The Cordillera Blanca(currently Cordillera Mojada)

Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
Trip End May 2010

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

We took an overnight bus from Lima to Huaraz, Peru, the launch point to the Cordillera Blanca and just a couple of hours from the remote Cordillera Huayhuash where the gripping, true story of two mountaineers clinging to life on Siula Grande, Touching the Void, was filmed.  And it was another typical South American bus ride: we got our share of Jean-Claude Van Damme action flicks playing way too loudly, and a bumpy ride as the ex-race-car-driver-turned-overweight-bus-driver sped through the washed-out roads from the landslides created by the previous day's rainstorm.  Never have we seen such daily damage to roads as in Peru!  Daily rainstorms bring daily landslides, new pot holes and overall traffic chaos.

Ben came to this mountaineer's wet dream location in July 2006.  During his 3-week trip, he summited Pisco, Yanapaccha and 6032m Tocllaraju, in addition to taking many beautiful treks to areas like Lake 69.  Here's a link to the pics from his time there. 

I dig mountains

Dreaming of this wonderland ever since, Ben yerned to return with Lindsey so she could share the same experience. A great idea, but there was only one tiny glitch in his logic: we went to Huaraz during the height of the wet season! No one was summiting, not even the "smaller" peaks, which were in the low 5000-meter range. We didn't even get views of the peaks for the first few days, which during the dry season are in full view. We hauled our ice axes all over South America for a chance we would never get.

Not allowing us to be defeated, we learned the weather pattern and instead got in six days of rock climbing.

Shupluy - to get to this newly established, beautiful area, we took a scary-fast collectivo from Huaraz to Tingua, crossed the river to Shupluy and hiked ~1km.

The are 3 zones to climb in, but the bridge was out that allows access to zones 2 and 3 because of high rapid water.
We climbed all the 12 beautiful sport routes in zone 1, ranging from 5+ to 7a (5.9-5.11d)

Beautiful wildflowers!

We camped for one night at Shupluy, and the next morning, we were pleasantly surprised by the greeting of Huascaran Norte (6655m) and Huascaran Sur (6770m - highest peak in Peru, second highest in South America).

At least Blaine got in some sick summits!

We returned to Huaraz at the onset of afternoon rain. The next morning, we were blessed by a few more summit views from the top of Jo's Place, the hostal we stayed at in Huaraz.

Huascaran Sur, Norte in the center

We tried to get in a morning of climbing at Los Olivos, a walk from town, but the river was too high to cross, so we retreated.
Blaine makes friends with a local Los Olivos kitten

To seize the day, Ben took off later that afternoon for a brief overnight trip to Lago Churup while Lindsey stayed back to plan our next climbing trip to Hatun Machay.

The going to Lago Churup was a little more rough than expected. It started to rain early, pour actually, and Ben found himself walking an extra, unexpected 10 km just to get to trailhead. He set up the tent a few kms up the trail just as night was setting in and by the time the tent was up, everything that wasn't wrapped in plastic bags was soaked. Ben caught a few hours of sleep and awoke at 5am. It was cold, very cold. New snow blanketed the hillside while he slogged the 5 or so km up to the 4500-meter (higher than expected!) lake.

Lago Churup and Mount Churup in the background

Some of the smaller peaks of the Cordillera Blanca

Ben descended quickly to head out on our next adventure. All in, including necessary running with his pack on between towns, Ben covered plenty of miles and elevation in his short trip out!

It's amazing how hard some of the campesinos work. Ben saw dozens of men and women just like this, working the land in unbelievably steep terrain (the pic doesn't do it justice).

After a huge pancake breakfast, prepared by Lindsey back in Huaraz, we headed off to Hatun Machay to fulfil more of our itch for climbing adventure. We arranged a taxi to take us to the two hours there, directly to the refugio.

With the flat tire that we again helped repair (we're getting good at this!), it took more like three hours.

Nevertheless, we arrived and the place was more magical than we had imagined! It was too cold to camp, so we huddled together in the spacious refugio with another climber couple from Brasil to wait out the fog. Apparently, the refugio is normally full, but at this time of year, aside from the other couple, we had the refugio and the climbing area all the ourselves!

The refugio and some of the climbing in the distance

The refugio chicks and ducks that follow you around in the middle of the night when you're trying to find the outhouse in the fog!

Chola, which means campesino in Quechua, was the father of some newborn pups. Try as she might, Lindsey never for sure made friends with Chola!

Finally the fog cleared and we caught a glimpse of what was in store for the next few days-rock heaven!

The next morning, and every day of our three days at Hatun Machay, we rose at 6am to catch the few climbable hours. Albeit tiring, this strategy was key to getting in climbing every day. Some days the rain and heavy fog came at 1pm; others times it came as early as 11am. You just never knew and if you wait for the rock to get warm, you'll often miss your chance. We learned to get pretty tough in order to get some good climbs in. One day, Ben ended up leading a 6b+ (10d) crack in the hail, wind and rain.

Ben and the top of a climb. The fog was so thick at times that you couldn't see 15 feet in front of you! And it usually rolled in in a matter of minutes.

Lindsey enjoying a moment of sun as we approach a climb

Beautiful rock walls
Ben leading a fun, overhanging arete

Lindsey leading a beautiful, long route

Cooking pizza dinner in the refugio

Our last day, we caught some great climbs and took a taxi back to Huaraz. But not before getting stuck in a foot of mud and having to push the car out! We said goodbye to our new friends, to Huaraz, and to the cloud-covered peaks and began a 3-day journey up the Peruvian coast and into Ecuador.

Sunset on Huanchaco, Peruvian coast

Chan Chan ruins between Huanchaco and Trujillo, Peru

Juan Andres (middle) and other couch surfers in Quito, Ecuador

More photos at Flickr:

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starlagurl on

Nice writing!
I love how it's all in the third person, keep up the great design as well!

Louise Brown
TravelPod Community Manager

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