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Chopicalqui - Millisraju Expedition

Descent to Huaraz


Later on July 10, 2005 – Chopi Col Camp to the Highway

Over hill and dale

If the thought ever crosses your mind to pop an Ambien to get some sleep after an aborted summit attempt, don’t do it as you may find the results to be “less than satisfactory”.  I’ll say no more.  Morning did come and after a cup of hot tea, we broke camp for the walk down the glacier to the moraine camp and then on to the base camp just above the road.  We took down the tents, packed the gear and rigged up our harnesses in preparation for the few hours of glacier travel needed to get down to the moraine below.  We wanted to get an early start as the sun was making an appearance and the walk would only get hotter as the day progressed.  Our descent retraced our previous day’s route through the hills and dales of the undulating glacier; crossing crevasses that we now took a few seconds to look at as we crossed them (map).  The route again took us past a number of sizeable crevasses and eventually delivered us to the toe of the glacier where we dropped our harnesses and stowed the glacier gear.

Descending a steeper slope

We hiked the gentle traverse along the upper headwall and dropped down the steep switchbacks to the moraine proper and then across the boulders and into the terraced moraine camp.  Elias had a hot snack prepared for our arrival as our radios communications had alerted him that we were making an unplanned early descent and we would soon be moving toward the base camp.  We ate, hydrated, and then packed the camp for the descent to the base.  Our modified plan called for Joaquin to drop with us to the base and then continue to the road, catch a ride to Yungay and onto Huaraz.  He would then meet with Chris to arrange for our pickup the next morning.  This would save us a day that we could use to rest day before we either took a second shot at Chopi or moved onto another peak for the second part of the trip.

Summit missed

After the snack and packing session, we hefted our packs and headed down the moraine, Elias and Joaquin smartly taking off into the lead.  The trip down the moraine took the expected couple of hours and deposited us at the base camp by mid afternoon.  We still had a few hours of light left remaining so we got the tents set up and launched into a serious cracker and peanut butter snacking session.  Joaquin and Elias squared away the stashed gear and then Joaquin made for the road and the promise of a night at home in Huaraz.  The rest of us took the opportunity to catch a quick bath in the creek, which re-defines the concept of a cold bath, i.e. a glacier melt bath.  The intense sun; however, quickly remedied the shock of the cold.  Dinner followed and then we killed the rest of the evening socializing with a solo American climber whose partner had abandoned him in favor a local talent and commodities.


July 11, 2005 – Huaraz Rest Day

We rose early and had a light breakfast just before Joaquin and his son Joel arrived and helped break the camp.  Joel had climbed with us the previous year and it was good to see him again this year.  He was not working in the mountains and since it was a Saturday he tagged along with Joaquin for the pick-up.  The five of us broke camp and lugged the gear over the short trail to the bend in the road where our ride was waiting.  The driver was another familiar face from last year and he too remembered our group as none other than the Sonia Morales Expedition Team.  We passed the gear to the driver and soon enough all was securely fastened to the roof of the . . . white Toyota van.  We were off to Huaraz.

Outbound looking toward the Huandoys and Pisco Oeste

The ride back to Huaraz was completely familiar at this point as we made our way down the switchbacks to the Pisco trailhead and down the Llanganuco lakes.  We made a quick stop at the point where the moraine from Huandoy crosses the road just to look up the river of the stone toward the 6000-meter summit far above.  Soon enough were on our way again, stopping briefly to check out of Huascaran Park at the warden’s station.  Then on down through the meandering route through farmer’s fields and small villages until we reached Yungay proper.  We had to stop in Yungay for a round of Inca Colas before hitting the main road for the hour and a half ride into Huaraz.  The Familia Meza lodging awaited us and soon after being dropped off our gear was stashed in the hallway and we had formulated a plan to meet the crew later that afternoon to formulate a plan for the second half of the trip.

Another day on the highway to Huaraz

Our first item of business was a meal of lomo saltado at the café a block from the Meza’s before we planned to meet with Joaquin and Elias to set the course for the rest of the trip.  In the meantime, Elias was charged with obtaining provisions for the next week and Joaquin with making arrangements with an arriero in Cashapampa as we had preliminarily decided that we would take a shot at Quitaraju in the Santa Cruz valley.  Our original plan was to take a shot at Artisanraju but we concluded that a less difficult 6000-meter peak would yield a better chance of success.  The Santa Cruz offered not only a less difficult 6000-meter peak but also a world-renowned trek in and out of the climb.  Our worst case was a great walk in the Park and a close up look at some world class peaks, Taullaraju, Alpa Mayo, and Quitaraju.

Bird vendor on Huaraz street

Following our meeting with Elias, I had a personal errand to run just beyond the Huaraz market.  The year before, Jim and I had walked through the market and surrounding streets and came upon a local woodworking shop.  The owner stopped work and gave us the tour, which was particularly interesting for me as a woodworker.  At the close of our visit, the owner asked if we were coming back to Huaraz in the future.  Unfortunately, my Spanish was not quite up to the task and I did not really understand what exactly he wanted, other than the fact that he kept noting his worn out router bits.  After we left Huaraz, I realized that he was asking if I would bring a set of router bits if I ever came back to Huaraz.  I decided that if we came to climb in the Blanca again, I would bring a set of bits.  Two weeks before we left for Peru, I obtained a set of bits from a local mail-order supplier and packed them with my climbing gear.  Now a year later could I locate the cabinet shop?

Huaraz market fruit stand

I walked up one street and down another and then up another . . .  the area was getting familiar.  As I went down my fourth parallel street I noticed a familiar face and the familiar face had the same reaction.  We recognized each other and exchanged greetings.  I asked him if he remembered what he had asked about and he indicated that he sure did.  He went into his shop and came out with a worn out bit.  I asked him if he would be around for one half hour and he said he would be.  I told him I would be back.  I returned about 20 minutes later and handed over a new set of bits to one very happy Peruvian cabinetmaker.  He was completely taken aback and thanked me multiple times before telling me to wait for him to return.  He disappeared into his shop and came back with a hand carved picture frame in exchange for the bits.  We talked a bit more before parting company, me with my frame and he with a set of bits that should last a climbing season or two.

Following an afternoon siesta, Gary and I had dinner at the French restaurant halfway to the Thai joint and then came back to the Café Andino to finalize plans with Elias and Joaquin.  We also had the opportunity to catch-up up with the group we met in the airport who had now arrived at Huaraz for their climb of Chopi.  They had completed their Machu Cuzco/Cuzco trip, dropped the wives off at the Lima airport, and made their way to Huaraz courtesy of Movil Tours a.m. bus.  They had checked into the Meza lodging and now we met up with them in the Café Andino.  They were very interested in the routes and conditions on Chopi and while G answered all their questions, I worked with Joaquin to flesh out the details for our trip into the Santa Cruz.  We called it an evening at about 9 p.m. and set the alarm for 3 a.m. the next morning.  An early start was a must due to the distance to Cashapampa and the fact that we had a “longish” walk to our first camp in the Santa Cruz.