Alpamayo, Cayesh, Cordillera Blanca, Denis Hoste, French Direct, Friedemann Koch, German route, Nelson Neirinck, Peru
Ever since my first visit four years ago, I promised myself I would go climb in Peru again. When Denis asked me if I wanted to join him with Friedemann on a trip to the Cordillera Blanca and Huayhuash I didn’t hesitate for a second. A couple months of planning, training and a last-minute job installing pools later I found myself on a plane to Huaraz for almost 7 weeks of Andean madness!
(Full detailed Cayesh trip report at the bottom of the story)
By coincidence the members of MC6 planned their “graduation expedition” to Peru as well, and we hope to welcome them with some Pisco Sour soon. In no way I want to take their fame and glory by writing about what we did here so far, but as it’s been awhile since I’ve put something on the blog and we’ve done some cool stuff I figured a little something wouldn’t be out of place.
It is however not unexpected that both MC6 and our team have a similar goal. It’s hard to visit the Peruvian Andes and not want to climb the beautiful Alpamayo. As this snowy beauty wasn’t our main goal we decided to take the Santa-Cruz trekking towards it as our acclimatization trip and just leave straight from Huaraz.
We had a bad weather day in base camp which made us sit down for some passive acclimatization but after that blue skies accompanied us to the glacier. As we were very early – we were the third team on the mountain this season – we had the mountain, and whole glacier for that matter, to ourselves. Sadly the snow on the summit mushroom hadn’t consolidated enough yet so we “summitted” 4 meter below the actual culmen, on the summit ridge.
Happy with our success we returned to Huaraz for some recuperation only to catch a stomach virus – all three of us at a different time. After a longer than expected stay in the hostel we finally set out to Cayesh, a mountain we had been eyeballing for a while. Being a bit more technical, Cayesh sees a lot less traffic than the more popular mountains of the Blanca. This meant it was harder to figure out conditions and how to get there.
After some negotiating we managed to hike from the Quebrada Quilcayhuanca with two donkeys and set up basecamp into one of the most astonishingly beautiful valleys I’ve ever seen – Quebrada Cayesh. Waterfalls burst down into the valley floor from massive glaciers dominated by vast mountains above and create an amazing and wild atmosphere.
From base camp we hiked up the moraines and glacier to set up camp on the upper glacial plane below Cayesh. Our spot there was quite possibly the prettiest glacier camping I’ve ever done. Being all alone in a tiny tent surrounded by impressive mountains on a giant sea of snow and ice really makes you appreciate your tiny existence on this planet of ours.
As Friedemann wasn’t feeling too well Denis and I set off to attempt the German route that leads to Cayesh’s summit. Some sketchy and at times straight out scary climbing made us a bit doubtful about the ascent. When a little before noon the sun hit the face with it’s full force and a lot of debris came flying down our path up the mountain we decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to blow the retreat.
A mighty and beautiful mountain with fun climbing, but sadly a bit out of condition for this time a year.
While we take some rest days in Huaraz and are on a multi day eating-binge to refill all the calories we burned in the mountains we are planning the second big part of our trip here: a two week basecamp in the Cordillera Huayhuash where we hope to bag some of its mighty summits!
—- Full trip report Cayesh for future ascents see below —-
Cayesh – German route
On June 14th Denis Hoste, Friedemann Koch and I set out to the Quilcayhuanca valley with Cayesh on our minds.
We used an agency to provide donkeys as there are usually no donkeys available in the towns closeby (Liupa and Pitec). Be careful cause agencies will try and add some “gringo-tax” as we found out later.
A taxi picked us up at the hostel in Huaraz and drove us through Liupa and Pitec – where the trail to Laguna Churup starts – to the entry gate of the Quebrada Quilcayhuanca. Besides the permit for the Huascaran National park an additional charge is requested to enter the valley (120 Soles).
From the gate it’s about a 10km hike to where the Quebrada Qayesh splits off to the right. There is an often faint trail that leads through sometimes swampy terrain that takes you to the end of the Qayesh valley – another 4km – where you pitch your tent on a flat spot next to the river (there is an average sized boulder with a cairn on it). It took us about 3 hours to hike from the gate to the basecamp.. Mind that we didn’t carry anything since all our stuff was loaded on donkeys.
From basecamp there is a faint trail that crosses the river (cairns) and that goes uphill close to where the river flows down from the glacier and has cut through the moraines. It’s a pretty steep bushwhack at first, then the angle eases through lower bushes. Follow the faint trail until you reach the moonscape moraines and follow the cairns across vertical layers of rock until you enter a sorta gorge that leads you straight to the glacier. With heavy backpacks it took us about 2 hours. There’s cairns all along the way.
Once on the glacier find yourself a way through the myriad crevasses in a general direction of Cayesh. We just took the most logical way and got onto the flat top part of the glacier in another 2 hours. Once you cross the final big crevasses you find yourself on a big flat glacier with plenty of space to pitch a tent. We didn’t find it necessary to descend towards the lower flats under Cayesh.
After a rest day on the glacier we left the tent at 5am. Mind that there’s still some crevasses to navigate as you descend towards the base of the wall. We arrived at the bergschrund at 6.10am.
The first two pitches took us through loose snow and some mixed climbing to the base of the right facing ramp where normally the rock climbing starts. This early in the season the ramp had quite some snow coverage though. We climbed three more pitches until we reached the old Italian fixed rope (yellow, rotten). The climbing was fun and challenging, but we found very little and inadequate protection. Often we would climb steep (70-80 degree) snow with no possible protection. The rock climbing turned to be M5-M6 mixed terrain.
The sun hit the face at around 11am and soon lots of (small) ice debris came falling down from the numerous cornices/seracs hanging off the wall. At that point we decided the climbing was a bit too sketchy and we started to rap.
We re-established all the anchors with extra prussic rope (green and orange). The highest belay was solid one with two pegs and a nut. The one below was just prussic around a big block. Our third rappel was from a smaller block in a snow slope. For the fourth and last rappel we left a snow-stake in solid snow in a ramp. Mind that these are all full 60m rappels.
Once back on the glacier it took us a little under an hour to get back to the tent.
Cayesh is an awesome challenging mountain but conditions were a tad too harsh for us. I hope this trip report may aid you in your climb. Buen suerte!