a-Rest air mattress.
- Pocket knife: 2-3 inch blade, simple, light
- Cup/Bowl & Spoon: Versatile plastic/lexan type.
- Small thermos: Optional, but nice to have
- Water bottles: 2 liters combined capacity; bottles or bladder. Guides’ pick: Nalgene or Platypus
- Water Bottle Insulators: OR or similar sleeve type water bottle insulators
Clothing and Personal Equipment
- Travel Clothing: 2 sets of travel/town clothing is usually suffiicient
- Hiking boots: Lightweight hiking boots or approach shoes for acclimatization hikes and around town.
- Socks: 2-3 pair of medium weight wool or synthetic blend socks.
- Base layers: Synthetic t-shirt and synthetic long underwear
- Mid-weight Layer: For over your long underwear and under other external layers. Guides’ Pick: OR Centrifuge Jacket
- Soft shell pants: Warm enough for cool mornings and nights, yet light enough for warm days. Guides’ Pick: OR Cirque Pant
- Soft shell jacket: Your workhorse jacket with a hood. Guides’ Pick: OR Alibi Jacket
- Insulated Jacket: Down or synthetic with a hood. Guides’ pick: OR Virtuoso Hoody
- Hard shell jacket: waterproof and breathable, no insulation. Guides’ Pick: OR Axiom Jacket
- Gloves: 3 pair. 1 mid-weight, 1 heavy-weight, 1 light-weight. Bring mittens if you get cold hands easily.
- Hand Warmers: 2 – 3 packets to stick in your gloves.
- Hats: one with brim, one for warmth
- Balaclava: BUFF’s are also acceptable.
- Sunglasses: With Category 4 lenses.
- Goggles: A standard paid of ski goggles will suffice.
- Sunscreen and lip balm: water/sweat-proof. SPF 50 or higher recommended.
- Headlamp: with extra batteries. Guides’ pick: Black Diamond Spot
- Toiletries: Toilet paper, baggie for used TP, toothbrush/paste, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.
- Personal first-aid kit: for your personal meds/needs; guide will have a large one as well
- Stuff sacks: for convenient packing
- Digital Camera
- Book and/or iPod/iPad
- Lunch food: Everything you eat between breakfast and dinner. May include: bagels, dried meats, cheese, trail mix, candy bars, peanut butter, etc…
- Adjustable Trekking Poles
- Harness: Adjustable leg loops are essential.
- Belay Device: ATC Guide or similar.
- Locking carabiner (2): Pear shaped, wide mouth.
- Non-locking carabiners (4): Wire gate biners are best
- Boots: Climbing boots. Double boots or insulated single boots with zippered gaiter.
- Crampons: Step in crampons. Guides’ Pick: BD Sabretooth
- Ice Axes: 2 Technical Ice Tools. Guides’ Pick: BD Cobra
Training & Follow Up Climbs
As always, being in excellent physical shape is an important component of our our programs. A good mixture of cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, and especially core strength will help you to maximize the potential rewards that are possible on a great climbing trip.
1Before Your Expedition
The Alpamayo Expedition requires our participants to have previous technical climbing experience. At a minimum, participants should have completed our Intermediate Ice Climbing Course and a few days of Private Ice Guiding on ice routes such as Stairway to Heaven and Whorehouse Ice Hose. Additionally, team members on this expedition should have previous multi-day expedition experience on climbs such as Ecuador’s Volcanoes, Denali’s West Buttress, or similar climbs in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge.
We take the screening for the Alpamayo climb seriously, so please get in touch with our office if you have any questions about your fitness for the climb. Team members should engage in a rigorous cardiovascular and upper/lower body training regimen. The Alpine Training Center in Boulder as well as Cold Fear have excellent training resources available to aspiring alpinists.
For the Alpamayo Expedition you should be ready for:
- Travel in a South American country
- Climbing 55 – 70 degree neve & ice at altitudes up to 6000 meters
- 12 – 15 hour summit days and early alpine starts
- Fickle weather, cold temperatures, warm temperatures, delays, other factors beyond our control
2Follow Up Climbs
- Denali’s West Rib
- Cody, WY Ice Climbing
- Moose’s Tooth – Ham n’ Eggs
- Ouray Ice Climbing – Private Guiding
I hope that I might be able to get out to Ouray again before ice season ends. If so, I’ll definitely get in touch with you. Working with the local experts really makes a difference. Thanks again for everything! – N. Subashki. 2011 Private Program
Huaraz, Peru: Getting There
For the purposes of practicality, all of our Peru: Cordillera Blanca programs begin and end in Lima, Peru. However, we spend minimal time in Lima and quickly transfer our program to Huaraz (9,800′) at the base of the Cordillera Blanca. Each climbing season (May – September), hundreds of climbers descend on Huaraz and utilize the relatively modern South American city as a base of operations from which to organize climbs and treks throughout the nearby Cordillera Blanca. Our itinerary calls for travel to Huaraz by either 1st class bus or private vehicle. Participants may also choose to fly into Huaraz, connecting through Lima.
Flights: We require our participants to fly into Lima, Peru. The International Airport is a busy hub for airline travel and many options exist. Most flights from the US to Lima originate in either Miami, FL or Houston, TX. We quickly exit Lima and transfer to Huaraz by either 1st class bus or private vehicle.
Driving: We’ve never had trip participants actually drive to Peru from the US. Although it is entirely possible, we can’t recommend this option.
Hotels: We provide lodging in Peru for the duration of the program.
- Cost Includes:
- Guiding and trip leadership with bi-lingual guides
- Ground Transportation in Peru
- All in-country lodging
- Burros, porters, and cooks
- Park entrance fees
- Breakfasts and dinners in the mountains
- Group climbing equipment (ropes, etc.)
- Not Included:
- Transportation to Lima, Peru
- Additional hotel costs before or after the program or those not planned on the itinerary
- Personal Lunch Food
- Meals or drinks in towns, cities, and hotels
- Trip cancellation insurance – recommended
- Personal alpine climbing clothing
- Costs associated with early returns, weather delays, or other factors beyond our control
- Final transfer from Lima hotel to airport
- Guide gratuity
- Registration and Cancellation:
- You will need to fill out our Expedition Application, cancellation policy agreement, and liability waiver, and send it to us with a 50% deposit as early as possible prior to the expedition date. Balance is due on the first day of the course. Please click on our Registration link to access the required forms.
He was very thorough and safety conscious. I would highly recommend Nate to anyone and would love to travel again with him on another trip. Happy adventuring! – Tanya H. Expedition 2010