Coming back to Huaraz after being in the mountains is always fun; it is especially so after a successful and safe expedition! Our team just experienced a traditional Peruvian feast called Pachamanca. Food is wrapped in eucalyptus leaves and spices and then buried underground along with superheated rocks. The food slowly cooks for 2-3 hours and is then dug up and served with a very hot aji sauce and of course lots of cervezas! The feast consists of chicken, lamb, and 2 different varieties of potatoes, along with the local delicacy, cuy. Cuy is the name for guinea pig, and is a popular food here with the locals.
So why the celebration feast? Our expedition to Alpamayo and Quitaraju, despite some challenges, was one of our best in recent years. Weather and conditions were fantastic, and our team-members were all strong and well prepared. Dispatches from the satellite phone already described the climb by 5 of our team to Alpamayo’s summit. The next day, while the summit team along with Jason and Kathleen rested, Adrian moved up to the col, unfortunately without Trevor (who made the wise choice to descend to basecamp after falling prey to the flu virus that has been floating around). The day was spent eating and hydrating in an attempt to recover from Alpamayo and to prepare for Quitaraju or a long descent back to basecamp.
By 6pm, most of the team had decided that one summit was enough, and it was time to begin the celebration. But John, along with Adrian and Ian decided to make an attempt on the North Face of Quitaraju, 2000+ feet of two-tool neve climbing. At the same time, the unguided team of Jason and Kathleen would make their summit push on Alpamayo. The night was clear but very windy, one of the coldest nights I have experienced in 8 years of climbing in Peru. In these conditions, Jason and Kathleen made the hard decision to abort their summit bid partway up the face, with Jason fighting not only the cold but also respiratory issues. A decision to turn around on a peak you have spent months preparing for in one of the most courageous things a climbing team can do, and we’re proud of J and K’s strength. We look forward to seeing another attempt from them soon down here in the Blanca.
Meanwhile, Ian, John, and Adrian shivered through belays as the pitches quickly passed. After a challenging bergshrund crossing (we had to climb into and then out of the gaping hole on a gangplank like false-bottom) the climbing consisted of perfect neve snow. You could climb with your eyes closed; the snow was perfectly consistent and stable. The stunning orange and red sunrise brought warmth just in time, and at 7 am we stood on Quitaraju’s summit.
And that is when the race began. After 10 days camping at high altitude, we were ready for town. We rapelled the entire face of the peak, packed up our portion of high camp, and then raced down the glacier on the heels of the rest of the team. By 5pm we were all in Base Camp, where we packed our gear and drank vino caliente (hot spiced red wine). At 5am the next morning we hopped onto horses and rode the 20 miles back to the road (perhaps the most dangerous and exhilarating form of transport we used this trip)!
So thanks to all of our team-mates for an incredible trip in the Blanca. We enjoyed each of your great attitudes, senses of humor, and physical and mental strength! We look forward to climbing with you again soon!
– The Alpenglow Team – Jaime, Ian, and Adrian