Guide Interview: Ray Hughes on Alpamayo
We caught up with IFMGA guide/professional nomad Ray Hughes right before he heads out to climb Alpamayo! Today, Ray leaves our world headquarters in Squaw Valley and departs for Lima, Peru. He will be guiding 1:1 on a private expedition. We asked him a couple questions about the upcoming trip, check it out:
Q: Hey Ray, can you give us a quick rundown of the climb? What is your route?
Ray: It’s a 2-day trek up the Santa Cruz Valley from Cashapampa to our base camp at 14,000ft. We then shuttle a load to 16k and return to 14k for a rest day. Following the rest day, we start moving up to put ourselves in position for a shot at the summit. First a night at 16k then we start moving up the glacier to col camp. With a very short night at 18k, around midnight we will start heading towards the Ferrari Route, a beautiful line directly up the face.
Q: Where are the spiciest sections of the route?
Ray: Depending on the year sometimes the most challenging section is climbing from 16,000ft to col camp at 18,000ft. We will need to negotiate a short 30m section of vertical ice with heavy packs. The climbing can be quite awkward if you haven’t done much climbing with a full expedition pack. What makes Alpamayo unique is we can’t actually see the Ferrari Route until we are in high camp at 18k. The face is notorious for shedding snow and ice on climbers, as well as cornice fall. Critical evaluation has to override the temptation to just go for it.
Q: What special mountaineering skills are required before an attempt of Alpamayo? What is a good list of peaks to have accomplished before attempting the route?
Ray: Alpamayo requires a multitude of alpine skills. Fitness, fitness, fitness! It’s great to have been above 15,000ft and have experience in technical multi-pitch ice and rock climbing. To gain that experience I would consider Orizaba in Mexico for altitude and ease of travel. Honestly, repetition on multi pitch rock and ice routes is a skill that should be dialed before attempting the Ferrari Route. We need to move comfortably and efficiently at high altitude.
Q: What’s the best part about being in Peru? Tell us about the culture once you’re off the mountain.
Ray: Peru is just amazing. The food and the interactions with locals in town are second to none. The organized chaos in Huaraz is ridiculous. Legend has it when a Peruvian buys a car they only make sure the accelerator and the horn work. When you get there, you’ll understand. What I love the most, they genuinely appreciate you traveling to their country.
Q: What made you want to be a mountain guide in the first place?
Ray: My friends kept getting married, having kids, and stopped skiing and climbing. By becoming a mountain guide, I always have partners. Just kidding, sort of.
To be recognized worldwide as one of the best in my profession is very important to me. By becoming a mountain guide the world opens just a little more. The number of opportunities for certified mountain guides are endless and at the end of the day, I want to be part of planning and mitigating risk for someone’s best trip ever.
Q: After Alpamayo, do you have any personal climbing goals that you would like to accomplish this season, or do you have any specific trips that you are looking forward to?
Ray: I’m really excited about Alpenglow Expeditions putting a ski trip together in Ecuador this fall. The Ecuador Ring of Fire Ski Mountaineering Expedition is a great opportunity to climb and ski the worlds highest active volcano while building essential skills for skiing the worlds biggest and remote peaks
Follow along on Instagram and Facebook for additional updates. For more information on our Alpamayo and Quitaraju expedition, or any of our other international expeditions check out our website. For any questions call our office at 877-873-5376 or send us an email info@alpenglowexpeditions.