Chopicalqui - Millisraju Expedition
Move to Chopicalqui Moraine Camp
July 6, 2005 – Move from Chopi Base Camp to Chopi Moraine Camp
Our next goal was to move from the base camp to the moraine camp (map); about 3000 feet higher up the mountain. We awoke to a cold but beautiful blue sky and the rustling sound of Elias getting ready to serve breakfast as soon as we made our appearance. Elias negotiates the time (read early) for breakfast the night before and when that time arrives, be there . . . he is ready to serve. He generally has a method behind his madness and in this case he was figuring to get his end of the camp broken down and moving up hill in time to be serving a hot afternoon snack at the moraine camp. To pull that off, we had to break the lower camp and stash the gear we would not be taking up the mountain. The stashed gear would be under the watchful eye of a one of Joaquin’s or Elias’ compadres, for whom the favor would be returned for another gear stash higher up. Yet another reason to hire local staff if one can afford the luxury.
We divied up the gear and started packing our individual bags. Though we had Joaquin with us, we carried our own gear, either on this trip or on the previous day’s trip when we lugged the axes, crampons, and most of the more technical iron to the upper camp. Today we were moving the tents and sleeping gear along with climbing clothing and the double plastic boots, on our feet of course. Joaquin and Elias packed the food and kitchen necessities but not the Kiva tent we used for base camp meals. The meals from the moraine on up were out in the open or in the mountaineering tent that would go to the Col camp.
Since we had been up the moraine the day before, we knew what we had coming our way. It promised to be a three-hour slog with no running water and all too many vertical feet with a 40+ pound load. We made the climb to the moraine and moved purposely along its flat top until we reached the drop down and re-climb to take on the remaining and most substantial section. Without a doubt, the lower moraine is a cake walk compared to the verticality of the later portion of the climb. We lugged our loads just about non-stop to the halfway point of the upper steep section before stopping for lunch. . . high clouds were moving in. Wispy lenticular clouds made their way across the sky, higher than the 20k summit of Huandoy across the valley. We knew that lenticular clouds often foretold a change in the weather and Joaquin voiced the same opinion, reinforced by his correlation of the weather and the phase of the moon. The prediction was for a change to the perfect weather so far, a change neither Gary nor I wanted any part of.
We finished lunch and hefted our loads to make the rest of the climb to the flats of the moraine camp. Joaquin and Elias passed us on the final stretch to claim three flat pads distant enough from the high wall to avoid the rock fall they said was likely in this area. We set up our tents and as we finished, Elias announced the afternoon snack was ready. As we ate, we took in the vista that lay before us. The camp faces north and offers a view ranging from the Huandoys on the western edge to Chacaraju on the eastern edge. In between lies Pisco, and the further distant summits of Artisanraju, Alpa Mayo and Quitaraju. The view as you sit, butt on a warm smooth rock at 16,500 feet, is enough to justify the trip to this point, even if you choose to go no further.
Elias served dinner by five and we were soon in the tents trying to regain some of the energy lost to the climb up. We knew that clouds or not, the acclimatization process could not be hurried, therefore our plan was to layover one full day in the moraine camp and let our bodies recover from two consecutive days of lugging loads to the Moraine Camp.
July 7, 2005 – Chopi Moraine Acclimatization Day
Just sitting in a high camp is no fun. I don’t like it at all but we knew that a premature move up the mountain would just cost us a shot at the summit. The clouds that gave us pause the day before had moved on and we were once again sitting below a perfect blue sky taking in the views with enough UV light to ensure that nobody was cold or stuck in a tent. I brought reading material and there were a few other groups in the camp so we either read or wandered here or there to briefly chat with other climbers.
The day passed slowly as most rest days do but it did somehow draw to a close as we packed our gear for the next morning’s move to the high camp for our summit bid. We were going to go as light as possible and just Joaquin would make the next leg with us. Elias would lay low in the lower camp while Joaquin pitched in to help lug some of the group gear to the Col Camp.
Dinner finished the day and the cold of night sent us to our sleeping bags for the last night in the moraine camp. We would take the next step up the mountain in the morning.