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  • Mt. Bierstadt Group Summit - Front Range, Colorado
  • A rest before the summit push on Dallas Peak - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Broken Ankle + 6 Miles = Tired
  • The classic San Juan approach - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Overlooking Noname Basin from Twin Thumbs Pass - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Upper Noname Basin - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Nearing Noname Cabin - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Twin Thumbs Twins - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Nearing the summit of Pt. 13,736 - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Blustery day on Iowa Peak - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Morning snow at 15k, Cerro Ramada - Cordillera Ramada
  • Artesonraju from the summit of Nevado Pisco - Cordillera Blanca, Peru
  • February crowds on Gray's Peak - Front Range, Colorado
  • Kicking steps on Cerro Lliani - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
  • Final traverse to the summit of Wheeler Mountain - Ten Mile Range, Colorado
  • The long walk to Pachanta - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
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    Afternoon at 17k on Cerro Ramada - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
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    The final ridge on Iowa Peak - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Summer summit on Longs Peak - Front Range, Colorado
  • A rest day at the Pachanta Hot Springs - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
  • Mind over matter on Mt. Parnassas - Front Range, Colorado
  • Rest stop on Cerro Lliani - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
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    Post nap surprise on Cerro Ramada - Cordiller Ramada, Argentina
  • Summit on Cerro Lliani - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
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    Ridge walking on Grizzly Peak - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Enroute the summit via the West Ridge on Pacific Peak - Ten Mile Range, Colorado
  • Mule train bound for Chilca - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
  • Taking in the view from Fletcher Peak - Ten Mile Range, Colorado
  • Hiking on Silverheels - Mosquito Range, Colorado
  • Traversing! Gladstone Peak - San Juan Range, Colorado
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    The best of times at Willow Lake - Sangre de Christo Range, Colorado
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    High Altitude Cerebral Edema? - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
  • Bound for Chilca - Vilcanota Range, Peru
  • Going alpine light, Holy Cross Ridge - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Cumbre! Campa I - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
  • Roadside lunch with the best of company - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
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    Long ridge walk to the summit of California Peak - Sangre de Christo Range, Colorado
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    Crossing el Rio Colorado . . . in the afternoon - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
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    Dealing with Fall snows high on Casco Peak - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Moonrise over Mercedario - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
  • Still climbing at 20,900 on Cerro Ramada - Cordiller Ramada, Argentina
  • Talus on Halo Ridge, Mt. of the Holy Cross - Sawatch Range, Colorado
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    Deteriorating conditions on Mt. Arkansas - Ten Mile Range, Colorado
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    After the climb - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
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    Taking in the view from the summit of Crystal Peak - Tenmile Range, Colorado
  • Topping out on Mt. Arkansas' North Couloir - Mosquito Range, Colorado
  • Glissade on Mt. Arkansas - Mosquito Range, Colorado
  • Hard snow morning on Teakettle Mountain - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Spring snow announces the start of the climb on Dallas Peak - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Crossing the Eolus Catwalk - San Juan Range, Colorado

Nevado Pisco, Urus & Ischinca Expedition

Expedition Summary

An Overview:

Peru 2004 extended over 17 days and included climbs of peaks in both the Llanganuco and Ischinca Valleys.  For those unfamiliar with mountaineering in the Peruvian Andes, our destination was the famed Cordillera Blanca.  The Cordillera provides climbs for experts and beginners alike, ranging from lower peaks in the 17,000-foot range to mountains reaching heights of over 22,000 feet.  The Cordillera is also known for its fine climbing winters where the dry season includes extended periods of clear blue sky with only isolated periods of inclement weather.

We selected two peaks for our trip, one to provide an opportunity to acclimatize and practice glacier travel techniques and another for the challenge of climbing to almost 21,000 feet over a period of days and high camps.  The first choice was Nevado Pisco, a 19,000-foot peak adjacent to the Huandoys and generally regarded as a good beginner peak for aspiring Andean mountaineers.  Our second peak was the nearby Chopicalqui, a mountain connected at the shoulder to Huascaran, Peru’s highest summit.  Climbing Chopi promised to be a challenge, necessitating a high snow camp and the use of porters to move supplies up the mountain.

However, even the best-laid plans can go awry and the vagaries of Mother Nature took control of our plan before we even arrived in country.  The winter weather of Andean lore was absent this year, replaced by deep snows, cloudy skies, and brief periods of blue sky climbing weather.  We’d had indications of such before we left but we were determined to press on, modifying the trip as required to climb something . . . somewhere . . . in the Cordillera Blanca.

A Necessary Change:

Our plan to climb Pisco was successful and even in the face of snowy mornings and the frequent roar of avalanches on Huandoy faces, we found good climbing conditions and the challenge of a route quite different from the advertised beginner break-in terrain.  However, during our acclimatization period, our view of Chopi across the valley told another story, one of near constant clouds, continuing snow, and a summit rarely in the company of the sun.

The conditions necessitated a change of plan and rather than moving across the Llanganuco to the base of Chopi, we retreated to Huaraz and onto the Ischinca valley in pursuit of accessible peaks.  The promise of a high summit on Chopi faded, replaced now by what we perceived would be trade route climbs on Ischinca and Urus . . . and maybe a shot at the 6000-meter Tocollarju.  We ended up scoring the summits of both Ischinca and Urus but not Tocollarju, though other determined groups were able to make the slog to the challenging summit pyramid through what was reported to be near waist deep sno

But it wasn’t all climbing . . .  If you are going to Peru, you might as well take in the sights and sounds of the city, the country and the night-time sky.  We saw the sights of Lima including the Cathedral and Catacombs; we got a lesson in Peruvian construction techniques from a Huaraz building supply vendor and even experienced the culinary treat known to the locals as cuy.  We all learned a bit of Spanish, found that kids will be kids, glimpsed the Southern Cross and took in the sights and sounds of a vibrant country, both fabulously rich and at times depressingly poor.

The End Result:

In the end, everyone scored at least two 18,000 foot summits.  The peaks provided a full range of mountaineering experience, ranging from a high angle ice pitch on Pisco, classic glacier terrain on Ischinca, and the wonderful mixed rock and ice on Urus.  The skills gained over the past two summers in Canada were polished and applied again . . . this time in a high altitude environment. 

Additionally, as this was a true expedition, we required the support of local mule drivers, a cook, porters to facilitate the movement of the gear and supplies necessary to pitch camp in a high alpine valley and climb for seven or eight days.  We pulled it off, with the help of both excellent local staff and a logistics provider second to none.  And . . . we’ll go back and do it again.

The rest of the story . . .

The pages that follow detail our Cordillera Blanca climbing experience.  You get a wide description of not only our climbs but also the conditions and experiences surrounding each, hence a mix of climbing, cultural tidbits, and even tourist venues.  Given that this was our first home-built long-duration foreign climbing trip, we learned a great deal about finding information, using in country expertise, and managing the show once the ball started rolling.  Now that we know a bit about expedition mechanics, I’ll toss out some details.  There is a separate page describing the logistical nuts and bolts and yes . . . the cost of those nuts and bolts.  But, lets be absolutely clear on one thing . . .  things change; therefore in the end . . . you are on your own. 

In closing, the Cordillera Blanca is all it is talked up to be.  Go and climb . . . you will not be disappointed.