Pura Vida - mountain life in the Cordillera Blanca

Trip Start Mar 21, 2012
Trip End Mar 25, 2013

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Where I stayed
The Lazy Dog Inn
What I did
Quebradas de la Cordillera Blanca
Sick boulders

Flag of Peru  ,
Sunday, June 17, 2012

GOPR3181 Stitch

We've entered quite the rhythm here in the Cordillera Blanca.  During the first few days of the week, we try to get out in the impressive valleys and mountains of the Cordillera Blanca.  Towards the end of the week, one of us teaches a computer class while the other prepares for our weekend outdoor course.  There a number of small, but important tasks around the Lazy Dog (the lodge where we stay) which keep us very busy.  During free breaks, we try to get out bouldering (the boulders around the Lazy Dog - the communities of Rivas and Cachipampa are fabulous!) or get out for bike rides (Ben more so than Lindsey). 

Mountain Trips

We headed up the Ishinca Valley in great weather to tick off a few of the classics in this cenrtral valley. 

The beautiful and impressive rock walls of the Ishinca valley. These rock walls have tons of potential, currently sporting only 3-4 routes in the 5.11 and 5.12 range.

Making tracks towards the seracs of upper Ishinca

Majestic Tocllaraju - Ben's first 6000 meter peak that he climbed in 2006! Whgile we were in th valley, two guys put up the first path for the season up the same West Face route Ben climbed in 2006. The higher peaks have been put up later this year due to the higher than average snow fall, but most peaks are open now (June 22), including Chopicalqui and Huascaran. 

Ishinca Summit
Lindsey super stoked to summit Ishinca - her first 18000 foot peak!

Unfortunately on our last day in the Ishinca valley, Lindsey's knee was bugging her so she opted to let it heal and recover while Ben went up Urus Este. Beautfiul Ranrapalca in the background and Huantsan in the far background just left!

A week later, we joined up with Peter (from Czech Rep) and Per (from Sweden) to give the two summits of Vallunaraju a go.  We were keen on trying the North Ridge but after Ben's efforts to scout the approach and condition of the route, it seems that this big snow year hasn't brought this route into shape yet.  We had a casual ascent of the normal route nonetheless!   Also turned out that by pure coincidence that Per and good Seattle friend, Tim, hooked up in Janurary to climb in Patagonia together!  We shared some great stories and had a blast climbing as a group of four.

The final slopes to Vallunaraju's main summit!
Ben taken a minute to reflect, catch his breath and enjoy the tremendous exposure! Ranrapalca and Oshapalca in the background (right to left)

Kicking it on the summit of Vallunaraju South (after we summited the higher northern summit, we hopped up to V's lesser summit at 5600m, still above 18,000ft)

Vallunaraju has some cool seracs and ice formations!


The boys on the summit of Vallunaraju Norte, 5686 meters (18,655 feet) (Per-left, Ben-middle, Peter-right)

Lindsey with Huascaran, Chopicalqui, Copa, and the Urus group in the background

Our outdoor course: Liderazgo y Habilidades de Montana

Our work week is backwards from most people. Since the kids are in the middle of the school year right now, our outdoor leadership course runs over weekends. So just as soon as we come back from exhausting trips in the mountains, we relax our bodies and exercise our minds, revising curriculum for the week and teaching these kids how to work better together, how to think for themselves, how to appreciate the mountains around them, and how to have good, clean fun!

Playing one of many initiative games to start off class. This one is called "Skin the Snake." We brought our friends, Asa Firestone and Gil Weiss, to join us in a day of class and discuss opportunities to potentially support the Andean Alliance and their mission during this Colorado team's time in the Blanca.

Teachers are up to no good! We snuck in this stuffed snake into this group's pack during our "packing a pack" lesson.

Level 1 students learning how to cook "Quinoa Canadiense" on the MSR camp stoves

Lindsey practicing trust falls with Level 2 students.

Ben teaching the kids about Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics. In South America, they call it "Sin Dejar Huellas" or "Leave No Footprints."

Gil helping Ben teach the Level 1 kids knots.

Lindsey teaching the Level 2 kids about the basics of weather forecasting.

Stephan, a guest at the Lazy Dog from Austria, joined us for a class to teach the kids about his experiences in tourism, using role play as one of his media. Stephan has since become a big supporter of the program and Andean Alliance in general, with great ideas and plans to help move the needle on AA's goals and bring in a few new opportunities of his own.

Level 2 kids looking up and learning about different cloud types.

The whole class enjoying Quinoa Canadiense, thanks to Level 1's cooking class!

For anyone who is interested in learning more abou the Andean Alliance (AA) or supporting any of their programs serving the local community, you can do one of the following:

Check out the website: http://www.andeanalliance.org/
Email one of us (or send us a comment on this post) and we can put you in contact with Diana Morris, the founder of the AA. AA is currently looking to fill a Community and Education Program Worker position to commit a minimum of one year to the program. They are also looking to fill other roles as opportunities arise.

Life at and around the Lazy Dog!

The bouldering around the communities of Rivas and Cachipampa (where we live) is killer!  There are some established boulders, but there are also tons of unclimbed problems and we are staying busy cleaning and putting up as many new problems as we can! 
Lindsey climbing the Pinnacle boulder! 

Ben on the thin crux of the Iowa boulder! 

Ben's turn on the pinnacle boulder

Asa crushing the crux of one of the Pinnacle boulder's current toughest problems - he's in the no fall zone now! 

More photos!
Ishinca valley: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benkunz/sets/72157630014506755/
Vallunaraju: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benkunz/sets/72157630066239511/
Bouldering: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benkunz/sets/72157630168175324/
Andean Alliance (our mountain and leadership course): http://www.flickr.com/photos/benkunz/sets/72157629983290574/

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Carrie on

Gorgeous photos guys! Keep up the good work! I'm definitely getting the travel bug again reading these posts. Have fun!!

David Kimber on

You guys DO know you're making me crazy with all this talk of 'tons of unclimbed boulders and potential' don't you? Evil...

benandlindsey on

Dave, you and Carrie should come out and help us put together the bouldering guide!!

donat on

You guys are amazing! It's really inspiring what you're doing for the kids. p.s. Bimbo Boipeba says hi.

Max on


Jim Ligori on

Pretty Cool Lindsey and Ben. When you come back to the states, I could use some mountain guides in the Wind Rivers...


benglenn on

Another awesome and inspiring post. LOVE what you guys are doing with the Andean Alliance. The photo of Majestic Tocllaraju is incredible.

sally kunz on

I'm looking at the less than enthusiastic response of your students to Quinoa Canadiense. The problem is....not enough sugar!
(When we were with Ben and Lindsey went apoplectic over the amount of sugar the Peruvians added to food.)
Nice high peak there, Lindsey!

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